With the process of ‘Roverization’ in the late 1980s, the company realized that its rich heritage could be the biggest selling point it had. Modernism was out and overtly ‘retro’ nostalgia was in. Rover had already released the chrome- grilled 800, and plans were well advanced for a short production run of an updated MGB V8. Most easily realized of all the retro relaunches was that of the Mini Cooper in late 1980 easy, because the Mini was still in production and had barely changed since 1959. The famous Cooper version required little more effort than some handsome period graphics, alloy wheels and a power tweak. Rover added a white roof; chrome rimmed driving lights and bonnet stripes marked with John Cooper’s signature. There’s no doubt that in a period of particularly bland styling, the Cooper stood out as a fabulous looking car. The 1275cc engine delivered 61bhp through a single carburetor, up from the standard 50bhp. It was enough to give the car a genuine spring in its step which, combined with the kart- like steering and roll free handling, offered the average driver the sort of tactile thrills unavailable in anything less than a full blown sports car. By late 1991 a catalyst converter- equipped engine was needed, but Rover engineers managed to get the ancient A-series over the eco-hurdle by fitting single point injection.
After BMW bought the Rover Group in 1994, the re-development of the Mini Continued apace, with an even more striking Cooper and the re-introduction of some superb period colors and trims. Nostalgia seemed to become entrenched during the 1990s. The strategy was to develop Mini as a separate brand. After a sneak preview at the 1997 Frankfurt show BMW announced that the new Mini due in 2001, would be sold across the world by BMW dealers. The Mini badge along with Land Rover was what BMW really wanted when it bought Rover.