A MINI MYSTERY: WHERE IS AUSTRALIA’S FIRST MINI?
When the Mini was first released, it was a hit almost instantly, and across the world.
Australia was no exception, and while Aussies were a little late to catch a glimpse of the iconic little car, it made its way down under relatively quickly.
BMC Australia, Mini’s manufacturer at the time, saw the potential in bringing the Mini to the country and later down the track would introduce innovations to make it suitable for local conditions.
The first Minis to be built in Australia were constructed from knockdown kits shipped from the United Kingdom, before locally produced Minis were introduced.
Mini officially launched in Australia in March 1961 – but the first Mini to reach Australian shores was sold three months earlier.
According to Mini expert, Craig Watson, three Morris Mini Minors were imported by BMC Australia from the UK for evaluation mid-way through 1960.
Three more cars joined the trio, but Craig believes they continued on their journey to New Zealand and South Africa.
When the cars arrived in Australia, two stayed in Sydney, and the third was delivered to BMC Australia’s representative in Perth, WA, Mr T Sherwood.
“The idea was to show it around the local dealerships and get feedback that would be relayed back to the head office in Sydney,” Craig says.
After the Australian Mini began production in Zetland, BMC no longer had any use for the car, and Mr Sherwood bought if for his wife to drive.
That car turned up on a farm many years later and was restored by a fellow Mini enthusiast in 1996.
It wasn’t until this restoration that the car was publicly recognised as being one of the first Minis in Australia.
It was then sold to a Queensland collector, but its whereabouts today are unknown.
One of the two cars that stayed in Sydney was sold to Melbourne motor racing legend Peter Manton.
It was raced for a few months, but what happened to it after that is unknown to this day.
The other car that stayed in Sydney was a complete mystery, and what happened to it has never been uncovered.
Information on early Australian Minis is few and far between, because most of the records were lost when the Leyland factories in Sydney closed down.
We’re searching for the missing Minis – can you help us solve the mystery?