Mini fini: The Mini Clubman passes into British motoring history

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Au revoir, Clubman.

The veddy British Mini model that found a loyal following in the UK and elsewhere for more than a half-century has folded its spilt rear “barn doors” for the final time. The ultimate Clubman — assuming there won’t be another sequel, and Mini says there won’t — rolled off the production line Monday at Mini Plant Oxford in England.

The Mini “estate” version bows out after 17 years of build at Oxford and more than a half-million units churned out for deliveries to more than 50 countries. The heritage of the Clubman — and of most Minis — is worth recalling because the brand has spawned such affection among its fans.

One has to deep-dive back to the early Sixties, when Mini’s owner, British Motor Corporation (BMC), introduced two estate versions of the original Mini: the Austin Seven Countryman and Morris Mini Traveller. In 1967, the characteristics of existing Mini wagons were combined to form the first Clubman.

lt was axed in 1982 — after it was once renamed as the 1000HL — and the Clubman wouldn’t return until 2007, with the brand then under the auspices of BMW. Modern vehicle safety standards presented a challenge for those rear doors. “We needed to ensure that both doors would always open fully without obscuring the rear lights, which was a legal requirement,” said Guy Elliott, who was part of the development team for the doors at the time.

The reborn Clubman was updated in 2015 for a second generation. It adopted Mini’s signature circular daytime running lights, a feature still seen today, and ditched the unusual rear doors for a more conventional setup.

Last year Mini launched the “Final Edition” of the car, with a special grille and alloys and limited it to a run of 1,969 units, paying homage to the launch year of the original.

The BMW Group says it expects to invest about $750 million in the next few years in realigning the Oxford plant to accommodate assembly space for the upcoming electric Aceman crossover and new Cooper variations later this year.

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