It is impossible to draw up a list of legendary automobile nameplates that changed the twentieth century’s motoring landscape without the classic Austin Mini featuring prominently. With current owners BMW pushing it further into a global success story, the brand is sure to stay on as an icon of pop culture for a long time to come. While the marque’s current success, ironically, has a lot to do with its larger models like the Clubman, the British brand’s first model to bear that name wasn’t as well-received at the time.
When it was time to update and modernise the original Austin Mini in the late Sixties, parent company British Leyland was strapped for cash. So instead of revamping the Mini completely, Leyland sought to pass off a tweaked version as a more upmarket offering. However, the Clubman lacked the distinctively cheeky looks of the original that had endeared it to the public. With a stubby nose, and generally characterless lines, the Clubman had more in common with the dreary Austin Maxi than the original Mini. For fans of the fast Mini Cooper, there was the Clubman 1275GT with a 59bhp engine, but even that quicker version didn’t quite impress like the Cooper. Although it was dynamically as capable and fun as the latter, its looks polarised opinion.
Despite being a decent car, Leyland’s Clubman experiment didn’t have the desired effect, and seeing that it couldn’t win over enthusiasts, the model was discontinued in 1980, after 11 years in production.
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