MINI has been teasing us with a two seater concept for its ever expanding line up for a few years now. A running version of the MINI Superleggera concept, styled and built by Italy’s renowned Touring custom fabrication house, popped up unexpectedly at Villa d’Este last May. Now, according to CAR Magazine, the suits at BMW have decided to let some of the existing MINI models go out of production and build the Superleggera instead.
Superleggera means “super light” in Italian. Touring developed the first super light system for building cars in 1936. Instead of a heavy iron frame like so many cars of that era, the Touring Superleggera method featured many small diameter tubes covered by a thin skin of aluminum. In addition to being light in weight, the system also made it possible for designers to be much more creative when creating new body styles.
Touring’s original customers included Alfa Romeo, Citroën, and Isotta-Fraschini. Mercedes Benz introduced its own version of a lightweight car in 1952. It was called the 300 SL. Super light in German translates to “super licht”. From that time forward, the initials SL have had a special meaning to car buffs.
Peter Schwarzenbauer, board member in charge of Mini, Rolls-Royce and motorcycles, told CAR last year that the third generation MINI due soon will have a strict product policy this time around. He believes the second generation cars have too many niche models that overlap with each other. Reports are that the current Paceman, Coupe and Roadster will be absent from the third generation line up. Right on schedule, BMW has met its six-month timeline for a Superleggera decision
“I don’t think it should be our goal to keep adding new body styles, to create even more variety,” he said. “Instead, I would rather focus on a relatively small batch of edgy core models. I like to call them superheroes because every model has its special character. What are these superheroes? For sure the Mini hatch and Countryman, at least one open-top model and perhaps one or two more variants.”
Hopefully, the production version of the Superleggera will be offered with MINI’s range topping 189 horsepower turbo four-cylinder engine. Sadly, an electric drivetrain and battery would ruin the “super light” aspect, unless BMW built it all out of carbon fiber…like it did the BMW i3. Even without an electric drivetrain, a stout turbo four-pot should make for a truly high-performance car, especially if the car is as “super light” as the name implies.
In response to the story in CAR Magazine, MINI boss Peter Schwarzenbauer now says the Superleggera would be a “great addition to the Mini range” but adds, “I cannot confirm that it has been approved yet.” According to Jalopnik, Schwarzenbauer is “still pushing” to get the production model approved. Several manufacturers have brought sporty two seaters to market over the past 20 years in an attempt to compete with the Mazda Miata. To date, none has been successful. Perhaps the execs at BMW are not yet convinced a business case can be made for the MINI Superleggera.