The idea of a motor home from the makers of the diminutive Mini Cooper sounds like a joke—and it actually started out that way. Last April Fools’ Day, the Mini team decided to have fun at the internet’s expense by proposing a caravan camper featuring the brand’s trademark style. But it turned out that many enthusiasts didn’t get the joke and wanted to place orders immediately. “We prepared the MINI Cowley caravan as an April Fools’ Day prank, had the vehicle built as a one-off, and took it camping,” writes Mini spokesperson Nathalie Bauters. “We received terrific feedback from our owners and enthusiasts. The rest is history.”
Just over a year later, the Mini design team has proposed three new concepts equally suited for a quiet camping trip in Big Sky Country or making the pilgrimage to Burning Man.
The Mini Clubvan Camper
Billed as “the world’s smallest luxury camper van,” this kit of parts transforms an ordinary Mini Clubman into a mobile apartment that could be used for a weekend off the grid, or in a pinch, bootstrapping a startup. A sleeping berth for one, clever hand-powered shower, and storage rack take the place of bedroom, bathroom, and closet. Padded window covers help keep the temperature regulated, peering eyes out, and ambient noise to a minimum. A pullout kitchenette with a two burner stove, sink, and fridge means foodies won’t be forced to resort to roadside diners.
It may not seem like much, but compared to the 130-square-foot microapartments that are becoming popular in global centers, it’s not too shabby.
The Cowley Caravan
The Cowley Caravan has all of the benefits of the camper, but with room for two and space enough to enough to include a bevy of homey touches. Wood paneling creates a rustic feel well suited to the open road. The rear of the caravan opens revealing a kitchen larger and better appointed than those in many food trucks. Built in speakers and an iPad dock means that travelers won’t have to leave their creature comforts at home.
The Cowley Caravan is named for the factory in Oxford, England where the original Mini line was built. The workers there have been producing cars for the past 100 years, including some of the new Minis, and their institutional knowledge worked its way into these new concepts. “The sliding windows on the Mini Cowley caravan resemble the sliding windows that came standard on Mini’s built before 1969,” writes Bauters.
The Mini Countryman ALL4 Camp
Inspired by African safaris, but intended for the festival touring crowd, the ALL4 Camp allows the adventurous to explore without much planning. Concert goer’s can pack a bag and follow their favorite band knowing that the next hotel room is just above their head. The concept was originally intended to put a few vertical feet between outback explorers and carnivorous creatures, but the principle will also help keep altered concert attendees from mistakenly walking into the tent.
While the campers still have the feel of parody, the concepts reflect the inventive and thrifty mindset that has marked the Mini brand since its creation in 1959. With enough success, maybe we’ll even see a return of the Mini pickup truck and Mini van?
COMMENTARY: Finally campers that are specifically designed for Mini Cooper car owners, or sub-compact car owners, that provide comfortable room for one or two occupants whether on the beach or campsite. The Mini Clubvan Camper, Mini Cowley Caravan and Mini Countryman All4Camp provide alternatives regardless of the size of your wallet or car for that matter. Unfortunately, Mini says these campers are strictly prototypes, and says there are no plans to offer any of them for sale. And no, this doesn't seem to be a recycled April fools joke, in which Mini touted the Swindon Roof Top Tent and Cowley.
Courtesy of an article dated August 5, 2013 appearing in Wired