Following the closure of the Zetland factory, and the transfer of remaining Mini and Moke production to Enfield, the Mini became the primary volume seller for Leyland.
By the end of 1975, sales of the Mini had again begun to climb, and production had increased to around thirty per day, of all models – saloon, van and Moke.
On 7 May 1976 the 10,000th Mini built at Enfield rolled off the end of the line, and around 280 Minis were being completed each week.
However, by the end of the year sales began to falter due to increasing competition from Japanese imports, and production began to out-run demand. According to former Plant Manager at Enfield, Ron Moss, something was needed to boost sales and maintain production levels.
“We tossed it around the plant a bit, to see if we could do anything to improve the appeal of the Mini. We brought in the engineering people from Moorebank, but more as a lastminute thing. We did various things that we could do ourselves. We could use different wheels, and a different steering wheel. Then we had a stripe guy come in and we asked if he could give us something for a more dramatic look.”
When it came to giving the car a model designation, it was simply a case of having an abundance of S badges, as Ron reveals. “All we had were S badges, so we decided we’d make it an SS. We used two badges on the front grille and on the boot lid. It doesn’t stand for anything in particular.”
The emphasis was on cosmetic improvements as, mechanically at least, the car had to remain unchanged, as Ron continues. “We couldn’t change anything that was related to ADRs, or that hadn’t been tested. The wheels were already passed, as they had already been tested. The ordinary Mini seats had head restraints, and we kept the head restraint underneath, with the padding and so-forth, and came up with a big piece of polyurethane that did the whole back section…so it pulled down over the whole lot in one piece. The frame underneath was still all the same.”
“The engines came out from the UK in a plain black colour. Part of the building up of the engines, in putting on the ancillaries – the carburettors, air-cleaners and so-forth – was that the rocker covers were taken off and all the valve clearances were checked. We thought that was handy, so we re-routed the rocker covers through the small parts paint shop, and painted them in the Silver Birch of the wheels. That made the engine in the S and the SS look a bit different from the engine in the ordinary Leyland Mini.”
“The radio in the Mini S had a speaker right in the middle (in the console under the radio), and the SS had a cassette/radio, but there was nowhere to keep cassettes, so it was designed into that centre unit. We deleted the speaker and put speakers in each side (of the parcel-shelf), and then put a cut-out in the console to take cassettes, and put the radio under that.”
“The other part was the vinyl roof, and the plastic surround – which was a bit of the wheel arch moulding, put around the top (of the gutter). The main problem was the wheel-arch moulding was held onto the wheel arches with pop-rivets, but you couldn’t do anything like that on the gutter. Instead, it was held on with metal clips, but it was a bit affected by the weather. It would expand in summer, and contract in winter, so it wasn’t very successful over time, but it looked good (when it was new).”
“We had the supplier of the glass do tinted windows and a heated rear window. We wanted to make the front look different, and the only fog lights we could get, that would fi t anywhere near it, were these Marshal ones, with the little cats on the front. They were rectangular and not very deep, because they couldn’t go back into the engine compartment.
If you would like to read the rest of this story, order your copy of Issue 15 of The Mini Experience. <plumshop>21</plumshop>