Most notably, the ACV30 gave away the new hatchback boot format for the forthcoming Mini and featured a floating roof design and dramatic wraparound glazing.
“The ACV30 is designed to encapsulate the spirit of Mini past in a contemporary style, with detailing representative of future design thinking,” said Rover at the time.
It also had some distinctive features, such as competition seats and harnesses, rollcage struts and a large, round central instrumentation screen.
It was already known that the next Mini would be a larger front-drive car with four seats, but the ACV30 used front and rear subframes from the MG F, with a mid-mounted 115bhp 1.8 K-series engine and a BMW-designed aluminium spaceframe chassis holding the two together. A hand-beaten, lightweight aluminium body and two-seat layout completed the motorsport feel, complete with the red-with-white-roof livery that adorned the Monte Carlo winner in 1967.
Rover chose the sports car format to distance the concept from the production car, but also to give it a rally car feel. “We decided that it would give the wrong message to have it as frontwheel drive,” the company said.
The car was part of a long-term plan to build up the Mini’s image ahead of its relaunch in the early 21st century. “It’s helping to build the brand image and condition customers that the new Mini will be exclusive, upmarket and a fairly expensive small car, not stripped-out, basic transport,” explained Rover.
A company insider told Autocar at the time that Rover’s decision to reveal the ACV30 was taken just four weeks prior to the 1997 Monte Carlo Rally, after Rover marketing boss Tom Purves stumbled over the concept while touring BMW’s Munich design studio with head stylist Chris Bangle.
“The vehicle was never intended to go public, but with the 30th anniversary of the Monte Carlo Rally victory coming up, we wanted to make a real event of it,” said Rover.
BMW is still keen on the ACV30, wheeling it out as recently as the Ville d’Este concours at Lake Como in May.
Even if the ACV30 didn’t gain company approval to become the shape of BMW’s first Mini, it did start the ongoing process of pushing perceptions of what a Mini could be. Indeed, the manufacturer went on to make two-seat production models in the shape of the Coupé and Roadster.
22 January 1997
Previous Throwback Thursdays
17 August 2004 - The Honda NSX's last hurrah
11 October 1986 - Hyundai's second UK market foray
15 March 1980 - Triumph's TR7 Drophead
13 February 1991 - Mercedes F100 predicts future car technology
16 April 1997 - A modern 'Blower' Bentley
19 June 1991 - Volkswagen Polo G40 tested
12 April 1946 - BMW's K4 streamliner
25 October 1989 - Ford Fiesta XR2i vs Peugeot 205 GTi
30 April 1965 - Car racing on the Isle of Man
3 April 2002 - Honda NSX vs Nissan Skyline GT-R
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