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.
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 Mini’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 “designed for the district nurse” into the high performance, competition-winning Mini Cooper.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
It stands up pretty well to the original, now in the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust museum.
These cars were, to use a stereotypically British word, brilliant, and this example is a really superb one. Probably the greatest giant-killer race or rally car of all time. It’s a testament to the charisma of these cars that Americans who had no idea that the original existed have been drawn to the modern facsimiles. I have driven one classic Mini and several new BMW Minis, including a John Cooper Works version, but they are not the same thing. An original Mini Cooper (or a good replica) is high on my list of cars to experience one of these days.
It is interesting that the Mini Cooper, like the Pontiac GTO from roughly the same time period, started as an unauthorized project and had to be pushed onto a larger corporate organization that did not want a performance version of a mass produced passenger vehicle, being content to bash out the ordinary product as cheaply and numerously as possible. Today every car maker understands the point of producing a performance version of its basic car and charging more for it, but in the 1960s, this was not the case.
The first of the Coopers, the long stroke 997cc, was not that successful, but the later 998’s were great little 55hp vehicles…
My first one (an early 997) was re-engined with a 1098 short assembly (the same trick could be done to the standard 848cc) using the 998 Cooper heads. This arrangement with an HS4 SU carb worked very well.. that size of constant depression carb was also used on the automatic version of the 848 Mini (it made for great breathing capability when the engine was opened up performance-wise with a decent duration cam and a good exhaust system, and without the hassle of twin carb synchronising issues).
The only problem (remember ‘fuel in/power out/HEAT out’ increasing exponentially) was COOLING the little brutes….. lol
…cornering capability was OUTSTANDING ..faster around corners than the standard Norton or Triumph motorbikes of the era ..although the slimline featherbed Norton’s would have been just behind ..just
…the hydrolastic Mini’s were not as good ..but the early ‘rubber block’ ones were AMAZING ..particularly with spacers and fat feet
….in the end one solved the cooling issue nicely with a big front mounted oil cooler used as an adjunct to the main cooling system (ie: i bypassed coolant through the jolly thing), AND, one mounted (read ‘jerry-rigged’) a Mitsi Mirage electric cooling fan on the other side of the radiator core (in the left front wheel well) to aid the belt driven fan with an airflow boost when needed (relay triggered by the Mitsi sender unit tapped into the thermostat elbow)
the little car would ‘ton-up’ and not overheat..
problem at 100mph was ‘body bulge’ ..and the spaces above the window frames opened up quite alarmingly..
they were NOT especially aerodynamic vehicles, and were never designed to go at those speeds from a structural/engineering point of view
One of the few cars you will ever see proudly advertising “LUCAS”. 😉
Actually the only MINIs I’ve ever been interested in are the rally versions. Something about such a tiny car being driven hell for leather is attractive to me.
It’s particularly entertaining given that the Mini’s main predecessor on British rally teams was the Austin-Healey 3000, which wasn’t really all that big in absolute terms, but looks positively brutish in comparison.
OMG ..Joseph Lucas parts cost an arm and a leg back in the day ..guess for English vehicles at least there was a virtual monopoly ..and everything electrical on them was ‘Lucas’ and of dubious lasting quality ..I can recall having to regularly replace the speedo board for instance, the regulator, the indicator switch, the dip switch..
The Italian Job (the real one with Michael Caine, not the remake) is what made me fall in love with the Mini. So fun! This Mini could have definitely starred in the film.
Is there a more iconic car in the world? In the hands of Timo Makinen in 1965, it was a giant killer. This is such a visual juxtaposition here, a seemingly mild mannered econobox, perhaps the prototypical one, hiding a championship rally car. It’s kind of like the old Love Bug movies, but with realism.
What a perfect example in a perfect background for one. It’s like you’re standing in 1967.
One of the sailors in New London had one of these (green not red). It seemed strangely incongruous when his wife would drop him off by the pier every morning. My likes have always gone in this direction. Was driving a 66 Beetle at the time. As we used to say as we headed towards the gas pump: “not making anymore dinosaurs these days”.
The VW never stranded me and that got it preference over the british cars. A friend had an AH sprite and I knew where to pick him up when he dropped it off at the shop.
The mini Cooper S team went to Bathurst after Montecarlo and won Aussies great race against anything else available there.
I remember being at Pukekohe (NZ), must have been about 1968, 69 or maybe even 70, watching the lead Mustang leave the Cooper S like it was standing still at the beginning of the back straight on the other side of the circuit. You could just see the tops of the cars to know what was happening.
They disappeared from view into the hairpin bend at the end of the straight, through a couple more corners and reappeared with the Mini hot on the Ford’s heels. Somewhere there or a few seconds later as they came around another corner over the hill into the front straight, the Mini passed him.
I’ve never heard a racing crowd roar so loud! This was repeated several times during the short race, with the crowd erupting on each occasion.
The Mustang just won. But I’m sure that even those willing the Mini on went home happy. It was great fun. Still my all-time best motor racing memory.
hahaa.. those early Mustangs were just barges weren’t they ..the underpinnings essentially taken straight from the Ford Falcon… never designed to corner..but okay in a straight line .. 🙂 ..sort-of …low geared recirculating ball steering with at least a good inch of straight ahead ‘slop’ in the wheel .. 🙂
76bhp from 1275cc doesn’t sound like much these days, but back then it was a fairly impressive output .. in a lightish vehicle ..the Lotus Seven principle at work
Fantastic looking and beautifully restored example. But I doubt those 4 giant Lucas lamps will help with the cooling issues. Looking forward to the Mini article. It’s hard to tell, but is that a Bosch alternator I see under the hood?
Probably a Lucas I have a Lucas alternator in my Minx they work just fine.
Minis were everywhere in the UK not so long ago and now seem to have vanished.Anyone thinking of buying a Mini Cooper beware there’s a lot of Sexton Blakes about.The Mini both saved and destroyed BMC/BL,while a success it didn’t work as well when scaled up to the larger cars especially the Land Crabs.My little sister being the only one of the family under 6′ tall had a near relative of the Mini a Wolsley Hornet a Mini with a boot and an Edsel like grille.til the girder worm saw it off
Now that is a fine piece of rhyming slang…
Tom Hanks China
I went to see quite a few Cooper S’s with a friend years ago who was looking for one with its original shell. I can’t remember the dozen or so points he would look for to pick a re-shelled car, but I think 1/3 of the cars we saw were ‘real’. He ended up buying an MGA – no way to ‘fake’ one of those, and it was cheaper.
One extra head stud is the easiest way to pick a real Cooper engine, but as you say most are fakes.
The Cooper S was the only one to come from the factory with a fuel tank on either side at the rear ..a difficultish mod to do aftermarket but I suppose that was done too.. the Australian ‘S’ was a more luxurious vehicle that the UK one in that the front side windows were one-piece and wound up and down in stead of the rather skimpy double rail slide windows the pukka ‘S’ had .. ..and the Australian Clubman 1275 had quite nice high back seating