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Paul Smith’s ‘Designer MINI’ Reveals The Future Of Eco-Friendly Cars

Eco-chic.

The Mini – both the classic 60s design and its modern reincarnation – is one of the most prominent and successful examples of industrial design of all time. It’s quintessential British chic: small, practical, sporty, idiosyncratic and not entirely full of itself.

One thing Minis aren’t, however, are good for the environment. Sure, they’re much more fuel-efficient than the vast majority of cars on the market, and the modern MINI marque has made great headway with electrified drivetrains (check out our review of the MINI Countryman Hybrid), but MINI, like the rest of the automotive industry and industry more broadly, has a long way to go when it comes to producing truly sustainable, eco-friendly goods.

This is why MINI’s latest concept car is so exciting. Produced in collaboration with acclaimed British designer Paul Smith, the recently-unveiled ‘MINI STRIP’ concept is an absolute triumph, which combines the ‘best of British’ design flair that’s so crucial to the Mini’s character with a truly forward-thinking approach to sustainability and eco-conscious materials.

Externally, the MINI STRIP resembles a normal MINI One, just with no paint and a more aggressive front end. It’s like some sort of stripped-down racer or demolition derby car – hence the name ‘STRIP’. But it’s when you step inside the car and again, strip it down to its bare materials, that the true genius of the MINI STRIP is revealed.

 

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Firstly, the MINI Strip is an electric car, with the same mechanical underpinnings as the MINI One Electric. An electric drivetrain perfectly complements the car’s much-touted ‘go-kart-like handling’; the instant torque and linear powerband that all EVs share making the already great driving experience even greater. The MINI STRIP’s radical weight loss would make its driving dynamics wilder still.

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But the real party trick of the MINI STRIP is its eco-friendly bona-fides. The key conceit of Smith’s design is that they’ve peeled back all the extraneous elements of the car, and replaced the essentials with recycled or sustainable products.

For example, the panoramic sunroof, grille and wheels are made from recycled Perspex. The floor mats are made from recycled rubber. The dashboard topper pad, door shoulders and parcel shelf are made from recycled cork. Much of the bodywork and interior is made from aluminium; the seats and door handles are textile; even the front and rear apron inserts were 3D printed, in order to reduce waste. You get the picture.

Inspired by Smith’s love of pushbikes, visible and accessible screws are a notable aesthetic and functional touch throughout the MINI STRIP, which show how simple dismantling would be and how easily the vehicle could be reincorporated into the raw-material cycle at the end of its service life.

The MINI STRIP’s interior. The car has no traditional instrument cluster: instead, there’s a central mobile phone mount that allows your device to become the instrument/infotainment system all in one. Image: MINI

“I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to rethink the iconic MINI… I know and love the existing car, but by respecting the past and looking to the future we have created something very special… I think we have created something truly unique, by going back to basics, reducing things down and stripping the car,” Smith has said about the project.

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Concept cars are often a bit of a wank, but the MINI STRIP is truly brilliant. It shows that incorporating sustainable materials and practices in auto manufacturing isn’t just good for the planet, but can actually be a stylistic drawcard in of itself.

The stripped-down aesthetic not only cleverly pays to MINI’s rallying heritage (as well as reflecting Smith’s trademark minimalism) but also brings into focus the inherent beauty of recycled products, and encourages drivers to think more carefully about where the things we consume come from, and how we dispose of them.

In short, it gets you thinking and inspires you – which is what a concept car should do – and provides a bright, exciting glimpse at the future of motoring.

Sadly, the MINI STRIP is a one-off and isn’t designed for normal road-going. Which is a shame, because we’d snap one up in an instant. Wonder if Mr. Smith would throw in a bunch of blazers as well…

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