There’s a scene in spoof ‘rockumentary’ Spinal Tap where the band’s chief protagonists, David St Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel, are explaining how they started playing together.
After spells in different skiffle groups, in 1964 the pair got together and formed The Originals.
“We had to change our name actually,” explains St Hubbins.
Tufnel adds: “Well there was another group in the East End called The Originals and we had to rename ourselves. [We became] The New Originals and then, uh, they became...
St Hubbins: “They changed their name back to The Regulars and we thought well, we could go back to The Originals but what’s the point?”
I recalled the skit with a smile at Monday afternoon’s launch of the third-generation Mini, which was accompanied with a slogan declaring it: ‘The New Original’.
The challenge of tapping into the heritage of the original Mini but creating a progressive, fresh and innovative car is a considerable one. It’s particularly interesting to follow how the company’s German owners make it work.
Yesterday’s event at Mini Plant Oxford wasn’t your typical car launch. For starters, it starred a bulldog named Spike, who will feature in Mini’s forthcoming advertising campaign for the new vehicle.
Spike’s presence was one of several pieces of British imagery that punctuated the presentation of the new car.
We also had Mr Bean’s Mini, modern examples bedecked with Union flag liveries, a mock-up of a 1970s lounge, a booming soundtrack featuring ‘London Calling’ by The Clash, and even a comparison between the Mini and Dr Who, another British-based expert at regeneration.
As Minis old and new exited the stage, they drove through a horseshoe-shaped yellow metal jig that had previously seen service on the production line. It also struck me as an oblique homage to the tunnel scene in the The Italian Job, although by then I might have been overdosing on my cultural reference points.
I didn’t spot a Beefeater, or a red telephone box, or jellied eels – maybe they are being saved for an appearance at the mid-life refresh.
I suppose national identity is used to sell many cars. The passion of Italy is undoubtedly woven into the carbonfibre of every Ferrari, the granite-jawed looks of the Chevrolet Camaro are undoubtedly American, while Germanic precision permeates from every perfectly built component of a BMW, Audi or Mercedes.
They do so, though, without constant references to spaghetti Bolognese, lederhosen, or without playing the Star Spangled Banner at every turn. It makes me wonder if the ‘Best of British’ clichés aren’t ladled on a little too thickly, and I’d be interested to hear your views.
After all, I’m pretty sure the Mini Mk3 will be an excellent car, one that builds on the strengths of its predecessors and appeals to motorists around the globe.
BMW is quite justifiably proud of Mini, which has contributed hugely to the parent company’s coffers since it successfully reinvented the brand in 2001. The production facility in Oxford is a shining beacon for the ingenuity and dexterity of the work force involved in car manufacturing in Britain.
Its success says more to me about British spirit than a docile canine and some flock wallpaper.