Mini has celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Italian Job and 60 years of its most iconic car with an event that really did ‘blow the doors off’.
A team of stunt drivers using red, white and blue Coopers – and a fourth modern-era Mini painted as an Italian police car – recreated parts of the film’s famous car-chase around Turin, though this time racing through the grounds of Mini’s Oxford factory.
And it’s not just Mini that has recreated the famed action-packed sequence, insurer Hagerty has produced its own version of the chase sequences from the 1969 hit caper film – and we think it’s even better.
Mini Plant Oxford marked 50 years of The Italian Job and 60 years of Mini with a special recreation by Paul Swift (white overalls) and his stunt driving team. Special guests at the event included, Michael Deeley (sitting centre), the producer of the 1969 classic movie; actor David Salamone (sitting left) and Matthew Field (right), writer of a new book entitled ‘The Self Preservation Society: 50 Years of The Italian Job’
Before a screening of the film, precision driver Paul Swift recreated some of the stunts around the Mini plant – though not the more dramatic leaps through the air – where more than 1,000 Minis are built each day.
It was a fitting re-enactment of the movie, which features a pursuit sequence where the red, white and blue Mini Coopers race around the Lingotto banked test track on top of the former Fiat factory in Turin which closed in 1982.
But the clip didn’t attempt to reproduce the dramatic scenes of the trio of Minis escaping through drains – which were not shot in Italy, instead filmed in Coventry.
The invite-only celebration at Mini UK’s home in Oxford featured a real life cast of stars associated with the movie and a gathering of many of the original surviving cars.
For the first time ever since being on set in 1969, the Jaguar E-Type, Aston Martin DB4 Convertible and Lamborghini Miura used for filming were all on display together.
The Miura, which was the stunt double used for driving footage and not the one crushed by the mafia, has only recently found and certified by the Italian supercar brand.
Precision driver Paul Swift holds aloft the gold bullion stolen from the armoured truck during the recreation video
Producer Michael Deeley, the producer of the 1969 classic movie, was one of the special guest attendees for the event
Our man Ray Massey pictured with the modern-era Mini painted in Polizia colours that featured in the video
Sir Michael Caine reveals he couldn’t drive before filming
Sir Michael Caine recorded a special pre-screening message of welcome for the 300 guests, who included manufacturing staff from the plant, local dignitaries, classic Mini owners and friends of the film from across the decades.
He also revealed that, despite the central role of cars and chase sequences, he didn’t have a driving licence and couldn’t drive before filming.
He said that because much of the driving was done in sealed-off areas: ‘I learned to drive on the movie.’
Sir Michael Caine revealed on Wednesday evening that he couldn’t drive before the film and learnt during the stunt sequences
The film is a cult classic and is among the best for car chases – it also became a regular Christmas-time staple on TV
The crew of the 1969 original pictured together. Sir Michael Caine (grey suit) stands behind the gold bullion next to Benny Hill
A Mini spokesman said: ‘Of the supercars which featured, few survived, but Mini searched high and low to gather all those of special note.
‘The Lamborghini is of particular note as it was lost from the world for decades, has recently been meticulously restored and shipped from Italy to make its first appearance before heading to star at The Pebble Beach Concours in California next month.
‘MINI is extremely grateful to owners of all three cars for making them available for the event.’
He added: ‘The film includes one of the best car chases of all time – which helped to make Mini the worldwide success it has become – as well as an unforgettable opening sequence, which sees car after beautiful super car meeting fiery ends.’
We think Hagerty’s Italian Job video is even better…
Leading classic car insurers and valuation specialists Hagerty created its own very special film to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the The Italian Job movie and 60 years of the Mini.
The centre piece of the video, however, is a Mini that was sourced by Hagerty for the science department at Stowe School which has since been completely rebuilt by Stowe students.
Classic car insurer Hagerty has filmed its own The Italian Job recreation, and we think it’s an even better effort than Mini’s
The footage features a Mini rebuilt by the Stowe School. Michael Deeley, producer of The Italian Job, Blade Runner and The Deer Hunter is an ex-Stowe School student
The young engineering team at Stowe School contacted Hagerty in 2018 asking for advice about rebuilding a classic car. After discussion, this quickly escalated into a desire for a major restoration project and, subsequently, Hagerty located a suitable Mini and arranged for the school to acquire the car for students to work upon.
The film, starring the Stowe Mini, is also a homage to Michael Deeley, producer of Blade Runner, The Deer Hunter and The Italian Job, himself an ex-Stowe School student.
The film, capturing the escape of students who break into the school to steal exam papers, was shot entirely on the Stowe Stowe School grounds during a school holiday and will be premiered at the School’s Speech Day.
Let us know in the comments below which recreation film you think is better:
The genuine Minis from the film were scrapped
However, the Minis used in the movie – three appeared on screen but there were six in total for filming purposes – fared less well.
The audience heard that after being driven back to the UK slightly worse for wear with a few bumps and lumps, they were taken into the Oxford factory and never seen again, believed to have been scrapped.
The three Minis on display at the screening were what the manufacturer called ‘close replicas’.
‘Gathering the cars of the film for such an event was vital and although the Minis were destroyed after filming, an authentic trio of replica Mark I Minis in Italian Job spec have been brought together,’ a representative from the car firm said.
None of the original Minis from the 1969 film survive. It’s believed they were scrapped because they were in no fit state to be resold when they were returned to BMC
Guests invited to the Mini event also got to see other original cars from the film. This includes the Lamborghini Miura, which was the stunt double used for driving footage and not the one crushed by the mafia. It has only recently found and certified by the Italian supercar brand
The evening also included a panel discussion with some of those closely associated with the movie.
Oscar-winning producer and guest of honour Michael Deeley – who went on to produce Blade Runner – said that then Mini-owner BMC (formerly the British Motor Corporation) were so tight that they declined to provide for free the required six cars for filming the movie – despite the huge publicity and sales boost it gave to the marque.
He also revealed what inspired the final scene where the precariously-balanced getaway bus risks tipping over a precipice with the gang acting as a counter-balance to the gold bullion.
‘Desperation,’ he said. ‘In the end we decided on a cliff-hanger.’
This also helpfully left the way open for a sequel, he explained, though none were ever made.
While much of the original film was shot in Italy, the famous drain shots were taken in Coventry
Paul Swift and his team of stunt drivers attempted to recreate some of the original footage, with plenty of handbrake turns
Actor Robert Powell, who then aged just 23 was enjoying one of his earliest film roles playing gang member ‘Yellow’ for a then princely £35 a week, before landing a starring role nearly a decade later as Jesus of Nazareth, said he had the time of his life in Italy.
He also revealed some wild off-camera antics as cast members hired – and then crashed – Fiat Cinquecentos.
’I wrote mine off on the first day when it got squeezed by a bendy bus,’ he said.
‘You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’ the famous line from the film is re-enacted for the video
A shot of one of the Minis in the original (left). Paul Swift and the 1969 film’s producer Michael Deeley (right)
The red, white and blue Minis capture the colours of the Union Jack to celebrate a great British car film
David Salamone, who was responsible for sourcing the cars for the film and also ended up on camera as ‘Dominic’, Sir Michael Caine’s driver, said he believed the Minis from the movie had been ‘crushed’ by BMC when handed back because they were ‘in a bit of a state’ and couldn’t be sold on.
Money raised on the night went to support two charities.
The first being the Alzheimer’s Society, which is the current house charity of the BMW Group in the UK. The second is the Italian Job Charity started 30 years ago which holds an annual rally to Italy in the spirit of the film to raise funds for a variety of children’s charities across Europe.
You’ve seen the film, now buy the book…
The screening of The Italian Job at the Mini factory in Oxford also marked the launch of a wonderfully colourful, entertaining and hefty 335-page tome celebrating 50 years of the classic 1969 crime caper movie.
Written by Matthew Field, the world’s leading authority on the movie, the extravagant new book ‘The Self Preservation Society: 50 Years Of The Italian Job’ (£45, PorterPress.co.uk) is pretty hard to put down, packed fascinating detail, pictures, gossip and trivia, and boasting a foreward by the movie’s star Sir Michael Caine and an introduction by its Oscar-winning producer Michael Deeley.
Caine writes of the film, voted the greatest British movie ever made: ‘People often ask me why it has endured. The Italian Job is a snapshot of that time – the 1960s – and perfectly encapsulated the decade: the cars, the fashion, the fun and the optimistic attitude that was in the air.’
Based on more than 50 in-depth interviews with the cast and crew, and lavishly illustrated with hundreds of never-before-seen photographs and documents from the filmmakers’ private collections.