We already covered the history of the brilliant and legendary small British car last time, so instead of remembering Sir Alec Issigonis, who traces the floor plan of four people sitting on the ground with chalk in order to design the smallest possible car, I’ll just try to look at the history of sports models from John Cooper (by the way Issigonis’s friend), which wrote history on circuits and in rallying, even though they were still sold under the original Austin and Morris brands at the time.
John Cooper was the owner of the Cooper Car Company and designed and built racing single-seaters himself, including those for Formula 1. It was he who immediately saw the racing potential in the small Mini, and the people’s car did not let him sleep. Although Issigonis was skeptical of racing ambitions, Cooper pushed the management of the BMC concern and received permission to cooperate on the development of a sports version of the Mini Cooper. In September 1961, the Austin Mini Cooper and Morris Mini Cooper appeared in stores for the first time, then still with a liter engine, later with an 1100. It may seem strange at first glance, but the Mini is really suitable for sporty driving.
The particular car is from 1971. At that time, the Mark III model was in production. The latter was produced between 1969 and 1976. It has larger doors than older models and, finally, hidden door hinges and roll-down windows instead of sliding ones. And when you walk up to it, it works like a classic Mini and will make you smile with the good-natured expression of the front parts and its pocket-sized dimensions. Today, it would not even be possible to build such a small car, because all the safety standards would swell its body.
You can’t expect a flood of space in the Mini, but that’s okay
Of course, the interior is limited by the dimensions of the body, but still you don’t feel claustrophobic here and you can sit comfortably. There is no need to slouch or cling to the passenger. There isn’t much inside, just a steering wheel, alarm clocks (there are more of them than the standard version), levers and amazing sportier shaped seats. The steering wheel is quite small, which makes it easier to slip long legs under it. When you open the boot lid, you’ll find it’s smaller than a regular Mini. Here it is usurped by fuel tanks on both sides.
But I’m already waiting to turn the key and then find out if the Cooper S is really that much better than the regular Mini, how much more expensive it is. Front engine, front wheel drive and fantastic handling is the Mini’s mantra in general and the Cooper S benefits from it. That engine is the Cooper’s 1,275cc four-cylinder with two SU carburetors that was introduced in 1964. Cooper also modified the cam and pistons to make the engine withstand further modifications. The output is 76 hp (57 kW), which seems like a little, but for such a light little car, it’s quite a lot. Nowadays, however, these older versions suffer from additives.
John Cooper has improved the already excellent driving characteristics
A fairly short five-speed and fully synchronized manual transmission is connected to the engine. It is said that she got into this car only during a careful renovation that took place in Germany. Weighing just under 700 kilograms, the car travels up to 160 km/h. But it accelerates to 100 km/h in a long 16 seconds, because it is so agile up to 90 km/h.
The chassis is made up of auxiliary frames and the suspension is provided by rubber cones. Thanks to them, the car is very confident and has sensational cornering behavior. At the same time, it only stands on ten-inch wheels. Great behavior is thanks to the weight, which is at a fantastic value of 645 kilograms. Ground clearance is minimal, the car is more reminiscent of super sports, so I’m a little worried about the oil pan. It is the lowest, right behind the front bumper, and is shared by the engine and gearbox (so that they are not in one unit). Thanks to this, the Cooper (or rather the Mini in general) has a fantastically low center of gravity. And for the same reason, it bounces on bumps that it simply cannot filter out like larger cars with conventional suspension.
The more winding the road, the better the ride
The car is hungry for corners and throws itself into them with the enthusiasm of a puppy. The very steep steering reacts immediately and is precise. You don’t even need to downshift much, just turn and hold the steering wheel firmly, the Mini can turn the curve with ease and doesn’t even screech the tires. Because of its dimensions, all the arches seem straighter. All you have to do is drive a hundred and you’re already grinning from ear to ear. It works like therapy for me.
There are disc brakes on all wheels, which are assisted by a booster. By default, they should only be in the front, the Cooper S also had classic drums in the back. The brakes were supplied by Lockheed and were very responsive. After all, like any control that behaves as if it were an extended limb of yours and not part of the car.
No wonder it was successful in the races
Mini’s most notable achievements include wins at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967. However, the Cooper S was also fastest in 1966, but was controversially disqualified. The car also celebrated wins in Finland in 1965, 1966 and 1967. It also did well on the circuits, for example in 1966 Mini Coopers dominated and took the first 9 places at the Gallaher 500 Bathurst. Mini also has five British Touring Car Championship titles, three British Rally Championship titles, a further two European Rally Championship titles and two European Touring Car titles.
The original Mini disappeared in 2001 and was replaced by the modern BMW-led Mini (but don’t consider it a direct successor, the original Mini probably cannot be replaced by any modern car) and the Cooper S sports versions are still derived from it, although of course John Cooper was not involved . The original Cooper S was produced until 1971 (this piece is also from that year) and until then 6,300 cars were built with this 1,275 cc engine, then it was replaced by the 1275 GT model with a square nose identical to the Clubman model. The engine also got under the hood of the larger MG 1300. But the Coopers did not disappear, these versions were produced by the Italian Innocenti and the Spanish Authi. Coopers were sold even in the nineties with MPI engines, but initially even with lower performance than the old ones from the sixties.
Today, this version with investment potential is of course significantly more expensive than an ordinary Mini, for example this one is valued at 1.3 million by Veterans at Truc. After all, only 1,568 cars were built in this specification and they are so sensational that I actually understand the price tag and the overall hype surrounding the Cooper S model. Unfortunately, you can often come across overpriced fake Coopers.
The fun behind the wheel will be provided by the Cooper S, but perhaps some more common cheaper version will be enough for most people to not worry so much about the expensive model. There is an abundance of parts for old British dumplings, so keeping them running is not difficult. It is also not a problem at all to modify and improve them according to your taste, the large and friendly community of Czech owners will advise you on this.
However, I wouldn’t do it with a Cooper S, it will be most valuable in original or at least period condition. Beware of corrosion, the little British car eats with gusto. Mainly on body welds or in the luggage compartment near the battery.