The classic Mini is a much loved British icon that is as symbolic of the nation as a red postbox or a cup of tea, but not all Minis were built in Blighty. Various incarnations of the little car were built under license by various brands including Italian firm Innocenti and later Detomaso. We’ve found a pair on eBay being sold by the same seller, so which should you buy?
In the black corner is a 1972 Mini Innocenti Cooper of which the Italian company built from shells and locally sourced components when new. This example is fitted with a 998cc engine and retains all of those characterful Mini design details. However, it’s said that these Italian cars were actually built to a better standard than those in the UK.
In the white corner is a 1980 Mini Innocenti De Tomaso, a car base on the Bertone-styled Innocenti 90L, which itself was based on the underpinnings of the classic Mini. As BMC became British Leyland it absorbed Innocenti and developed the 90L and 120L cars — a model that was actually rumoured to replace the original Mini at one point.
In 1976 Innocenti came under the ownership of De Tomaso, which introduced a top of the range sporting model incorporating its own name. As the distancing from British Leyland continued, the 1.3-litre engine was dropped in favour of a turbocharged three-cylinder 1.0-litre unit from Daihatsu.
With the local politics of each car deciphered, let’s look at the cars themselves. As mentioned, both of these models are available from the same seller based in America, both cars also have similar mileage, similar bids, and both in good running order. From a starting price of just $0.99, at this moment in time it’s the 1972 car that has pulled ahead with a leading bid of $5,500 vs $4,550 for the De Tomaso. Surprising?
Not really, considering the original Mini’s international cult following, the rarity of the Innocenti vs the BMC car, and their reputation of being better built. That said, the De Tomaso offers significantly stronger performance and features styling from one of Italy’s most famed design houses.
Both cars make interesting cases as collector propositions, but ultimately the Mini Innocenti Cooper is an icon and will likely command higher values, whereas its De Tomaso cousin is more of a curiosity that will pass the majority of people by.