The Iconic One-Off MINI 1275 GT Longman Is Living Proof That Brains Trump Raw Power

Since Mini launched in 1959, it has continued to innovate and has grown into an iconic, British-styled car brand. Today, I’d like to discuss a one-off MINI destined for the racetrack – the MINI 1275 GT Longman.
Mini GT 1275 Longman 7 photos
Photo: Mini
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Ten years after the brand’s debut, British Leyland, Mini’s owner from 1968 to 1986, wanted to refresh the automaker’s vehicles by introducing a new model. That’s how the Clubman came to life and replaced the more luxurious, three-boxed variants of the Mini, the Wolseley Hornet, and the Riley Elf.

Initially, the Clubman packed a 38 hp (28 kW or 38.5 ps) engine, which, even back in the day, couldn’t satisfy the customer’s increasing demand for power and performance. That’s why a 1275cc, 57 hp (42.5 kW or 57.8 ps) version of the vehicle was introduced, the 1275 GT. It was meant to replace the brand’s sporty automobile, the Mini Cooper.

Admittedly, the upgrade wasn’t significant, as the Mini Cooper S (available until 1971) had 19 hp more than the 1275 GT. Controversy emerged regarding the aesthetics of the car, as it had a much squarer appearance created by ex-Ford designer Roy Haynes. The new look did provide increased crash protection and better under-bonnet access, but it also divided MINI’s customers.

The style wasn’t the only issue regarding the Clubman – competition from German and Japanese cars in the second half of the 1970s was vicious. In 1971, around 318K Minis were made, but the number dropped by more than 50% by the end of the decade. A new car could bring new interest and more sales to the Mini brand, but this move was still years away in British Leyland’s plans. So, he turned his attention to touring cars and a man who already had a background with Mini: Richard Longman.

Mini GT 1275 Longman
Photo: Mini
In the 1960s, Richard Longman spent time at Downton Engineering, an approved tuner part of British Motor Corporations (Mini’s owners before British Leyland). Lots of Minis were modified by Longman before he went on to establish his own company, Longman Engineering. He wasn’t just a tuner – Longman was passionate about racing. Naturally, he jumped at the opportunity of competing in the British Saloon Car Championship (now the British Touring Car Championship).

Longman’s team upgraded the MINI 1275 GT to 120 hp (89 kW or 121.5 ps). Still, the vehicle was up against bigger, more potent cars in the 1300cc class. However, it stood out with its agility, as the little machine could take corners like no other competitor.

Its agility turned out to be enough to outperform other cars – in 1978, Longman and the MINI 1275 GT managed to win eleven out of twelve races, thus winning the championship. One year later, he repeated the feat; Longman won ten out of twelve races in the same car.

Mini GT 1275 Longman
Photo: Mini
The 1275 GT went out in a blaze of glory - in 1980, British Leyland replaced it with the Austin Metro.

The racing machine is now part of the vehicle collection at BMW Group Classic and is displayed in its original condition, as no other changes have been made since its last race. Many motorsport enthusiasts wanted to see the car race once again, and their wish was fulfilled in 2013 when MINI tuners Swiftune developed a perfect replica of Longman’s 1275 GT for Goodwood’s 72nd Race Meeting. All these years later, it still delivered – the little MINI came in a surprising 3rd place, given that it raced against V6s and V8s.

The MINI GT 1275 Longman is living proof that brains trump raw power. Using ingenuity and determination, the car secured its place in history as a tiny yet capable machine.
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About the author: Mircea Mazuru
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Starting out with a motorcycle permit just because he could get one two years earlier than a driver's license, Mircea keeps his passion for bikes (motor or no motor) alive to this day. His lifelong dream is to build his own custom camper van.
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