Praia de Mira, Portugal - From the moment the original Mini hit the streets in 1959, it attracted a particular type of enthusiast. It was cute, it was fun and, above all, it was anti-establishment.
The Mini showed an irreverent middle finger to motoring aristocracy, running rings around cars that cost five times as much, winning the Monte Carlo Rally against the cream of Europe’s performance-car makers, becoming the wheeled poster child for the egalitarian spirit of the Swinging Sixties.
By 1979, informal gathering of Mini enthusiasts had coalesced into the annual International Mini Meeting, attracting fans and their Minis from all over the world, and when BMW revived the Mini in 2001, it also began supporting the IMM as a way of linking its Mini to Alex Issigonis’ original.
This year sees the 40th edition of the International Mini Meeting, to be held in Portugal for the first time, from 17-21 May, hosted by the Clube Mini de Portugal at the Praia de Mira seaside resort, about 100km south of Porto on the Atlantic coast.
The festival site, with a wide stretch of sandy beach on one side and a lagoon on the other, will feature live music, competitions, vehicle exhibitions and an autojumble, as well as group drives in the surrounding countryside and a massed parade of Minis through the streets.
The convenors are expecting several thousand Minis, both original and current models, to attend; each year Mini fanatics drive hundreds - if not thousands - of kilometres to show off their lovingly cared-for classic or customised Minis to like-minded enthusiasts, or even just to be part of the Mini family for a weekend.
Each day of the 2018 Meeting will be dedicated to a different classic Mini, including the Mini Moke, the Clubman and Van, while two important anniversaries will also be celebrated this year.
The Mini Cooper S first was first unleashed by racing car builder John Cooper 55 years ago in 1963; at 51kW it had double the power of the 850cc original, and was the first Mini with servo-assisted brakes. It laid the foundation for the Mini’s phenomenal competition success, and almost instantly became a cult car.
This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Mini convertible, first presented as a concept by BMW in 1991, and built by Rover at Longbridge from 1993 until production of the original Mini ceased in 2000.
Check out the official footage of the 2017 International Mini Meeting at Westport, County Mayo in Ireland: