Mini Strip: hatch brought back to basics by Sir Paul Smith

Published: 12 August 2021

► Paul Smith-designed Mini Strip revealed
► Focuses on simplicity and sustainability
► No paint, bare interior and simple controls

Designer Sir Paul Smith has collaborated with Mini with a thoroughly 21st century twist. This is the new Mini Strip – a one-off designed to focus purely on sustainability and simplicity.

The Strip really is about as bare and as basic a modern car can be, with Paul Smith testing the Mini design team – led by Oliver Heilmer – to the limits. As the name points out, this one-off strips out all of the unnecessary fluff, bumf and trinketries a modern car has.

‘I got the call in April [2020] and, to be honest at the beginning, I was slightly apprehensive,’ says Sir Paul, ‘I thought maybe the collaboration would be more decorative. I said what I’d love to do is have more of a radical approach.

paul smith

‘I’m not a car designer. I enjoy cars but I don’t really know a lot about them. But maybe that was the key point – the joy of having a childlike approach means you can be more radical,’ he adds, ‘so the working title – ‘MT’ or emptying out the existing car – was to push the team. Can we? Could we? Let’s try.’

Mini design boss, Oliver Heilmer, added ‘Paul asked essential questions right at the start with his non-automotive, and therefore fresh, perspective.’

What’s special about the exterior?

The finalised Strip, then, has no paintwork on the bodyshell, allowing you to see the metal and plastic panels free from any excess. Yellow rivets can be seen in the wheelarches and side sills, too. ‘It’s just the raw body with one protective coat,’ says Sir Paul, ‘there are imperfections, little scratches.’

mini strip rear

Sir Paul points to his tailoring service as the inspiration, as everything is hand-done. ‘Everything is just so modernised and manufactured now that I just thought it would be interesting to have something that indicates a hand-made, hand-finished and raw approach.’

It’s a Mini Electric underneath, so there are no tailpipe emissions either. The cap for the plug socket, too, is unpainted, with a unique plug graphic on it.

What about the interior?

The cockpit too has been reduced to its bare essentials, too. The shape of the Mini’s dashboard still remains with a smoked glass effect, but there are no screens and as few switches as possible. A mount for your phone is the centrepiece, ‘because you have a mobile device that could do 20 things for you that the car could do,’ says Sir Paul, ‘you use the phone rather than doubling up.’

mini strip interior

Bright colours are present, too – a bit of a Paul Smith calling card. The monocoque chassis shell is a deep blue, while the seatbelts and doorpulls are a patterned orange. The roof is one big panel of Perspex to allow all light to come in and the footwells have blue-flecked black panels in them.

The other noticeable material inside is the vast swathes of cork. ‘The amazing thing about cork is you can take it from a tree – you don’t cut the tree down,’ says Sir Paul. ‘Then within 10 years the cork grows again. The sap inside the cork becomes the glue holding the model together.’ Heilmer also points out that ‘the cork has a smokey scent, too, which I like a lot.’

mini strip interior seats

And just because the car has been reduced down to its bare components, doesn’t mean it’s unsafe. The steering wheel has a mesh that hides the airbag, and you can see the exposed airbags on the body frame above the side windows. ‘They’re great looking,’ says Sir Paul, ‘so we just put some lovely little clips around them and left them as is.’

The Mini Strip is, of course, just a one off, but it’s a solid demonstration of just how much can be taken out of a modern car without it losing the essentials.

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By Jake Groves

CAR's deputy news editor, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches