2010 Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) – Mini Beachcomber Concept: The Mini seems to be an auto designer’s sand box—a starting point to form an endless parade of vehicles from the same basic raw material. For nearly a decade Mini has wowed crowds with ever more versatile versions of the iconic not-so-micro-anymore machine since BMW re-launched the marque in 2001. Retaining the styling cues that make the Mini so recognizable, the automaker has pulled, stretched and reconfigured the basic Mini from a single model into a nearly complete line of pint-sized fun machines.
Since 2001, Mini has dropped the top to create a convertible, extended the cargo area to bring us the Mini Clubman, lifted it and added four-wheel-drive in a Mini Crossover concept, transformed it into a Mini Coupe concept, and now they are at it again with the Beachcomber concept. As with the Mini Clubman, the Mini Beachcomber concept touches on previous Austin Mini renditions of the aptly named little car by invoking the styling of the Austin Mini Moke which was in production from 1964-1993.
Like the Austin Mini Moke, the Mini Beachcomber concept is an open air vehicle designed for visual, as well as on and off road fun. With four-wheel-drive, four seats and a rarity in Mini vehicles—the ability to get in and out of the vehicle from an exit adjacent to each of those seating positions. As a crossover rather than a body-on-frame 4×4, the Beachcomber should retain the sporty fun of its brethren but continue the fun off pavement as well. A removable hardtop and doors in addition to what appears to be an all weather interior allow the Mini Beachcomber to be enjoyed no matter what the weather or sport.
The beach buggy styling is reminiscent of an old fiberglass Meyers Manx, the same styling that has found its way into the Jeep Renegade concept and the Hummer HX in recent years, only this time in Mini-ature. While the styling is wild and elicited scads of “oohs” and “ahs” for previous open-air teasers from auto show attendees, the design is not practical for production or from a safety standpoint (think side impact), which most likely relegates the Beachcomber as just another designer’s castle made of sand.
–by Vernon Heywood
Photos Courtesy of MINI