Mini has grown into a mega successful brand, but its models have also grown into quite large cars. Well the Rocketman is about to change that, going back to the company's roots of building pint-sized lightweights on shopping-trolley wheels. Except the wheels here are 18in…
Mini doesn't do concepts. Mini does, "This is what we're making next year."
They even wanted to manufacture the ridiculous, door-less Beachcomber, but some hypochondriacs over at the health and safety department said that no doors is a bit unsafe. They still made it alright, but they closed the gaps and called it the Countryman. Whatever, to soothe their sorrows over the loss of the cool Beachcomber, Mini has come up with the brilliantly titled Rocketman. And it's got doors and everything…
But very light ones. In fact everything on the Rocketman is light and as small as possible, to keep the overall length to just under three and a half metres, which is still a good 200mm shorter than your average Cooper. In fact, it only adds about 300mmto Alec Issigonis' original.
It's being revealed in Geneva as we hit the newsstands, basking in the limelight in its 3+1-seater form and wearing a happy-chappy smile.
After styling chief Dutchman Adrian van Hooydonk signed the memo, it went around the Mini design team listing the priorities of the Rocketman, first of which was a compact size and a generous interior, plus a lightweight construction.
A carbon spaceframe forms the base of the car, also adding to the Rocketman's looks in the front and rear and around its doors as the chassis is purposely left visible. Not having to cover it with too much bodywork saves more weight too.
Even the seats are of a lightweight and slim design, allowing for multiple seating arrangements; you can carry three of your friends in the Rocketman, or set it up as a two-seater for a cosy drive with your partner only. The two-part tailgate helps in practicality too, as one part is attached to the roof and the other extends out of the body like a drawer. Sounds to us like a nifty little bedroom on wheels really, especially when you consider that the Rocketman's central control unit is removable, and can be configured on your computer with updated maps, music and all that jazz.
The aerodynamics and those weight-saving 18in wheels pushed right out to the corners should ensure a typically-Mini sprightly ride, although we haven't a clue what's underneath that bonnet. Hopefully a 208bhp John Cooper Works 1.6-litre isn't too tight a fit.
Anyway, Mini's added loads of details true to the brand's character, such as projector-style rear lights, a transparent and illuminated glass roof and a wide mix of creative materials. That chassis, for example, is left exposed in the interior too, while the rest of it is covered in a combination of leather, gloss paint and even paper. Seriously, Mini designers chose pressed and folded paper for trim strips on the armrests, backlit by LEDs for a dramatic effect.
One of the coolest innovations inside the Rocketman is also a little joystick on the centre console which operates the car's infotainment system. Otherwise the rest of the controls are located on the steering wheel.
Everything with the Rocketman points to a truly Mini mini, if you catch our drift, right from its tiny size, to the packaging, the cheeky exposed chassis details, interior assortments and the inevitable Mini driving feel. All that's left is to stick an engine in it, and the Rocketman's up, up and away!
At Frankfurt's 2009 motor show, Mini unveiled this Coupé. Guess what? They're making it.
Immediately after that they unveiled the Roadster, which believe it or not they're also making.
This one got loads of headlines for its radical ideas, but sadly, no doors is a bit unsafe, so not making it.
But of course, the Beachcomber lives as the Countryman. It's basically the same thing but with doors. So, they did make it.
This was announced just two months ago in Detroit, and it'll hit our streets as early as 2012. Again, making it...
The Rocketman really likes to play with lights. The roof has lights, the front and rear lamps are full of LEDs, there's a light strip running around the car, a bunch of fibre optic light cables scattered about, and even the interior changes colour. A light strip that wraps around the dash generates different ambiences with its changing colours, and even the oversized traditional Mini speedo changes colour to suit your mood.
We've come to learn that when Mini builds a concept, it's not just for us to gawk at. It usually lands in showrooms in about a year or two...