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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

To Denmark by Mini: Driving the 10-millionth Mini to Lego HQ

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Unsurprisingly, the decision of founder Ole Kirk Christiansen to introduce interlocking plastic building bricks alongside the company’s existing line-up of wooden toys plays a key role. However, these original bricks were hollow, which limited their structural integrity and versatility. A solution was soon found, though, and as with all great designs that fix, it was a delightfully simple one: a series of reinforcing cylindrical tubes was added to the interior of every new brick. Lego patented the concept and the rest – as they say – is history. And with the photographs in the bag, so, too, is our time in Billund.

Back in Bremen, we wake on the third and final day of our trip to find a thick, soupy fog has swept across the city like a ghostly stage curtain. The weather once again seems to be doing its best to work against us. Out on the autobahn, visibility is all but non-existent and we’re limited to a more conservative pace. Nonetheless, the Mini takes it all in its stride.

As we push on through the murk and cross into the surprisingly sunny Netherlands, before meandering back towards Calais and on to Britain, I can’t help but be amused by the commonalities between Issigonis and Christiansen. Both men were pioneers in their own right and led teams of clever people whose respective creations went on to inspire leagues of copycats. Whether they would have got on in real life I’ve no idea; but surely there’d be some degree of mutual respect for the simple engineering solutions and clever design that helped catalyse the success of the other’s brainchild.

During our time in Billund, Nissen mentioned that six identical 2×4 Lego bricks could be combined to create 915,103,765 different permutations. Obviously, a Mini can’t take quite that many forms, but that’s not to say it hasn’t sprouted permutations of its own over the course of its 60-year life. In 2019 alone, we have the Mini Clubman, Countryman and Cabriolet models, as well as the likes of the Coupé and Paceman in recent years. We’ve had a fair few quick Minis, too, as well as Minis that have gone on to become motorsport icons (Rallye Monte-Carlo, anyone?).

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