As a child, I was a big fan of LEGO’s Model Team sets of highly detailed and realistic-looking vehicles. It will be no surprise then that I also liked the Classic Beetle LEGO released more than six years ago and that I also bought the Volkswagen Camper van. To my delight, LEGO has now introduced another classic car: the MINI Cooper.
The Mini started life as a humble economy car, but with a lasting legacy. To maximise passenger space within its short body, its engine was transversally mounted and drove the front wheels, which is a configuration copied in pretty much every small family hatchback built since. Sporty versions, called the Cooper and Cooper S, became successful rally racers and celebrities such as Steve McQueen, Paul McCartney, Prince Charles and even Enzo Ferrari owned Minis. From its humble origins, the Mini grew into a cult car, with a particularly British kind of cool.
The set represents a late-model Mini Cooper (produced in late 1997/ early 1998, judging from the license plate) in dark green, with white stripes on the bonnet (hood), white wing mirrors and a white roof. The dark green colour is a close match for traditional British racing green and the colour scheme just screams Mini. The front of the car is spot-on, with the shape of the radiator grille, front-mounted fog lights and the silver bumper pieces. The curved elements used below the windows have neatly-printed thin white lines on them, that run the length of the car. Small details such as the fuel filler cap and indicator lights are nicely represented. Remarkably, for a LEGO set, the finished model is almost completely studless, which suggests that LEGO also hopes to cater to fans of the Mini who may not necessarily be into LEGO.
The model is not without faults, however. Especially when seen from behind, it does not look quite round enough. Having built my own models of Minis, I know that both the front and rear windows ought to be curved, but on the model they are built using large flat window panels. I also don’t particularly like the way the pillars supporting the corners of the roof are built, using 75-degree slopes covered with stickers marked with a black triangle. The stickers are intended to make the pillars look narrower, but I don’t think it really works. In fairness, though, alternative solutions would either require completely new part shapes or would add greatly to the complexity, parts count and cost of the set. Despite the compromises, it definitely looks like a Mini.