Mr. Bean’s Mini.
There are few cars that are as perfect for their owners as the classic Mini is for Mr. Bean. On TV and in films, the two have been together through many memorable adventures. But did you know that Mr. Bean has had more than one Mini? Or that his first was orange? Check out our deep dive and get to know everything there is to know about Mr. Bean’s Mini.
In our One-Off Series we generally like to take a look at cars of which only a single one exists, and which are usually built specifically for a singular purpose. That is strictly what one-off means. But that is certainly not the case with Mr. Bean’s Minis. Indeed, the Minis were not built by our company specifically for the show. What makes Mr. Bean’s Mini one of a kind is not the result of special preparations done by the manufacturer; rather it can solely be credited to the success of the series, and the role the Mini played in it. And really, everything about the character created by Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis is iconic. From his clothes, his teddy bear “Teddy”, to his entire body language. It is a testament to the talents of the series’ producers that the Mini didn’t just become set dressing but is instead a reflection of Mr. Bean’s personality, and a star around which many storylines and gags were created.
The reasons the Mini became such an essential element of the series are twofold. Firstly, Rowan Atkinson is a well-known car fanatic. As well as having owned many supercars, he participated in original races, and also has a truck driving licence. It is unsurprising, then, that he always wanted to make Mr. Bean’s car an important part of the show. Secondly, Mr. Bean began as a stage character, virtually free of any props, so the thought of having more tools to play with was an important part of the development of the series. Apparently, Atkinson chose the Mini and the colours himself, because of the car’s inherently funny nature, and because he had learned to drive in his mother’s Morris Minor as a young man. He chose the colour because he wanted Mr. Bean’s car to be painted a colour that he would never choose himself.
Today, everybody associates Mr. Bean with a single ‘Citron’ yellow Mini with a black bonnet. But the story of Mr. Bean’s car is a bit more complicated. First, Mr. Bean had at least six Minis over the course of the series and movies. This is in some part due to the sorry fact that Mr. Bean’s adventures often led to his cars being destroyed in one way or another. Second, parts were often taken out of previously used models and put into other cars during production. Third, unsurprisingly, there are still some questions as to the exact models, starting with the very first Mini Mr. Bean drove on-screen. What is certain is that the car is not a classic Mini Cooper, even though many online sources refer to it as such.
MR. BEAN’S ORANGE MINI.
In the pilot episode of the series, which aired January 1st, 1990, Mr. Bean first appears driving an orange Mini. Immediately one of the series’ running gags is established as Mr. Bean uses his Mini to basically run a Reliant Robin off the road. One of the reasons that a Reliant was chosen to be the car often antagonised by Mr. Bean was Rowan Atkinson’s lack of respect for the car.
Even though his first Mini is orange, some iconic elements are already present on the car, such as the padlock that Mr. Bean uses to lock it. The car doesn’t survive the episode, as it suffers on off-screen crash after Mr. Bean drives it down a dead end. The last we see of it is its tyre bouncing back from the supposed site of the accident.
What is also notable about this car is that, even to this day, not everyone can agree on what type of Mini it actually was. Common consensus appears to favour it being an MK2 Morris Mini; however, multiple fan forums and Mini enthusiasts have speculated after extensive research that it was indeed an MK1 Austin Mini with a MK2 grille and rear lights installed. What makes precise identification difficult is that the car was not built for the series per se, and with the Mini being more than a couple of decades old, it could easily mean that a previous owner, or owners, had modified the original car in some way.
What is also notable about this car is that, even to this day, not everyone can agree on what type of Mini it actually was.
MR. BEAN’S MOST FAMOUS MINI.
It’s in the third episode (“The Curse of Mr. Bean”) that the car we most closely associate with Mr. Bean made its debut: a 1977 Leyland Cars Mini 1000 Mark IV in Austin Citron Green, with the bonnet painted matte black, and the number plate SLW 287R. Without going into too much detail, it probably comes as no surprise that throughout shooting, more than one of these Minis were used. Also, some parts of the original orange Mini were transferred to one of these newer green models, namely the steering wheel cover, seats and carpet.
The car makes its entrance as Mr. Bean arrives at the swimming pool car park. Eagle-eyed viewers might spot that the car is missing its iconic padlock in this scene, a result of the car not quite being ready when shooting started. Luckily, the padlock is ever-present afterwards. The Mini makes a brief appearance in the next episode, “Mr. Bean Goes to Town”, where it crashes into a bunch of waste containers in front of Mr. Bean’s flat as he arrives home with a TV strapped to the car’s roof with a bunch of ropes. Because the ropes are also holding the doors shut, Mr. Bean must climb out the window, which is just as well, as the car’s diminutive size adds to the comedy.
The Mini’s next appearance in Mr. Bean’s fifth outing, “The Trouble with Mr. Bean” – which was the most popular episode during the series’ original airing – really cemented its iconic status. In this sketch, Mr. Bean has to drive to the dentist, which should be simple enough, but he also has to get dressed and brush his teeth during the drive. What follows is three minutes of classic physical comedy as Mr. Bean gets dressed while sitting in the back seat and driving with his feet and brushing his teeth using the side mirror.
The next episode also featured a couple of classic Mr. Bean moments, such as the car key sketch, where Mr. Bean showcases how difficult it is to start his car’s engine, by using a number of hidden keys that eventually open the place where he keeps his ignition key. Of course, after all that effort, his car doesn’t start. This is something that reveals the fictional nature of the series, as that would never happen in real life. Later on he uses an ambulance to jump his car, as the paramedics are attending to a man that Mr. Bean has electrocuted. Mr. Bean then drives off as the ambulance fails to start, because of course it does.
The most iconic role for the Mini is the ninth episode, “Do-It-Yourself Mr. Bean”. In the second act of the episode, Mr. Bean wants to take advantage of a New Year’s Day sale and drives to a department store where he buys tins of paint, brushes, mops, as well as an armchair. He straps the armchair to the roof of his Mini, but discovers that he cannot fit in his car anymore, as it is also full. So Mr. Bean does the only obvious thing – well, obvious to him at least. He places a brick in front of the front wheels, with a string attached. This is to hold the Mini after he releases the handbrake. He uses a tin of paint with a string attached to operate the clutch, then puts the car into gear and gets up on the armchair on top of the car. He controls the wheels with further strings, and uses a mop and a broom tied together, to operate the gas and the brakes. When he is ready to drive off, he pulls the brick out from under the front wheel and off he goes. While everything goes to plan initially, he soon loses control over the acceleration, and crashes into the back of a truck carrying pillows, which stops him in the softest of ways.
Now, while it is true that Rowan Atkinson did sit on the sofa, which he was safely tied to, the car was actually driven by a stunt driver who was lying on the floor, navigating thanks to a small screen in front of him. This stunt required another Mini to be heavily modified, of course. It is a testament to this car that when Rowan Atkinson reprises his role for a special occasion, for a charity or a similar event, he often appears using a replica of this car.
The Mini appeared in a number of further episodes, but it’s the 11th episode of the series, “Back to School Mr. Bean”, that is most well remembered. In this episode, Mr. Bean swaps his Mini for a similar-looking one at an army demonstration, because the latter was parked in an enticing “reserved” spot. However, it is soon made clear that it was not the spot that was reserved, but the other Mini itself. Because Mr. Bean swaps the cars, it is his Mini that is then crushed by a tank, with nothing but its padlock remaining intact. In the compilation episode “The Best Bits of Mr. Bean”, we see the crushed Mini under a blanket in Mr. Bean’s attic, as it’s given a proper send-off by its owner.
Two episodes after his second Mini gets crushed, Mr. Bean appears in an identical Mini. Perhaps he took the Mini that was originally slated for destruction, or perhaps we don’t need to investigate the whys and hows of Mr. Bean’s life too much.
After television, the silver screen beckoned for the little car. Even though there was footage shot for the 1997 film, “Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie”, the scene of the car driving through Harrod’s Department Store ended up on the cutting room floor. The big screen debut thus came in 2007’s “Mr. Bean’s Holiday”, where the car was painted “Nissan Amarillo Yellow” and made a small appearance. The movie more prominently featured a very similar Mini, this time a left-hand-drive version, as it belonged not to Mr. Bean but the character Sabine. The latest appearance of the Mini, Mr. Bean’s sixth one, came in a sketch for Comic Relief, a UK charity, in 2015.
Mr. Bean’s Mini has become one of the most recognisable cars in pop culture. Put it into a line-up with other cars and everyone would likely be able to guess who it belongs to. They would also probably be able to recall a time when they laughed hysterically at the hijinks that Mr. Bean committed with his car. And with that kind of recognition, history and character, who knows, we might not have seen the last of this little Mini on the screen.
The MINI One-Off Series.
During the 2022 European Championships a number of unique MINI cars can be seen at the Königsplatz in Munich. Whether they were created for movies, noble causes, or designed by celebrities to show the world the many faces of MINI’s personality, we love them all equally.