The original Paul Smith Mini came in a distinctive blue hue, which, says Sir Smith, came at something of a personal cost during a visit to the Oxford factory’s paint department in the ’90s. “It came from the shirt I was wearing the day I was at Oxford, because I was with the spray paint people, and I said, “I want it in blue.” He said, “Well, what blue?” I said, “This blue here,” and I cut my shirt and gave him the fabric. We’ve actually got the shirt still. It’s got a little hole in it.”
The refreshed car, then, would keep the famous blue, but what about the interior? Back in the ’90s Rover Minis were feasts of plastic and budget bits, which were hard to get changed even for a limited run of 1800 – budgets and bureaucracy always get in the way of fun, don’t they? Thankfully, the new car isn’t quite as constrained. It’s been stripped out, given a yellow dash. A shelf in place of a glovebox sits next to some refreshed centrally mounted dials. There’s a magnet to hold your phone which replaces pretty much all the interior functions bar the speedo, while its steering wheel is covered in cycle handlebar tape – a nod to the Mini Strip concept, and to Sir Smith’s own past as a cycle racer.
The ‘wheel isn’t only tuned to Sir Smith’s tactile tastes, but also to suit his size. Stepping into the car, he folds himself around the wheel, highlighting the plight of loftier classic Mini fans. He grins, reaches behind it, and says: “Because I’m tall…” and pops it from the steering column. [pops what? the wheel itself?]. Formula One cars and an electrified Paul Smith Mini have something in common.