Mini Recharged: Sir Paul Smith’s contemporary cut for a classic
Reimagining his 1998 take on the small car with a big following, Sir Paul Smith tailors the stripped-back 2022 Mini Recharged
Sir Paul Smith’s association with Mini goes way back. His most recent collaboration – a conceptual version of the new electric Mini, the Mini Strip – was revealed in 2021 and immediately hailed for its combination of minimal trim and enduring materials. Back in 1998, the Mini Paul Smith Edition, a limited edition of 1,800 vehicles, added pinstripe chic to the original Sir Alec Issigonis-designed Mini.
Now the designer has collaborated once more with Oliver Heilmer, head of Mini Design, to create the Mini Recharged, an upcycled original 1998 Mini that’s been given the electrification treatment.
Revealed at Salone Del Mobile 2022, the Mini Recharged hasn’t just been rewired from scratch; it also incorporates colours, materials, and trim that reflect a truly sustainable approach. Smith describes the car as a combination of ‘quality, sustainability and functionality,’ and it’s easy to be seduced by this stripped-back version of one of the most enduring designs of all time.
Stabs of bright colour are a perennial Smith signature, and the Mini Recharge doesn’t disappoint, with orange seatbelts, a yellow dashboard shelf, and a lime-green battery box in the boot. The Recharged’s bodywork is finished in a bright blue colour originally inspired by one of the designer’s favourite shirts.
There are still plenty of classic Minis on the roads and the cars retain a strong cult following. Launched in 1959 as the ultimate compact car for a family of modest means at a time of the first oil shock of the modern era after the Suez Crisis, it was economical and cheap to run (if not to actually build).
Engineer Issigonis used a pioneering engine layout to maximise space; 80 per cent of the car’s volume was devoted to passengers and luggage. At 3.05m long, a classic Mini is barely bigger than a contemporary Smart car, yet could seat five.
Swapping out the original engine for electric motors and a battery pack was a substantial operation.
New Mini partner Recharged Heritage Limited, a small company based in Lancashire, was responsible for the engineering, installing a 72-kilowatt electric motor to turn the car into a zero-emissions machine.
Changes are subtle but striking. ‘When you move into your old aunt’s flat, out of respect you don’t change everything, but you do some modernising,’ says Smith, and his interior changes reflect this ethos.
For a start, there’s a distinct absence of interior trim – just as with the Mini Strip – helping reduce weight and creating a uniquely utilitarian finish. The bare metal footwells are covered with recycled rubber floor mats, while the instrument panel is just as stark as Mini’s original, with the round centre-mounted speedo complemented by a smartphone mounting. The gear selector, switch gear, column stalks and windscreen winders are all machined aluminium; and the steering wheel itself is removable, just like on a racing car.
‘Ideas are never the problem, you can find them everywhere,’ says Smith. ‘The challenge is to implement them. Here it worked. A dream has come true… We have made a 1990s car totally relevant for today.’
While last year’s Mini Strip was a step too far for mass production, the bespoke nature of the Recharged project and the ongoing partnership with Recharged Heritage Limited hints at this being more than an elegant one-off. §