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Here’s the latest evolution of MINI’s small SUV – the Beachcomber Concept that is clearly inspired by the 1960s Mini Moke with its “panelless” body. Throw in some metal and the Beachcomber should be quite a reliable guide to what the final product would be. Word has got around that it will be called Countryman, but what’s now certain is that this crossover will be the fourth MINI variant after the hatch, convertible and Clubman – set for a third quarter 2010 launch.

The Beachcomber Concept, which follows the 2008 MINI Crossover Concept, will get its public debut in January’s Detroit show. The four-seater is what MINI calls an “open-body concept” and it does without doors, roof and a full tailgate that would otherwise “limit the intensity of the occupants’ encounter with their surrounding world.”

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How about the weather? The Beachcomber comes with a removable roof with transparent plastic inserts at the sides and at the rear which serve as windows. The lightweight, soft and foldable covering fastens on the windscreen, rear panel and side openings. The rear door can still opened with the roof fixed. Sounds quite crude, so there’s an optional transparent plastic roof that works like removable hardtops on convertibles

The Beachcomber combines all-wheel drive with long travel suspension and a robust body with high ground clearance, as well as an elevated seating position. It looks like it’s capable of some mild off roading and the short overhangs mean that you worry less about approach and depature angles.

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Interesting detailing include a hexagon grille that pays homage to the Moke and a lateral support bar that spells out the word ‘MINI’ which can be seen from the top. The case at the car’s rear, while giving a rugged off-road impression, is not for a spare tyre – it uses runflats – so it can be used for knick knacks. From the side, you can see that the indicator light and its coloured surround links the A-pillar to the wheelarch, something the earlier concept also had. BMW says that this gives the impression that the pliiars are solidly resting on the front axle.

Inside, there’s no mention of the big globe the previous concept featured, but the “Center Rail” survives. Extending from the instrument panel all the way to the luggage compartment, this fastening rail connects the front seats with the rear. It also comes with an integrated cable duct that allows driver and passengers to place individual components such as music players or communication devices, armrests, storage boxes, lighting, shelves and holders for a truly personalised space. It sounds interesting but unfortunately there are no pictures demonstrating this for now, so we’ll have to wait for Detroit.

Check out the gallery after the jump.

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