“For me the MINI STRIP shows in an impressive way that MINI and Paul Smith share the same bold way of thinking about the future in terms of innovation and design – and together we can create more. Paul asked essential questions right at the start of the design process with his non-automotive and therefore fresh perspective. We are proud to have developed such a strong character statement together,” says Oliver Heilmer, Head of BMW MINI Design.
MINI has teamed up with the British fashion designer Paul Smith to create a one-off version of the MINI Electric which highlights the issue of sustainability in automotive manufacturing.
It’s called the MINI Strip – and, as the name suggests, it features a fairly minimal amount of equipment, finishings and trim in an effort to keep its environmental impact to a minimum.
Following this “low impact” brief, MINI left the bodywork in an unfinished state.
So, the finishing marks from the factory are still visible, the plastics are bare and there’s no coloured paint on the panels. Instead, MINI just lacquered the metal to protect it from corrosion.
The duo also designed a new front splitter and rear apron, which are fixed to the car using visible screws – supposedly to show how easy it is to replace yourself at home. Both are 3D printed from recycled plastic and, like the bodywork, they’ve been left untreated.
MINI also designed a new blanked-off radiator grille and some new aerodynamic wheel covers, which it says will theoretically increase the cars range and reduce the number of times it needs to visit a charging station, thereby lowering its environmental impact further.
Both new components are made from recycled Perspex, which MINI says saves a little bit of weight. The same material was also used for the car’s new panoramic sunroof, that replaces the standard model’s metal roof like-for-like and allows you to see the supporting structures normally hidden by trim and bodywork.
Most of the cabin has also been stripped out, in the interest of saving weight.
However, so you don’t cut yourself on the exposed metalwork, MINI and Paul Smith designed a new dash topper, fresh door shoulders and a new parcel shelf, all made from recycled cork.
MINI says cork shows excellent promise as a substitute for foamed plastics in the future. It’s fully recyclable and it absorbs carbon dioxide during its production. As an added benefit, it’s an open-pore material which acts as an excellent sound deadener.
The steering wheel is made from aluminium and wrapped in handlebar tape like a road bicycle. So, once the driver has worn the tape out through use, they can simply re-wrap the rim with fresh tape rather than replacing it with a new steering wheel.
The airbags in the steering wheel and doors are also hidden by a knitted mesh rather than soft-touch plastics and leather, while the door pulls are made from wound-up climbing rope.
MINI hasn’t designed some fancy seat upholstery for the Strip, either – they’re completely monochrome, which the brand says will make it easier to recycle the fabric once it’s reached the end of its life. The floor mats are made from recycled rubber, too.
MINI and Paul Smith’s centrepiece for the Strip’s interior was the dashboard panel. Rather than the usual multi-piece trim panel, it’s a single sheet of curved, smoked glass.
It also does away with the standard MINI Electric’s gauge cluster and infotainment system, in the interest of conserving materials. Instead, there’s a mount for the driver’s smartphone where the touchscreen would be, which is used to display all of the car’s vital information.
In the automotive world, Paul Smith is best known for his special edition (and limited run) versions of the original Mini, which included the iconic multi-coloured model and a solid blue version which was designed to look like a Paul Smith suit.
The Mini Paul Smith’s rather conservative blue paint masked a host of brightly coloured parts, with the rocker cover, boot board and petrol tank all finished in lime green.
Each car also came with a 24-carat gold enamelled bonnet badge.
“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,” said Paul Smith.
“I feel very privileged that the MINI team have given me the confidence and freedom to think laterally about the approach to the design of the car. Together, I think we have created something truly unique, by going back to basics, reducing things down and stripping the car.”
BMW MINI STRIP
Designers: Oliver Heilmer, BMW AG and Paul Smith
Manufacturer: BMW AG