The First-Gen Mini Cooper’s Exhaust Tips Were Modeled After a Can of Budweiser

The First-Gen Mini Cooper’s Exhaust Tips Were Modeled After a Can of Budweiser

When then-Chief DesignerFrank Stephenson was ready to present his new first-genMini Cooper design to BMW’s board of directors back in 1996, he realized he forgot something important. The Mini design team had worked multiple 24-hour days to complete the first full-sized clay model of the new Mini, and when they finally finished the designers had a few well-earned beers to celebrate. During the celebration, Stephenson realized the clay model was missing an exhaust, and there were just a few hours to spare before presenting the design to the board.

So Stephenson did what any smart person would do, and panicked. Okay, the story doesn’t mention Stephenson panicking, but I’d guess he had at least a moment of panic. His 11th-hour solution was to strip the paint from his can of Budweiser beer, punch a hole out of the bottom of the can, and secure it to the clay model as an exhaust tip. According to a 2004 story from Motoring File,

It wasn’t long before [Stephenson] was called on the carpet by his boss at BMW. “It wasn’t the shape (of the tip),” [Stephenson] says, “everybody liked it because it was unique yet oddly familiar. He was concerned that I had wasted a modeler’s time milling the piece when his time could be better spent elsewhere. That was when I felt the need to confess.”

That confession got him stunned silence followed by nearly uncontrollable laughter.”

Photo: Mini

It’s pretty funny that the BMW boss was concerned Stephenson had a modeler sculpt the comparatively ornate tail pipe, a piece of a car that is often overlooked by designers. I would have been shaking in my boots if my big boss confronted me about a situation like this, but I’m glad that Stephenson’s confession was well-received. I love seeing the beer can exhaust tips on Minis, and the story has always seemed like common knowledge among Mini brand enthusiasts, but many of my friends had never heard the tale before.

The first-generation R50 Mini Coopers had the most obvious looking beer can exhaust tip, while the R53 Cooper S had two smallercan-style tips in the center of the rear bumper that aren’t as obvious. The second-gen R56 Coopers got a similar-looking setup as the R50s, with the standard Cooper’s single tail pipe looking more Bud-like than the Cooper S’ twin central pipes.

The third-genF56 Cooper vaguely continued the beer can look with a rounded exhaust tip on base Coopers and twin central rounded tips for Cooper S models. Unfortunately, the upcoming 2025 F66 Cooper S does away with displaying tail pipes at all, with none visible in any photos.

Though it saddens me that Mini is doing away with its characterful exhaust pipes, I hope this story helps more people smile when they see the beer can tips on older Minis.

Screenshot: BMWBLOG/ YouTube (Fair Use)

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