CC Outake: 1966 Austin Mini Cooper S – Direct From Monte Carlo

Mini Cooper 2

Deep inside the skunk works that is the CC back office, there is a full article covering the Mini Cooper waiting in draft form, but this example was too good to avoid posting in the meantime.

The BMC Mini Cooper was the first compact, modern, performance car and created a sub-brand that is still so strong BMW uses it for the modern Mini. John Cooper was the man behind the Cooper Formula 1 cars, which innovatively had rear engines, and won 16 grands prix and consecutive world championships in 1959 and 1960 with Sir Jack Brabham.

Mini Cooper 1

Ambitious as ever, Sir Alec Issigonis developed numerous variations on the original Mini including van and pick-up versions, the utilitarian Mini-Moke, the Morris Mini Traveller and variations used by the Fire Service and the Royal Mail. One application which did not interest him was a racing or rally car, yet the combination of the Miniโ€™s design features and its safe handling suited the vehicle to competitive events. This was noted early on by John Cooper, who transformed a car โ€œdesigned for the district nurseโ€ into the high performance, competition-winning Mini Cooper.

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Cooper replaced the regular 848c A series engine from the Mini with a 997cc versions with 55 bhp, 21 more than the regular car, and added a close-ratio gearbox and front disc brakes.

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BMC reluctantly participated and agreed to built a batch of 1000, principally for motorsport homologation, and had many supply issues in delivering this initial batch cars, but by 1969, over 80,000 were built.

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The Mini Cooper S followed in 1963, with a 1071 cc engine and larger servo-assisted disc brakes. BMC also offered a 970cc Cooper S for 1000cc class saloon racing, which was not as successful commercially. From 1964, the Cooper S came with a version of the familiar BMC 1275cc A series engine, with around 70bhp. This was the version that formed the basis of the rally cars.

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In 1963, BMC sent the Mini Cooper rallying, starting with a win in the Alpine rally. Outright wins in the Monte Carlo rally, then the most recognised and prestigious rally of all, followed in 1964, driven by Paddy Hopkirk, and 1965, driven by Timo Makinen. In 1966, the Mini Cooper S won on the road (but was disqualified in post event scrutineering for an infringement centred around the headlamps). A (French) Citroen DS won instead, with illegal white headlamps (allegedly).

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BMC came back in 1967, and won the rally for the third and last time, driven this time by Finnish driver Rauno Aaltonen, compensating for the 1966 event, and co-driver Henry Liddon.

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This car is a replica of the car that won in 1967, complete to a very high standard and level of detail, and fully street legal. It is based on a regular Austin Mini Cooper S and has been completed by the current owner, who gave me a quick tour round it as well as cheerfully agreeing to photos. This is not just a visual disguise of a regular Mini–it is full specification Austin Mini Cooper S with an engine eased out to 1330cc, fully equipped with a period-correct rally interior and roll cage, along with suspension modifications and all the rally support equipment seen here.

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It stands up pretty well to the original, now in the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust museum.