The Mini De Luxe was a major step on the road to production of the Aussie Cooper S, but it has its own unique place in our local Mini history.
By the start of 1965 BMC Australia’s Managing Director, Bill Abbott, was a very happy man. The Morris 1100 had just been announced Wheels magazine’s ‘Car of the Year’ for 1964, sales were in a continuous upward trend, a new improved MGB was released in February and the new range of Minis was just around the corner.
By the end of 1964 the Beatles had visited, Donald Campbell had broken the Land Speed Record, and just about everything that was British, or of British heritage, was seen as a good thing. Decimal currency was still a year off (14 February 1966) and the economy was booming.
1965 would see the release of the new range of Minis (Mini Minor, De Luxe and Cooper S), and the Austin 1800. With their new £700,000 ($1.4 million) Liverpool parts and accessories division warehouse completed in June, BMC was hoping, and confident, that their investments would pay off.
The Liberal government of the day had its famous “Plan A” policy, which intended that cars should achieve 95% local production before the end of the decade, to receive numerous tax concessions.
Since the first Morris 850 had been assembled in Australia, BMC had been working toward that aim, and the De Luxe (yes, that’s how it was spelt in the publicity brochures of the day, although the badge on the boot lid is one word) brought many advancements towards that goal, and many improvements for local conditions.
BMC Australia’s Sales Director, Lindsay Shimmin, had no less than 21 new or improved features to market the De Luxe. Some were drawn from the success of the Morris Cooper, including the slatted grille, seat pattern and the (de-tuned) 998cc engine, with single HS2 1.25” SU carburettor. Although maximum power was only up by 4 bhp, at 38 bhp, torque was significantly better, with 52 lb.ft as opposed to 44 lb.ft. This was compared to the 998cc Cooper with 55 bhp and 57 lb.ft.
In one BMC Parts & Accessories Division monthly News Letter, to BMC parts managers, a ‘Morris Mini De Luxe YD05 - Hot-up kit’ was announced, with four ‘Stage’ levels. The writing was on the wall for the Cooper, not surprisingly when the still secret launch of the Cooper S was just a few months away.
The De Luxe also came with twin leading-shoe brakes at the front, a new diaphragm spring operated clutch and an improved gearbox, with the Cooper style remote control gear change extension. The gearbox still had no synchromesh on first gear, but it had heavier teeth with a reduced helix angle and needle roller bearings, making for quieter and stronger gears.
The Morris 1100 introduced the new ‘Floats on Fluid’ Hydrolastic suspension the previous year, and the De Luxe was the first Aussie Mini with the system. There was even a sticker on the rear window to let everyone know, and the De Luxe sat about an inch lower than the rubber-coned 850.
The most obvious change to the casual observer was the new wind-up window doors, each with a swivelling quarter vent window. This system certainly suited Australian conditions far better than any previous model Mini’s sliding windows.
BMC Australia’s experimental engineers apparently spent eighteen months developing the system to suit the Mini while still retaining the handy, though much reduced, door pocket.
This decision may well have been prompted by aftermarket wind-up conversions that were appearing in the marketplace. Most notable of these was Sydney-based Cheapa Glass Company’s at £30 ($60) per door (actually not cheap for the day). By late 1964 Cheapa had apparently converted 160 Minis, many for government agencies.
The interior layout of the De Luxe essentially remained 850, but presentation was much improved with the use of better materials.
The De Luxe was the first Aussie Mini with adjustable mounting brackets for the front seats. The three positions for the seat pivot-point to locate were easily moved by simply undoing each wing nut, and placing the bolt in the appropriate position. This helped change the seat rake and, ever so slightly, the legroom in the process. English Mini owners at the time had to resort to expensive recliners to achieve a similar feat.
Carpets weren’t a De Luxe factory feature but even the new style colour-coded rubber mats, were an advance over the austere 850 type. There was also the luxury of a key start ignition switch on the dash, rather than the 850’s floor mounted push button starter.
Safety was also on BMC’s agenda. By today’s standard safety on the Mini De Luxe was pretty basic, but it was quite advanced for a small car of the time. The De Luxe benefited from front lap/sash seatbelts, padded and swivelling sunvisors, a zone toughened windscreen, Lucas sealed beam headlamps, and the previously mentioned twin leading-shoe brakes.
Chief Design Engineer, Bill Sargeantson, was the man in charge of the local team that developed the car with a budget of around £50,000 ($100,000). The De Luxe carried a £54 ($108) price increase over the Morris 850, bringing it up to £833 ($1666) including sales tax, as opposed to £779 ($1558). But the number of improvements made the price increase justifiable.
Even though everybody was calling the Morris 850 ‘Mini’ anyway, the De Luxe was the first local Mini to be officially recognised as a Mini.
To compliment the range (after all, you can’t have a deluxe model without a basic model) there was the Morris Mini Minor – essentially an 850, still with rubber suspension, but with the doors from the De Luxe.
In September 1967 the Mini Matic was released, basically a De Luxe with the British AP four-speed automatic transmission, bringing the range of local Minis, including the Cooper S, the van and the Moke, up to six
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