“Come Together” Over the MINI

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MINI in History: The Beatles’ MINI Coopers

If you’re a fan of the MINI, you’re in good company.  The MINI was a favorite of the Beatles, particularly George Harrison.  The music group that started Beatlemania not only had great talent for music, but great taste in cars.  Beatles fans and MINI fans can “come together” over these fun facts about the Beatles’ Minis.


The Beatles’ Minis were gifts from manager Brian Epstein.  He gave all four members their own Mini.  These weren’t just any Minis though – they were customized by Harold Radford Coachbuilders.  Radford’s updates included adding a full leather interior, a Rosewood veneered dash, and electric windows.


George Harrison, the Beatles’ lead guitarist, had a particular affinity for his Mini. Like the other Minis, Harrison’s original 1966 Mini Cooper S became a “Radford Mini De Ville GT.”  George’s Mini was outfitted with Rear VW Beetle lights fitted sideways, front fog lamps, a Webasto sunroof, black leather interior, and a metallic black exterior that was soon painted to match the psychedelic cosmic design of the time period.  With the new paint job, the car went from black to bright red and featured mystical eastern designs, no doubt inspired by Harrison’s trip to India.

Harrison’s Mini would later appear in the 1967 film the Magical Mystery Tour, which follows the Beatles’ journey in a bus across England.  Along the way, they come across a marathon race, and Harrison and Lennon enter with Harrison’s Mini. It should come as no surprise that the Beatles had Minis – in the 60’s and 70’s, the Mini was very popular among celebrities and a bit of a “fashion statement.”


Harrison maintained his Mini over the years, and it was even exhibited at Goodwood in 1998.  In 2009, Mini resurrected the model that Harrison used to own to celebrate the brand’s 50th anniversary.  They gave a fresh interpretation of Harrisons original Mini, and the guitarist’s widow, Olivia Harrison, auctioned it off for charity.


“George was a huge MINI fan and he would have enjoyed creating this new version.  The fact that MINI’s anniversary celebrations will also benefit our foundation has made it an enjoyable as well as meaningful collaboration,” said Olivia Harrison at the time.


Since the 60’s, the Mini has been a cultural icon, and has enjoyed much popularity throughout its lifetime.  The Mini has featured in many movies, including The Italian Job, The Bourne Identity, and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, and also in many television shows like Mr. Bean.


What do you think of George’s beefed up ride?

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Toyota’s Role in the History of the Electric Car

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The history of the electric car actually begins in the mid-1800s. In the 1830s, a variety of different inventors developed electric motors and model electric cars.

Before the widespread availability of gasoline, the electric car reigned in Europe and America. Despite holding speed records (65 mph in 1899), the top speed of most early EVs was about 20 mph. In the early 1900s, it was more popular than the gasoline powered car because it did not require gear changes, lacked the smell and noise of gasoline cars, and were easier to use.

In 1917, Woods Motor Vehicle Company of Chicago released the first hybrid car, but because it was too slow, too difficult to service, and ultimately not worth its price tag, it failed and was discontinued.

The 1920’s, however, brought about substantial changes in the automobile industry that would ultimately wipe the EV out of the market. Better road infrastructure called for cars with better range, the discovery of petroleum in Texas, Oklahoma and California made gasoline more affordable, and gasoline cars surpassed the EV’s early speed records. Additionally, the invention of the muffler made gasoline cars quieter, and Henry Ford’s mass production assembly lines made gasoline cars more affordable for the mass public. By the 1930’s, the American electric vehicle had disappeared, and would not make a substantial return for several decades.

Toyota’s History with Electric Vehicles

In the 70’s and 80’s, the energy crisis sparked a renewed interest in the EV, culminating in the early 90’s, when the California Air Resources Board pushed for fuel-efficient, lower-emissions vehicles.

Many automakers responded to this push and developed electric vehicles, among them Toyota, with the RAV4 EV. The RAV4 EV ran from 1997 to 2003, had a top speed of 78 mph and a range of 80 to 120 miles.

However, poor marketing on the part of all car manufacturers made EV vehicles unsuccessful and led to the impression that no one was interested in buying an electric car. Subsequently, the cars were taken off the market. Toyota offered to sell its last 328 RAV4 EVs in response to owner protests of the repossession of their cars.

In the 90’s, interest in electric vehicles declined, and consumers became interested in SUVs instead. Meanwhile, Toyota released the Prius hybrid around the turn of the twenty-first century. After being out for several years, the Prius saw sales take off in the mid-2000s.

In the past few years, due to the global economic recession, more and more people are turning towards fuel-efficient vehicles to help save money. After over a century, the electric vehicle is finally making its comeback in America. Last year, Toyota and Tesla announced their plan to develop a second generation of the RAV4 EV for 2012.

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Buick in History: Highlight of the Buick Skylark

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Today we’re taking a moment to highlight a Buick classic: the Skylark.   Immortalized in the film My Cousin Vinny, the Buick Skylark was first introduced to commemorate Buick’s 50th anniversary in 1953.  Over the years, the Skylark has appeared in a number of different forms; for this post, we’ll cover it’s first few runs in the 50’s and 60’s.

Initially, the Buick Skylark was introduced as a limited-production vehicle that was part of the Roadmaster line.  General Motors also produced two other specialty convertibles, the Oldsmobile Fiesta and Cadillac Eldorado.  Out of all three, the Skylark was the most successful, as Buick produced 1,690 units with a list price of just over $5,000.  All models were convertibles based on the two-door Roadmaster.  One unique feature of the Skylark was its V8 power and 12-volt electrical system, both firsts for Buick.  In the following year, 1954, the Skylark was not as popular, so Buick stopped production.

Almost a decade later, Buick reintroduced the Buick Special Skylark, which used the same chassis as the Pontiac Tempest and Oldsmobile F-85.  The Skylark still was not its own model, and was based on the Buick Special two-door sedan and had a 3.5L V-8 engine and a 4-barrel carburetor capable of producing 185 hp.

In 1962, it finally became its own model: the Buick Skylark.  Two styles were available: a two-door convertible coupe and a two-door hardtop. Over the years, as the Skylark evolved, it developed higher standards than the Special on which it was based.  For example, it included all-vinyl bucket seats in the convertible, and cloth-and-vinyl seats in the sedan.


The Skylark in Pop Culture

The Buick Skylark has been used in a number of movies.  In the movie My Cousin Vinny, a 1964 Buick Skylark becomes a major plot point in a court case against two New Yorkers accused of murder.  One of the defendants drove a metallic mint green Buick Skylark, which witnesses had confused with a Pontiac Tempest.  Other famous movies that include a Buick Skylark are The Goodbye Girl, Crossroads, and Vanilla Sky.

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