Upcycling of the highest order: a legendary classic is transformed into a newly designed and modernised electric car for emission-free driving. Sir Paul Smith, long familiar to fans of the iconic British brand that has been in business of over 50 years, is the creative mind behind this collaboration. The presentation of this sustainable project at the Salone Del Mobile 2022 in Milan provided a fitting stage for Sir Paul Smith and Oliver Heilmer, Head of MINI Design, to discuss sustainable approaches to automotive design.
Only last summer, Paul Smith presented the MINI STRIP at the IAA motor show in Munich: a radically reduced, sustainable concept car. Paul Smith's MINI Recharged model now revisits this idea to explore the possibilities of sustainable design. "Three things describe this car perfectly: quality, sustainability and functionality," the designer explains.
"This car also respects the past,” Smith adds. With this one-off, Paul Smith is revisiting an even older project that has linked him to MINI for over 20 years: in 1998 he created the MINI Paul Smith Edition, limited to 1,800 vehicles. The prototype of this unique edition was painted a bright blue based on a swatch taken from one of Paul Smith’s favourite shirts. The new unique model retains this unmistakable, memorable shade of colour, while the lime green battery box recalls a 1990s colour palette. Despite the redesign, however, the original ethos of the car remains.
The project is also about respecting heritage and timeless design – in particular, the iconic work of Sir Alec Issigonis, creator of the first Mini. "When you move into your old aunt's flat, out of respect you don't change everything, but you do some modernising," is how Smith puts it. Sir Alec Issigonis developed the classic Mini in response to the oil crisis of 1959. Minimum fuel consumption, maximum use of space – that was the idea that convinced millions of people over many decades to invest in a Mini, and is still partly responsible for the success of MINI today.
The radically reduced and sustainable concept of the MINI Strip continues in the interior of the newly designed car. By deliberately leaving out trim parts, the bodyshell with its bare, unclad floor pan dominates the interior, with rustic floor mats made of recycled rubber on top. In addition to innovative, resource-saving materials, Paul Smith's design leaves out entire instruments in other places: a magnet next to the steering wheel accommodates the smartphone, which, apart from the speedometer, replaces almost all the old buttons and functions on the dashboard. The steering wheel in his exclusive model can be completely removed to facilitate getting in and out of the car – both an innovative solution as well as a tongue-in-cheek quip symbolic of Paul Smith’s trademark wit.
“We have made a 1990s car totally relevant for today,” is how the designer describes it. “Ideas are never the problem, you can find them everywhere. The challenge is to implement them. Here it worked. A dream has come true," he says. The engineers from ‘Recharged Heritage Limited’ are also responsible for making this dream a reality. The new MINI partner converted the classic Mini into an emission-free vehicle by installing a 72-kilowatt electric motor. MINI already offers series-manufactured, locally emission-free driving pleasure with the all-electric MINI Cooper SE and the MINI Cooper SE Countryman with plug-in hybrid drive and is on its way to delivering an all-electric future.
For the purposes of exhibiting the unique design at the Salone del Mobile 2022 in Milan, the Paul Smith showroom will be designed in the striking colours of the MINI Recharged by Paul Smith. At the Salone del Mobile, visitors will have the opportunity to see the newly designed model as well as last year’s MINI STRIP for themselves.
More details about the MINI Recharged project and new partner ‘Recharged Heritage Limited’ will be revealed soon.
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