Mini Camino: Someone in NYC Chopped a Mini Cooper Into a Tiny Pickup Truck, and We’re All About It
So there I was, walking through West Village in New York City the other night, and what caught my eye? The coolest custom car I’ve seen in a while. This “Mini Camino” was a BMW-era Mini Cooper that someone cut down into a tiny pickup truck. Why do they need the world’s tiniest compact truck in Manhattan? Your guess is as good as mine.
The new Mini Cooper
By the late 1990s, small, front-wheel-drive cars were quickly becoming the default people-movers. BMW saw the writing on the wall and knew it would need to develop a FWD platform. But at that time, company brass was worried about tarnishing the front engine, RWD sports car reputation of the marque.
This problem may have been imagined. Today, BMW produces FWD crossover SUVs. And as far as I can tell, the sky hasn’t fallen. But whatever you think of the problem, you must admit that BMW’s solution was brilliant.
The German automaker bought the rights to the iconic British Mini. Then it created a BMW-engineered FWD Mini Cooper. The car was retro, stylish, efficient, and sporty. It filled a niche BMW had yet to tap.
BMW recruited master of retro car design, Frank Stephensen, to pen the lines of the new Mini. He had the daunting task of modernizing a design that had gone unchanged for decades. But by giving the car an aggressive, bulldog-inspired underbite and focusing on classic shapes, he created something timeless. The little car quickly became an icon of early 2000’s retro car styling.
You have to remember that the new Mini Cooper came before the new retro Mustang and Challenger and all the retro cars that fill our streets today. In fact, Stephensen would go on to design several of them, including the Fiat 500 and Maseratis.
BMW never built a new Mini Cooper truck
As BMW’s first FWD platform, the Mini Cooper was adapted into many configurations. There was the Mini Hatch, the Mini Clubman, and even the AWD Mini Countryman.
Despite all these other options, BMW never built a new Mini Cooper truck. Perhaps the automaker thought there was no market for a tiny, Mini Cooper based pickup truck. And they may have been right. But the recent sales success of the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz make me wonder just how amenable drivers are to compact pickups. At least one vehicle customizer felt a Mini Cooper pickup truck was worth their time.
The funny thing is that the British Motor Corporation, which made the original Mini Cooper from 1961 through the BMW-era, offered a Mini truck. The company built a Mini work van. The rare truck configuration was just the little Mini van with an open air body and functional tailgate. The folks at Super Coopers custom Mini Coopers estimate that only one out of every 100 classic Mini Coopers left in existence are trucks.
The Mini truck measured just 11 feet overall. It came with
A custom Mini Cooper truck lives in Manhattan
That brings us back to my encounter with my “Mini Camino.” When I saw this unique little truck, it was street-parked in Manhattan. I was walking by after dark, so it took me a moment to realize what I was looking at.
As far as I can tell, the front of the vehicle is identical to any other well-loved modern Mini Cooper. It has silver paint and stock rims. The vehicle a bit dented up and missing a drivers die fender flare, but looks in working order otherwise.
But the rear of the vehicle is completely different. The cab ends in a vertical window, directly behind the front seats. In the place of rear seats it has a tiny pickup truck box. Whoever built the truck even cut up the car’s rear panel and mounted hinges at the bottom so, presumabley, it has a working tailgate.
There are two major clues to the origins of this Mini truck. During or after its pickup truck conversion, its roof and a stripe of its hood were painted black. In addition, its tiny truck bed consists of a small, waterproof tub.
I expect this Mini Cooper truck was originally a Red Bull car. I remember when I was in college, Red Bull’s modified Mini Coopers often visited campus. They had a huge can mounted to the roof and a cooler in the rear full of ice and Red Bulls. But I am a bit confused why the modifiers chose to mount a third tail light up high on the Mini truck if they planned on covering it up with a huge Red Bull can.
Next, learn why the new Mini Cooper’s exhaust pipe is based on a beer can.