The original Mini, launched in 1959 by British carmaker Austin, is arguably one of the most significant designs in automotive history. Styled by celebrated designer Alec Issigonis, it promised to take the world by storm. But unfortunately, gross mismanagement threw Austin's parent, British Motor Company into financial turmoil by the late Sixties, and things weren't looking particularly bright even after a merger with British Leyland. The company was in dire need of a new halo car, and inspired by the Renault 16's success, the management decided to build a large family hatchback.
Once again, Issigonis was brought in, and yet again he came up with an impeccable design. A big body shell, front-wheel drive and a transversely mounted engine meant there was ample space in there for passengers and cargo alike. It was quite the opposite of what the Mini was, and aptly named Maxi. However, owing to a few management decisions, like retaining parts of the not-so-popular 1800 and rushed redesigns even before the car went on sale, the final product was not exactly what Issigonis had envisioned.
Although it was a great concept, boasting an overhead camshaft engine and a five-speed gearbox, the execution was woefully flawed. The engines were unpleasantly raucous, sluggish and were notoriously predisposed to have their timing chains broken. The gearbox, which employed a series of cables to select cogs, was also awfully unreliable. The press and customers despised it in equal measure, and the car never took off the way BLMC hoped. It was in production for more than a decade but it never recovered from the tainted reputation and died a slow death in 1981.