Mini a big hit with Britain

August 18. The British Motor Corporation revealed its new Mini car, and a cult was born. The little front-wheel drive car was the brainchild of Alec Issigonis whose solution to carrying four adults in a car barely nine feet long has never been bettered.

Sir Alec Issigonis and the MiniThe space inside was created by mounting the engine sideways and putting four tiny 10-inch wheels at the corners. It was basic transport, on the road for less than £500. The door hinges were exposed and early models had a floor-mounted start button and wire pulls instead of door handles.

It had an uncertain start. But before long the Mini's incredible handling and road-holding were wiping the floor with the competition. As more powerful Cooper and Cooper S versions came along, the mighty Mini won the Monte Carlo Rally and won race after race on the circuits.

But the mini's real success was in becoming a cult vehicle. Utterly classless, it was owned by lords and labourers alike. Soon it was to become a symbol of the Swinging Sixties.

February 3. The Day The Music Died. Perhaps a rather harsh judgment with the Beatles era still a few years away. But the death of the 22-year-old Buddy Holly in an air crash provoked a public outpouring of hysteria of a kind which was to punctuate the next few decades. Holly had thick black glasses and apparently suffered from bad breath, a combination that made him an unlikely rock totem. He was the first pop star to compose and arrange his own hits and his records are still selling today.

April 18. Wolves equalled the post war feats of Portsmouth and Manchester United by retaining the league championship in 1958-59 overcoming an even worse start to the season than the previous year. They dropped down to ninth place in the First Division after losing four of their first 10 games which included a 6-2 hiding by a Jimmy Greaves-inspired Chelsea. Christmas proved to be the catalyst and they lost only twice in 21 matches after the festive season. The devastating run included thrashings 7-0 for Portsmouth, 5-0 for Blackburn and 6-2 for Leeds.

November 17. A significant day for travellers with the opening of the M1, Britain's first motorway. Also on this day passengers leaving Prestwick and Renfrew airports became the first in the country to be allowed to buy duty-free wines and spirits. Such a service had been commonplace on the continent for years.

June 26. A Swedish boxer whose only previous claim to fame was a disqualification for "not fighting" became the heavyweight champion of the world. Ingemar Johansson battered the champion Floyd Patterson to the canvas before an incredulous crowd at New York's Yankee Stadium. He was the first Swede to win the title but he had to put on hold any ideas about getting rich quick: he was told he would face a re-match before he would be paid for this bout. Johansson was the first non-American world heavyweight champion in a quarter of a century.


In brief

January 17. A 32-year-old Rugeley motorist was banned from driving for a record 25 years after been told by magistrates they had never seen such a shocking record. None of the offences involved drink driving.

February 26. A state of emergency was declared in Southern Rhodesia.

March 5. A British Medical Association booklet was withdrawn because it contained a passage which suggested marriage was "outmoded".

  April 6. The first racial violence in the West Midlands was reported when 30 teddy boys clashed with a small group of black people at Blackheath.

May 6. A Picasso was sold for a then world record 55,000 in London.

June 23. A bank of "spare parts" from the victims of road accidents was set up by doctors in London.

August 4. Barclays became the first bank to install a computer.

August 19. Plans were announced to close down up to 70 pits over the next five years.

September 9. Wolverhampton's new market hall was rocked by a massive gas explosion.

September 13. Stirling Moss won the Italian Grand Prix.

October 9. Harold Macmillan's Tories won the General Election with a huge majority.

December 14. Archbishop Makarios became the president of crisis-torn Cyprus.

December 15. A strike by brewery workers threatened beer supplies to pubs and clubs across the West Midlands, Staffordshire and Shropshire.