BMW has been working with artists and designers to shape and modify existing cars for decades. Now it’s MINI’s turn and the new one-off MINI STRIP, designed by British fashion designer Paul Smith, is the result.
The philosophy of the MINI STRIP is simple — strip an all-electric MINI Cooper SE back to bare metal, inside and out, redesign the parts that are necessary, and add them back to the car. Smith’s overarching philosophy for the car was “Simplicity, Transparency, Sustainability”. The last bit — sustainability — took priority over all else.
“I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to rethink the iconic MINI,” he says. “I know and love the existing car, but by respecting the past and looking to the future we have created something very special. 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.”
Smith was eager to show off the car’s subtle flaws and imperfections, such as machine scuffs in the metal from assembly and the exposed screws that hold the black paneling to the body. He dubbed it “perfect imperfection” and the idea was to show that the car is a functional object and a companion. Smith’s love for cycling came into play as well, as he loves to tinker with his bikes. The idea of keeping the panel screws exposed was to show off how easily the panels could be removed, tying into how cyclists can easily remove and replace parts even while on the go. It also shows the sustainability of the car, as panels can easily be removed and recycled.
Recycled materials also played a large part in the exterior of the MINI Strip. The aerodynamic grille trim is made from recycled Perspex, as are the darkened aerodynamic wheel covers, and even the panoramic sunroof. The latter of which saves weight compared to glass, as well.
Inside, sustainable material usage was hugely important. There aren’t any leathers, there isn’t any chrome, and all of the materials in the cabin are recycled. The seats are made from knitted fabric and the floormats are made from recycled rubber — in a terrazzo-like pattern, with the different colors emphasizing the new life usage of the recycled material. The dashboard, upper door panels, and parcel shelf are made from recycled cork.
The latter of which is actually very important. MINI, as well as other automakers, are looking to cork as a suitable material to replace plastics with inside cars. Not only is cork sustainable and recyclable, its soft nature makes it pleasing to the touch. Additionally, cork helps to offset CO2 emissions, therefor helping a vehicle’s production become carbon neutral.
Even the steering wheel in the MINI STRIP was radically changed. It now features three aluminum spokes, with a rim wrapped in same tape used for bicycle handle bars. The airbag is covered in a mesh fabric, so you can actually see it. Continuing with the reusability of the design, there are exposed screws, showing how the steering wheel can be dismantled and its materials recycled.
Additionally, the door panels are covered in the same mesh fabric as the airbag, allowing you to actually see the door construction underneath. The door pulls were replaced with wound climber’s rope and the door handles are made from aluminum and housed in the upper part of the door panel, made from cork.
With unpainted body panels, the MINI STRIP is quite grey looking. However, there are little splashes of color and design throughout. For instance, the exposed wheel arch screws are green, the charge port door features a plug drawing from Smith himself and, once opened, shows off more green, and the interior door pulls are orange.
The MINI STRIP is one of the most unique and interesting car collaborations the BMW Group has ever done. In fact, it might be the most ambitious and exciting one we’ve ever seen. Rather than just paint a few designs on the outside, this MINI STRIP is a total re-think of what a sustainable electric car can be.