By on June 6, 2013

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Usually, automakers never mention the competition, especially when you are BMW and the competition is Porsche. Soon, the Porsche 911, according to BMW “the flag-bearer of the German sports car fraternity,” will celebrate its 50th birthday, and BMW has a special birthday greeting.

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In an elaborate press drop, it compares the 911 not with equally sporty BMWs, but with the MINI. For that, a yellow Ur-MINI (historically correct in RHD version)  and an equally yellow 2.4 L 911 Targa were put side-by-side, for a photo-shoot more elaborate than for many new car catalogs. Today, masses of pictures were sent out, along with a press release  that waxes long and poetic of how similar the Mini and the 911 are, both on the road and on the track.

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The press release, in the for BMW typical War&Peace-worthy  length, can be found here.  (BMW definitely does not seem to be worried about TL;NR).

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This subliminal message (the MINI  equals the mighty 911) is a gigantic put-down, dressed into polite praise. It’s a lost art, and I am glad BMW masters it.

Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,

And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;

Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,

Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.

Alexander Pope (1688–1744)

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43 Comments on “Hello, Yellow, Happy Birthday: BMW Faint Praises Porsche...”


  • avatar
    jco

    they’re similar because their current iterations are overweight cars with only visual resemblances to the originals?

    shouldn’t some credit be given to the Porsche because the 911 never stopped production?

    also, that press release was written in the style of a high school book report. for serious.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      On the other hand, the current iterations of both are faster, better handling, and safer than the originals.

      So I don’t care so much about “overweight”.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        @ Sig, agreed.

        Comparatively speaking the older cars are ill-handling death traps with little in the way of comfort and reliability. Each is just a product of its time.

        I suppose BMW and Porsche could strive for greater weight reduction but extensive use of exotic materials is pricey and I can’t imagine a 1800 pound carbon fiber mini going for 100k would find many buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      jimbob457

      Overweight does not apply to the Porsche 911. All versions from the original 911 to the current 997 weigh between 2900 and 3200 lb. depending on the specific model. My wife’s 996 is a 3000 lb. car with 300 horsepower and rear tires a foot wide. It top ends at 170 MPH. Alas, I can no longer say as much for the wife, but she still looks pretty good cruisin’ up and down the road in her 996.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The 911 weighed 2,200 lbs when it was introduced. It weighed about 2,750-2,890 lbs in US trim when it was canceled in 1989. None of the 911-shaped replacements have been as light.

        • 0 avatar
          jimbob457

          You are correct, sir. In fact, I used to own a 1967 911. Back in the day we drove it all over Mexico at 120 MPH. Eventually the chain tensioner gave it up, and I just sold it and bought a house.

          The older 911 may weigh less, but the “overweight” 996 or 997 is, imo., infinitely better as a daily driver. The greatest thing about driving an “overweight” Porsche is that you don’t have to worry about having to end up with an overweight woman. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      It was written “in the style of a high school book report”? It’s classic writing – in German. Just ask Bertel. Besides, most high school book reports are just rephrased well-written source material.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    This is truly silly. The two cars couldn’t be farther apart in execution, purpose, or driving characteristics.

    The Mini was England’s answer to the German VW Beetle, and the French Citroen 2V. It was a post-war people’s car, cheap to buy, cheap to operate and small. Like those other cars, it was designed for pure utility. The Porsche was, from the beginning, a sports car, designed for driving pleasure and performance. The Mini was cheap; the Porsche was never cheap.

    Finally, if a driver attempted to overdrive the Mini, it would just run wide; and if things got to out of control, lifting the throttle would bring everything back in bounds. By contrast, the original 911 demanded brass cojones in its driver. Drivers who lost their nerve and lifted in a corner were rewarded with a total loss of control.

    Of course, in the 1960s, BMW successfully re-invented itself from being just another small German automaker who happened to also build excellent motorcycles into the maker of the “sports sedan” a hitherto non-existent category, so one shouldn’t be surprised at this revisionist history attempt with respect to the Mini.

    It’s still pretty laughable, IMHO.

    • 0 avatar
      alex_rashev

      To be fair, 911 was, and still is, one of the most practical supercar sports cars out there. Utility is incredible considering the purpose and the competition.

      Besides, everyone knows that a 911 (or, to be particular, 912) is what every Beetle should have been. More power, more refinement, and suspension that doesn’t give people aneurisms.

      Right, right?

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        At the time the 911 came out, the Jaguar E-Type would suck the doors off of it, as would the Corvette Stingray and probably some other Italian exotics. While it has evolved into a “supercar” the 911 was not such when it was introduced, even by the standards of the time. The 912 was a Karmann Ghia at twice the price. . . . and then, best forgotten, was the 914.

        The big advantage the Porsche had with its engine in the rear was that weight transfer under hard braking was much less than front-engine cars and, in the days of pre-ABS, that allowed more confident and shorter braking distances.

        • 0 avatar
          vaujot

          The E-Type and the Corvette might have been able to outrun the contemporary 911s in the 60s in a drag race but I seriously doubt they’d win a hillclimb or lap the Nordschleife faster. The 911 platform has far more race wins than either E-Type or Corvette.

    • 0 avatar
      racer-esq.

      It’s an ongoing thing on MINI’s side for MINI to try to punch above its weight by
      challenging the 911:

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/mini-loses-its-tiny-mind-challenges-porsche-911/

  • avatar
    SteveRenwick

    >>that press release was written in the style of a high school book report<<

    Indeed. Complete with spelling errors starting in the second paragraph.

  • avatar
    J.Emerson

    I’d argue that the put-down actually goes further, seeing as how the original Mini is a completely British product that had nothing to do with the BMW’s of the time. In effect, BMW seems to be saying that Porsche isn’t even worthy to be compared to actual BMW products. Instead, they’re comparing the 911 to a lowly British throwaway car that BMW bought the name of decades after the fact.

  • avatar
    ash78

    My favorite quote about the Mini came from PJ O’Rourke when he called it the “Nose-engined Tory slot car”

    Comedy gold.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “Look! A car a different manufacturer in a different country made long ago! It’s similar because we own the brand now! Same!”

    In other news, the Tata Ox Cart and the Mercedes G-Wagen are similar, because they both work outside, and Tata owns Land Rover.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Maybe Volkswagen will chime in with a story about the Beetle, and how it used to bear similarities to the 911, but now its drivetrain is more like the Mini.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I’m not feeling the snark here. Both cars are as true to their original roots as it is possible to be given the modern sales and regulatory environment. Kudos to both companies for keeping them as true to form as they have. Certainly nothing wrong with the modern interpretations of either, though count me as one who would rather have an original. Just not as my only car.

    It is amazing to see just how SMALL the original 911 was though, considering a Mini is just plain tiny. The 911 is barely bigger.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      I’m with you. The modern iteration of both of these vehicles is, IMHO, an excellent 21st century interpretation of the original, and still remain icons in their respective segments.

      Also, this press release fits in well with MINI’s annual tongue-in-cheek “Porsche 911 challenge”, where they pit both cars against each other on a track. Of course, the 911 wins the race every time, but MINI wins by being able to draw parallels to one of the most loved sports cars of our time.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      “I’m not feeling the snark here.”

      Me either… two happy little yellow cars playing nice.

      Showed it to my wife and you would’ve thought they were the sweetest lolcat photos.

      If this be enmity, only the most wizened cognoscenti care.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Either do something classy or not at all.

    http://www.autoblog.com/2008/09/16/ford-wishes-gm-a-happy-100th-birthday/

  • avatar
    Tinker

    Um, wasn’t BMW originally founded as a motorcycle maker, and then went into making cars?

    Other than that, it’s just quibbling over being “damned with faint praise” or “being praised with faint damns”.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    I liked it. I also liked the Audi vs Mercedes (New and Old Spock) commercials.

    It’s nice to see some light heart prodding!.

    Even though my much beloved German cars have all failed me at one time at another (and they were young) whilst none of my Japanese cars have.

  • avatar
    ajla

    BMW using a classic MINI to make a point is like Chrysler using a ’70 Jeep Wagoneer in an advertisement.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Not that this press drop is all that subtle but the subtlety is lost here… mostly.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    This is what is referred to in contemporary American pop culture as “throwing shade.”

  • avatar
    LuciferV8

    I suppose its possible the gesture was made in good faith by some marketing exec who knows nothing about cars, but the “faint praise” angle makes sense too.

    Still, there is a far more relevant vehicle out there which also celebrates decade anniversaries on the same years as the 911…

    The Corvette.

    Now there’s an epic automotive rivalry that continues on to this day.

    I think the greatest praise and gift given to both cars is their mutual continued existence and refinement. Without each other to provide such a worthy adversary, neither would have become the engineering masterworks that they are today.

    911. Corvette.
    Locked in mortal combat for half a century.
    They slog it out and we all win.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I would say that the intersection of those who like Minis and those who like 911s is VASTLY larger than the intersection of those who like Corvettes and those who like 911s. Outside of Internet forums, they may well be the least cross-shopped cars on the planet. Most fans of either despise the other.

      • 0 avatar
        vaujot

        Outside the United states, sales of the Corvette are miniscule. In Germany, I suspect that more Ferraris are sold each year than Corvettes. For illustration, the German used car platform mobile.de currently lists about 745 Corvettes for sale and more than 2,600 Ferraris.

  • avatar
    JSF22

    Jim McDowell still bitter that Porsche won’t hire him back?

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    This is meant to pump up the image of MINI more than it is meant to embarrass Porsche. Nobody is going to buy a MINI instead of a Porsche after seeing this, but they may buy a MINI instead of whatever it actually competes with.

    If someone really wanted to embarrass Porsche they would compare a 911 to a Cayman.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    Frankly, BMW would be better served using the 2002 and its successor the 3- series as their counterpoint to the 911. The BMW 1600 came out in 1967, so it’s roughly a contemporary of the 911 which came out in 1965. More importatnly, that whole line was produced by BMW from day one to now. Whereas the Mini was produced by a totally different company for the first ~30+ years. BMW simply came in afterwards and bought the name plate. Also, one could say the 3-series was and is the iconic and definitive BMW, just as the 911 was and is the iconic Porsche. The Mini not so much.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    I’d be interested to see a comparison of contemporary circuit racing and rallying between these two cars. I suspect the mini might come out on top.

  • avatar
    BobAsh

    Actually, I see a lot common between these two. One was surprisingly sporty, even though it was built with practicality in mind, the other was surprisingly practical for a sports car.

    Both were bought for, and built their legend on, the way they drive.

    Now, they are both great sports cars, which happen to be mostly used as fashion accessories.

    Both have outlasted their successors by a LONG time.

    Both have continued in production for over half a century.

    Actually, the Mini has a lot more in common with 911 than the Beetle has, at least when it comes to character. Someone who would aspire to own a 911 back in the day would probably choose a Mini for his first car – because of its sportiness, sophisticated handling and clever design.

    Someone who aspired to owning a 911 today may very well choose a Mini as his first car, either for its fashion accessory style, or for its wonderful handling.

  • avatar
    jimbob457

    Great article. The press release is a combination of old time British and classic German humor. It brought back memories of my lifelong losing struggle with both infernal languages. Low points included reading Heine’s essay on the feet of the women of Gottingen. By the way, did you leave the door open? or shut?

  • avatar
    wmba

    Yeah, the BMW blurb is a load of hogwash.

    I spent many miles in an early Mini, and acceleration with 34 roaring horsepower did not have an “eye catching turn of speed”. Ever.

    ” … generating sales that mimicked the upward curve of its acceleration.” Obviously written by some droll Bavarian while visiting the Lowenbrau pavilion at Octoberfest after a quick grope of the beer lady’s behind and halfway through the fourth litre of suds. I’ve been to that hilarity-inducing drunkfest.

    When I read tripe like this BMW blurb, I wonder if they think people in the UK or anywhere are dumb enough to believe it, and why they feel it necessary to disseminate to the multitude. Makes them look like utter fools.

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    *Insert photo of 5er GT here*

  • avatar
    mpresley

    Harley Davidson motorcycles have more in common with Bowling Alleys than BMW to the original Mini. I remember riding in a Mini once, around 1974, going up a dirt road to a place in the Black Forest to drink. Sure… everyone would have preferred a Porsche, but how the hell are you going to fit four people in a 911? Hard enough in an original Mini.


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