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Design icons unite: the one-off British small car and the legendary German sports car have followed the same recipe for success - stay forever young.

08 Jun 2013 | International News : Munich

In September 2013 the flag-bearer of the German sports car fraternity, the Porsche 911, will celebrate its 50th birthday. And among the hoards of well wishers will be MINI, not least because its model history also includes - in the classic Mini - a similarly compelling work of art characterised by a similar reluctance to abandon the exuberance of youth.

Both models made their name with an eye catching turn of speed
It may be the fundamental differences between the two cars (e.g. the Mini has its engine in the front, the 911 at the rear) that dominate at first glance. But there are also a number of factors - over and above their shared cult status - that lend particular empathy to MINI's birthday greetings.

At the end of the austere 1950s Mini was the groundbreaking new kid on the block, generating sales figures that mimicked the upward curve of its acceleration. The 911, as the successor to the Porsche 356, was born with speed in its blood.

Only a handful of cars can claim to have endured over such lengthy time spans, retaining their unmistakable identities despite all the nips, tucks and updates along the way.

When major landmarks like a 50th come into view, it's traditional to look back over the birthday boy's childhood. Although the Mini and Porsche 911 may not be cars you would instinctively compare, there are one or two striking aspects of their history that have brought them together over time - a less than straightforward christening, for example. The 911 came into the world in 1963 initially as the Porsche 901.

You would have needed a very clear crystal ball to see that Porsche had just dreamt up the most successful sports car of all time and Issigonis the 'world's only cool small car'
However, the rights to using a zero in the middle of a three digit car designation had already been snapped up by French manufacturer Peugeot. Which meant that when this legendary-sports car-to-be eventually arrived on the scene a year later, it was as the Porsche 911. Now in its seventh generation, the 911 has sold over 800,000 units - a figure beyond the reach of any segment rival.

The Mini, by contrast, saw the light of day as twins. On 26 August 1959 the British Motor Corporation (BMC) unveiled the fruits of its endeavours to develop a revolutionary new small car - introducing the public to not one but two new models: the Morris Mini Minor and Austin Seven. By 2000, when the curtain came down on production, 5.3 million units of Britain's best selling car had found homes.

It's tempting to wonder how different history would have been without the creators of these two successful cars. Neither Sir Alec Issigonis nor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche had any inkling that their designs would come to be considered immortal icons of modern times.

Ultimately, though, these two pillars of the automotive community have continued to thrive, their sound genes underpinning looks that remain remarkably true to their respective originals. The two companies have also demonstrated an open mind to adding new models to their ranges - and a successful approach to executing those plans.

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