1974 Mini Clubman – Auction Car of the Week

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By Chris Pollitt

Bosses at British Leyland didn’t relly get the ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ mantra, and instead opted to change things despite nobody asking for them to be changed. BL wanted to make its mark, and to do this, they elected that changing the adorable Mini was the way to go. They pulled in Roy Haynes and he set about changing the cute and familiar face of the Mini into something more… square. The resulting car was the Clubman. It was a Mini, but with a more boxy face. And on its own, it wasn’t a bad car. It still isn’t. But the original Mini was like a child to our great nation, and as such, we were deeply protective of it. We would need some time to warm up to Roy’s take on things.

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BL had high hopes. At first, the Clubman was meant to be nothing more than a slightly more upmarket Mini. It’s a misconception that the 1275GT is the same as the Clubman – it wasn’t. The 1275GT was to the Clubman what the Cooper was to the Mini. The Clubman was in fact available with a 998cc A Series engine, a 1,098cc A Series a bit later, and of course, the 1,275cc. It was also available as an estate. Roy and the wider BL team saw it as an evolution of what Issigonis had created. However, the buying public wasn’t so sure. The Clubman did sell, but not in the numbers BL had hoped, and it never sold enough to ever put the original Mini in any danger. BL pushed on though, and when the Cooper S was killed of in ’71, the 1275GT became the only hot version.

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In the end the original Mini won. The Clubman was an interesting and bold idea by BL, but one that didn’t pan out the way they had hoped. It didn’t do too badly, with nearly 600,000 sold, but compared to the Mini, that was chicken feed. The Clubman should have done better. It was still just as much fun to drive, it was still a Mini, but one with better access to the engine, one with better crash protection and one with a bit more kit – it was the first Mini to have a tachometer, don’t you know?

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Time has been kind to the Clubman. Now, finding a good one is no easy task. The short lifecycle of ’70s cars meant many went the way of the scrapper. Rarity with the Mini scene is sought after today though, and as such, the Clubman is always a popular proposition. Rather then being observed with a raised eyebrow, they are now celebrated and championed by those who own them. And if you bid on this one, you could be part of that exclusive group.

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This charming little white Clubman might not be a 1275, but that means it’s a bit cheaper. It’s a 1,098 though, which is still enough to give the tyres a workout and to put a smile on your face. It’s in excellent mechanical health, the glossy white bodywork is free from even the faintest trace of any corrosion (seriously, look at that inner arch) and the interior is as fresh as a daisy, too. It’s a charming, well-restored, fun little car. One that will most certainly brighten your day every time you climb behind the wheel. It’s a cheeky, fun, scamp of a car. It looks smashing with the black over white body, the little 10-inch wheels are adorable and, well, it’s just great. We’re glad BL tried.

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