Automotive

Sustainably stripped Mini Cooper SE shows the beauty of restraint

Sustainably stripped Mini Coop...
The Mini Strip's Perspex roof provides a view of the bare structural metal and interior cork trim
The Mini Strip's Perspex roof provides a view of the bare structural metal and interior cork trim
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The bare screws on the components and trim are meant to highlight the idea of disassembling the Cooper Strip into raw materials that can be reused
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The bare screws on the components and trim are meant to highlight the idea of disassembling the Cooper Strip into raw materials that can be reused
Mini and Smith skip the colored paint and let the bare steel shine through a light transparent protective finish
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Mini and Smith skip the colored paint and let the bare steel shine through a light transparent protective finish
The base Cooper SE already brought an electric powertrain; Smith and Mini add a variety of other sustainable elements
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The base Cooper SE already brought an electric powertrain; Smith and Mini add a variety of other sustainable elements
Many a collaboration car loads on more color, components and flair, but this one is all about "less"
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Many a collaboration car loads on more color, components and flair, but this one is all about "less"
The Mini Strip's Perspex roof provides a view of the bare structural metal and interior cork trim
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The Mini Strip's Perspex roof provides a view of the bare structural metal and interior cork trim
Inside, reduction becomes its own form of styling
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Inside, reduction becomes its own form of styling
Simple mesh covers over the bare metal of the doors
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Simple mesh covers over the bare metal of the doors
The floor mats are made from a recycled rubber blend that highlights the bits of mixed material receiving a second life
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The floor mats are made from a recycled rubber blend that highlights the bits of mixed material receiving a second life
A lifelong cycling enthusiast, Paul Smith replaces the usual steering wheel trim with handlebar tape
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A lifelong cycling enthusiast, Paul Smith replaces the usual steering wheel trim with handlebar tape
Best known as a fashion designer, Paul Smith has a long history of collaborative projects like the Mini Strip
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Best known as a fashion designer, Paul Smith has a long history of collaborative projects like the Mini Strip
Canvas awaiting its paint ... or lack thereof
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Canvas awaiting its paint ... or lack thereof
No colored paint outside, but the interior metal gets sprayed deep blue to highlight the stripped-down aesthetic of the project
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No colored paint outside, but the interior metal gets sprayed deep blue to highlight the stripped-down aesthetic of the project
Sharp, unexpected contrast between inside and out
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Sharp, unexpected contrast between inside and out
Assembling the simplified interior
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Assembling the simplified interior
View gallery - 14 images

One-off cars developed as collaborations between fashion designers and automakers are usually eye-roll affairs that present little beyond loud, questionable graphics, custom embroidery and maybe some big, obnoxious wheels. Which is why Mini's new collaboration with designer Paul Smith is so refreshing. Instead of adding the usual excess to the electric Cooper SE, the parties strip it away, pulling out unnecessary materials, highlighting raw components, and using recycled and recyclable alternatives wherever possible.

Guided by the theme "simplicity, transparency, sustainability," Mini and Smith proceeded to strip the three-door Cooper SE down to its structural essentials to create the Mini Strip.

Their work becomes clear the moment one lays eyes on the raw galvanized steel that makes up the body, with only a thin layer of transparent paint covering it to protect against corrosion. The parties even left the factory grinding marks untouched, to create an effect Smith calls "the perfect imperfection."

The bare screws on the components and trim are meant to highlight the idea of disassembling the Cooper Strip into raw materials that can be reused
The bare screws on the components and trim are meant to highlight the idea of disassembling the Cooper Strip into raw materials that can be reused

That raw body is dressed with components (some 3D-printed), secured snugly with visible screws that invite onlookers to think about disassembling the vehicle at the end of its lifecycle and reusing the components and materials. The view from above shows a clear look at the undressed stamped metal through a recycled Perspex transparent roof. Recycled Perspex also finds use in the wheel covers that provide a lightweight aerodynamics boost.

Mini and Smith accelerate things inside the doors, which themselves reveal their underlying structural metal owing to lightweight mesh panels. Beams of recyclable recycled cork sit above the mesh panels, housing the milled aluminum door handles and loops of bright-orange climbing rope that serve as pulls. The seat belts match those door pulls in color.

Simple mesh covers over the bare metal of the doors
Simple mesh covers over the bare metal of the doors

The simplified doors set the stage for a thorough removal of interior trim and lightening of furnishings and components. Gone is any hint of the usual leather or chrome, replaced with simpler knitted seat fabric, bicycle handlebar tape on the steering wheel and recycled cork topping the dashboard. The dashboard and center console have been simplified, and Mini's infotainment screen replaced by an empty space meant to house a smartphone, which then handles all infotainment responsibilities.

Other areas, such as the A-pillars, airbags and central tunnel and its superhighway of electrical cable, are left completely bare. Smith paints the structural elements a deep blue to accentuate the stripped-down aesthetic.

Inside, reduction becomes its own form of styling
Inside, reduction becomes its own form of styling

The resulting interior might push things a little too far into cold and mechanical, but the idea of stripping out some of the superfluous elements of automotive design resonates at a time when the industry is rapidly shifting toward a more environmentally friendly paradigm. Sadly, Mini doesn't provide any information on weight savings, but hopefully the one-off will at least serve as a bullet point in a greater conversation about how vehicles can be made more sustainable (and perhaps affordable) by stripping out extraneous material and returning to basic functionality.

Source: Mini

View gallery - 14 images
5 comments
5 comments
EJ222
More of this please! Simple doesn't have to be ugly or impractical.
paul314
Sweet. The paracord might be a bit twee, but it's not impractical.
ChairmanLMAO
Would hate to see the world when you need to use those door handles to survive.
foxpup
The idea of making a product super-simple has a lot of appeal in making it less expensive so more people can afford it, but, at least for EVs, that mindset is far from being significantly present in today's manufacturers. People will end up paying more for less and that ain't progress.
James R
Love it. Only one problem. Where is the speedometer? I can live without an RPM gauge in automatic cars, and all other functions like temperature, engine warnings can be displayed on the smart phone.