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The cars. Mini Cooper

It s the Anniversary of the Mini Cooper s Monte Carlo victory. A time, then, for Ian Nicholls to the origins and production history of car in what is the most comprehensive guide to the most iconic of all

Ian s article is not, as he meant to be a rehash of the Mini story, but an attempt to show how the car in with the BMCMG story.


AS is well known, when the Mini 850 was launched in August BMC s Publicity Department lent a car YOK 250 to racing car constructor John of the Cooper Car Company Limited, operated out of premises in Surbiton in At the time the Cooper team was on the of winning the Formula 1 World with its revolutionary mid-engined seeing off the challenges of Stirling in the Rob Walker-entered Cooper and Tony in the powerful front-engined Ferrari. Brabham became World in 1959 and retained the title in when he and team-mate Bruce were omnipotent.

Cooper at the cutting edge of development and soon rival teams the engine behind the driver to

Cooper also competed in formulae, one of them being Junior or FJ. This formula was an idea for a low-cost starter in racing using mass-produced engines. Italian FJ cars Fiat engines but Cooper for the BMC 948cc A-Series.

Cooper was working on producing a performance of the rear-engined Renault Dauphine a Coventry Climax engine. The tuner Amedee Gordini had tuned the standard engined and a Renault Dauphine Gordini won the Monte Carlo Rally. Cooper aborted this once he d driven the Mini.

He was so by the handling of the Mini that he it to the 1959 Italian Grand held at Monza that

Cooper was fond of telling the of how, during the race the Mini was spotted by one Aurelio Lampredi had formerly been the Designer of Ferrari and had been for the cars that Alberto had driven to the F1 World Championship in and 1953. Lampredi was now working for and asked John Cooper if he try BMC s new baby.

According to Cooper, was away for hours and when he back he announced that the was the car of the future, adding: If it weren t so I d shoot myself !

Although has become a well-known Mini what is not generally appreciated is Aurelio Lampredi improved on the formula. The 1965 Autobianchi and then the 1969 Fiat 128 a transverse engine driving the wheels but, instead of the being positioned on top of the gearbox the same oil, the Fiat 128 an end-on transmission using a oil reservoir. This has become the adopted system for front-wheel-drive Two years later Fiat the Fiat 127 – the first true – and Lampredi even appeared in a advert for the car, along an F1 car he had designed.

BMC may have got there but it was Fiat who made it reliable and a proposition.

Cooper builds his

The original Mini-Cooper prototype. Ian Nicholls)

John Cooper set about building a fast probably YOK 250. The work was by long-time Cooper employee Devlin and featured many from the FJ engine and allegedly had times the power of the standard 850 engine, which would be 100bhp. By 1961 the FJ engine was a unit developed by Eddie of Morris Engines in Coventry.

Cooper approached his friend and Designer Alec Issigonis his idea for a hot Mini. Issigonis rejected the idea, seeing his as a people s car. Undeterred, took his idea to BMC s Managing George Harriman, who drove s prototype and then gave the go for production of 1000 cars for purposes.

Homologation is the key word.

from its introduction the Mini 850 had used in competition and a Cooper Car privately entered Mini 850 by Sir John Whitmore won the 1961 Saloon Car Championship. George offered John Cooper a £2 on each car, to be sold as an or Morris Mini Cooper, and BMC on the development of the production car under the ADO50 — it also seems as part of the deal BMC would the Cooper Car Company as the official BMC team in saloon car racing.

The 1961 Formula Junior MK2 pictured alongside YOK 250. YOK 250 is also the car Aurelio Lampredi for his long excursion at Monza in (Picture: Ian Nicholls)

Former BMC and Competition Manager Stuart has since commented that, if Cooper had not come up with the of a hot Mini, then someone would have. The Mini was a successful competition car in the sub-1-litre and an MG-badged variant would been on the cards. However, in the the ADO50 was badged Mini after the reigning Formula 1 Champions.

In 1960 the Cooper Car dominated Grand Prix leaving the likes of Ferrari and BRM in their wake, so the decision was logical.

BMC therefore set about the production Mini Cooper, a Mini registered as KEL 236 as development standard 850 s 34bhp gave it a top of 73mph using a final of 3.765 to 1. Morris Engines that to propel a Mini to would need 55bhp, so head Eddie Maher a 997cc engine with a stroke than the existing unit, yet bizarrely a smaller Quite why BMC didn t use the existing block as found in other BMC cars is unknown but, the next five years, BMC was to a bewildering range of different A-Series engines. To stop the car provided 7in disc brakes, as it turned out were not that

Since this article was written, Simon Wheatcroft of the Cooper Register has provided an view as to the identity of the prototype Cooper. According to Simon, the car was not registered as and only bore the KEL 236 in the photographic sequence at Goodwood and was 126 LWL. 126 LWL was registered on 20 April as a Morris despite never seen with a Morris the car was Farina Grey with a roof. 126 LWL was present at the Mini launch (badged as an Austin) and was tested by Sports Car Graphic complete with all its non-standard such as Morris Minor 100 mph speedometer and unique interior

Production of the Mini Cooper at Longbridge on 11 July 1963.

The Cooper was launched on 20 1961 and was acclaimed by the motoring The car had a maximum speed of around and a 0-60mph time of 17 to 18 seconds, not today but impressive back in Most of the hike in engine came from the camshaft, number C-AEG567, which was the cam fitted to a production A-Series the arrival of the MG Metro in 1982.

gains in power were with a cylinder head larger inlet valves and 1¼ SU carburettors. Tuning guru Vizard later tested the BMC inlet manifold on a flowbench and it to be an appallingly inefficient design

this writer finds about the 997cc Mini is that it previewed two components were to be found on the ADO16 1100 launched eleven later: the remote gearchange replaced the 850 s magic wand and the cylinder head which was equipment on the 1098cc engine in Austin/Morris 1100s. John s desire for a hot Mini was somewhat by the need to productionise the concept and use BMC components. However, help was at hand in deepest Wiltshire.

s magic

Daniel Richmond ran a business called Downton in the village from which it its name. He specialised in conversions provided smooth running at low and yet impressive top-end gains. got around that he had created a Mini Cooper and several tested the car.

The Downton Cooper featured all the usual modifications and had its capacity increased to

With this extra it could do 0-60mph in 8 seconds and on to 108mph, a fantastic performance today. In its 8 December 1961 Autocar magazine tested the car under the headline Mini Ton . Impressed by the performance of the vehicle, magazine journalist Ronald Barker rang up Alec and told him about the car. asked to see the Downton Mini and Barker drove it up to Longbridge its creator tested it.

Issigonis was impressed and sent for Richmond who was then made a to BMC.

The first fruits of Richmond s relationship with BMC was the version of the ADO16 saloon, the MG Like the 997cc Mini the MG 1100 had a 55bhp engine, the being how this was achieved. The MG retained the standard mild (12G726) that was fitted to its and Morris cousins.

The extra was achieved by a new design of cylinder the 12G206 and later 12G295, featured larger valves, open combustion chambers and flowing ports.

The original Cooper had sold well and was a successful competition car in the 1-litre Indeed, the South African John Love, won the 1962 Saloon Car Championship in one for the works-backed team. In 1963 the works were not so lucky on the circuits as Sir Whitmore, although winning his narrowly lost out to Jack in his enormous Ford Galaxie in the Saloon Car Championship.

That also saw the emergence of a rival to the Cooper Car Company in the of the Birmingham-based Broadspeed team ran a Mini Cooper for John and then expanded to a four car featuring, in addition, John Jeff May and Peter Tempest. Broad s outfit gave a run for their money and soon BMC to unofficially back them This was to be the start of an on/off with BMC/BL that last well into the

 Meanwhile, Downton Engineering-backed Rob Slotemaker won the 1963 European Car Championship.

John Cooper pestered BMC for a more potent For the 1962 FJ season the Cooper Car had used a 98bhp 1100cc of the A-Series engine and it was suggested a road version be developed for the Cooper. BMC boss George was very reluctant to give the citing the extra investment in the block boring machines as in the end Harriman relented, giving in to the from John Cooper and BMC s Competitions Manager Stuart Between them the new engine was by Downton Engineering and Morris

The engine capacity was 1071cc and the cylinder head (12A185, and AFG163) featured nimonic The engine also featured a crankshaft and all these performance resulted in peak power of

The car was stopped with 7.5in brakes, which were far than the 7in discs fitted to the Mini Cooper. In typical BMC the new brakes were not fitted to the Mini Cooper, even it would have been a step. Production of the new car began on 16 1963.

The new ADO50 variant as the Mini Cooper S was unveiled in 1963 and was discontinued in August

The 95mph 1071S was an immediate hit as every Mini fan knows, was to victory in the 1964 Monte Rally by Paddy Hopkirk and Liddon. The returning car and crew hailed as conquering heroes and BMC s machine made the most of it, the combination even appearing on ITV s show Sunday Night At The Palladium . This is where the s reputation as a giant killer

The giant-killing begins

33 EJB, the car won the 1964 Monte Carlo pictured with (left to its crew of Henry Liddon and Hopkirk, BMC Chairman George and Alec Issigonis

Whilst was happening the 997cc Mini was discontinued. Since 1962 the Minis, the Riley Elf and Wolseley had used a new A-Series engine, the which was a short-stroke version of the unit used in the ADO16 saloon. In early 1964 the Cooper received a 998cc of the MG 1100 s engine, also at 55bhp, which it retained the cars demise in 1969.

In 1964 two more Cooper S appeared. The 970S was a homologation using a shorter block the 1071S. It was designed to compete in the category and used a shorter than the 1071S to attain because it had a larger bore the 997 and 998cc Mini Coopers, the could use larger valves.

under 1000 were in a year.

The other variant was the Mini Cooper 1275S. The used a longer stroke the 1071S. Peak power was Stuart Turner had pushed for a camshaft but was told that the had to be a car that was capable of being by the district nurse!

With this potent the 1275S could attain and 0-60mph in 11 seconds. Whole have been written on car, and this writer is not to indulge in a detailed dissection of car s development or competition success.

The again had another good on the race track in 1964. poached John Fitzpatrick off for the British Saloon Car Championship and on to win the 1300cc class and finish overall. Cooper s effort in the Touring Car Championship  was managed by one Ken also ran the company s FJ team year. In both cases succeeded. Warwick Banks the new 970S won the ETCC while the FJ was won by Tyrrell s protégé Jackie

After the highs of 1959 and these were fallow for Cooper in Formula 1 and the success of the on the racing circuit offered a diversion.

1965 was a big year for It started with the Mini s Monte Carlo Rally The brilliant driving of Timo and Paul Easter in a 1275S, with Stuart Turner s tyre choices, thrashed the with a victory margin in minutes. Rally win after win came the Mini Cooper s way, culminating in Rauno being crowned European Champion. The halo effect of the Cooper 1275S seemed to the rest of the BMC range as the company out a 35 per cent share of the UK car market, the ADO16 firmly ensconced as s best selling car.

If the was too small for a family, why not buy a bigger However, despite its huge BMC s profits were disappointing.

year Warwick Banks won the 1 class in the British Saloon for Cooper, while Broadspeed works backing in the European Car Championship to run John Fitzpatrick and Handley. Alongside Warwick Cooper had a newcomer, 38 year old Rhodes, whose tyre antics would become of Mini legend. In his debut for Cooper, Rhodes managed to win the class, a feat he was to repeat in 1967 and 1968.

At end of the season Banks decided to retire tin tops. However, on several Cooper found themselves against the Broadspeed cars the latter team found racing in stretched its budget and opted to in some UK events.

In Australia the Cooper had been available in and then 998cc forms October 1962. In May 1965 the S was launched down under.

began with controversy. finishing first on the road the Mäkinen/Easter 1275S was among other BMC entries disqualified the 1966 Monte Carlo for alleged headlight infringements. people believe this was the organisers couldn t accept a 10-foot long car could more potent opposition.

BMC the most of the furore it caused and appearance on Sunday Night At The Palladium followed.

In March the Mini Cooper was launched in This was a 998cc engined car as it was that, due to Italy s taxation there would be little for a 1275cc engined car. also saw the introduction of the 1275cc engine in the MG Midget and then the in 1967. Although the bore and were the same as in the 1275S, variant used a different and cheaper materials.

Both must have used the boring machines and it was the 1275cc that was perhaps Sir George s most enduring legacy, cars ranging from the MG Midget to the 1984 Austin

For the 1966 racing season were the only works-backed in the British Saloon Car Championship as had now defected to the Ford camp to run The works Cooper drivers now the two Johns, Messrs. Handley and whilst in the ETCC Don Moore ran a car by Paddy Hopkirk.

1967 and BMC took its revenge in the Monte Rally. Rauno Aaltonen and Liddon drove to triumph in the of their lives and the mighty again received a hero s on its return to the UK. Meanwhile, John was recovering from a serious on the Kingston bypass when his twin-engined, 4X4 twini-Mini Cooper. his convalescence he received an offer Jonathan Sieff, head of the Group of car dealers, to buy the Cooper Car John Cooper decided to although he remained in day-to-day of things.

Cooper were by now a fading in Grand Prix racing, a Maserati engine. At the 1967 Grand Prix at Zandvoort the 49 powered by the Ford-Cosworth DFV dominated and won on its

This engine was the future of 1 and, although Lotus had use of the engine for 1967, it would be to all-comers the following year. The for Cooper was that the Cosworth DFV was so because of their link BMC, Cooper could not use it. within Cooper argued for the BMC royalty agreement but to no avail. saw the last works Cooper Prix season on a stage had once been able to their own.

It could be that Cooper created the hot but the Mini Cooper ultimately the Cooper Car Company.

Around BMC introduced a new cylinder head, the designed by Daniel Richmond. new casting was fitted to all 1275cc only differing in inlet sizes. The version fitted to the was similar to that fitted to the MG 1300 and 1300GT and the later MG

The original 1275S cylinder (the AFG163) was prone to between the valves, so the 12G940 smaller exhaust valves cost around 2-3 bhp, BMC continued to claim 76bhp in publicity brochures. The 12G940 was an chamber design like the fitted to the 998cc Cooper/MG1100.

Richmond was an enthusiastic fisherman and a stretch of riverbank with the fee he from developing the 12G940. Engineering was the BMC-approved tuner, and came straight from the to be modified. Peter Sellers and The all had Downton-tuned Minis and the firm built the engines that used in saloon car races and the cylinder heads for the works cars. At the end of 1967 the MK2 Mini was with a larger rear BMC were starting to rationalise the car and external trim parts now common to both Austin and versions.

However, the good were about to come to an

1968 came and the Mini s winning streak ended as sporting cars gained the The best the works rally could manage was third and on the Monte Carlo Rally January as Porsche triumphed, been thwarted by Aaltonen the year. In reality the Mini reign as a front-running rally car have already been

Mini Cooper Electric Cars

It had continued to win against more opposition in 1967 thanks to the professionalism of the BMC Competitions Department at It must be remembered that all the Cooper 1275S had to propel it was a 1275cc and the men at Abingdon had worked to achieve what they

Another factor was that the Leyland merger brought it new management determined to cut costs: had no need for consultants. John later recalled Sir Donald saying: We employ 150,000 here, what do we want for?

The end of an era

On another occasion, asked Cooper: What do you do ? replied: I come here a fortnight and wind Issigonis up ! to Cooper, I don t think he liked very much.

New Chief Harry Webster (who had Alec Issigonis in this following the formation of BLMC) is to have told Daniel that he believed him (Richmond) to be the responsible for all the Cooper S warranty and that his services were no required. Before Richmond the scene he developed the 1800S and worked on both the stillborn 9X and the E-Series engine for the forthcoming Maxi.

BLMC s dismissal of Richmond was a shoddy reward for who had increased the efficiency of the company s and whose legacy to the organisation still be considered competitive in the 1980s when the 1.3-litre was fitted to the Metro, Maestro and Richmond died in 1974 only 50 and Downton Engineering down soon after. The engine British Leyland without Daniel Richmond s was the 1978 O-Series and that was disappointing

A bright spot in the of 1968 was that filming began of a picture which would cement the Cooper s iconic status: s 1969 release The Italian Job .

By the filming began, the merger formed BLMC had already place and Longbridge was full of men, including the aforementioned Webster. Webster later that those first few were spent rushing turning off all the expenditure taps. was rushing out of Longbridge, and we had nothing to for it – it was quite terrifying .

This might explain happened when producer Deeley approached BLMC for in what was to prove the Mini s ever advert. In Mathew s book The Making Of The Italian Job . Deeley commented: They were completely uninterested.

BLMC sold the production six Minis at trade price and thirty cars at retail Michael Deeley also My association with BMC was sadly limited. There was a very man who was head of PR who was blind. He had been dismantling a bomb on Brighton at the end of the war. Very sweet and but he didn t seem to have clout .

Star Michael (who didn t actually a driving licence at the time of was more caustic: That s why the no longer exists and that s the with British industry: no you know? We hated British This contrasts with who bent over backwards to the producers of the low budget and mediocre On Cabby a fleet of Cortina

The stunts in The Italian Job were by the Frenchman Rémy Julienne s right) team and involved the car chase through the subways, arcades and sewers of Turin. sources claim BLMC did to a certain degree. It has been that BLMC built a fitted with an ADO17 1798cc engine and gearbox. was to enable the car to have enough to climb steps.

The Mini 1275S engines were by Broadspeed in Birmingham by a former Engineering employee known to writer.

The formation of British also affected the BMC Competitions Sir Donald Stokes personally over the running of the rump of the BMC, now known as the Austin division of British Leyland, in May before handing over to Turnbull that September he took over from Sir Harriman as BLMC Chairman.

To a salesman, motorsport was only spending money on if there was a of winning and the failure of the Mini to win a rally in 1968 must been frustrating for him. Hopkirk nearly won the TAP Rally in the works teams last that year, only to be near the end by a Lancia. Deadly Ford now had the Escort in the showrooms and it was proving to be a winner in competition. The Competitions Department badly a new winning car to replace the Mini, but one was not forthcoming.

At the end of 1968 BLMC its star foreign rally from their contracts, but Paddy Hopkirk as he was both and PR friendly.

There was better for BLMC on the racing circuits. Rhodes won the 1300cc class in the Saloon Car Championship and ETCC. His mate in the Cooper team year was Steve Neal, for Handley had signed up to drive for Ratcliffe s British Vita in the European Touring Car Championship. a Mini Cooper 970S in the 1 class, a model out of production 1965, Handley amassed points to become overall Champion.

A 970S also featured in the Saloon Car Championship where Jim Whitehouse s team took future Ford ace Gordon Spice to victory in the class.

An announcement which on 28 June 1968 meant that the of the Mini Cooper under the new Leyland Motor Corporation was ensured by virtue of an which British Leyland had with the Cooper Car Company for a three years collaboration on and sale of BMC Mini cars. Sir Stokes, Chief Executive and Director of British Leyland, that the development of the Mini saloons and their numerous in international racing and rallying had a major part in promoting sales of BMC cars.

Overseas was more Mini Cooper Innocenti of Milan announced a MK2 Cooper 998cc in September This car used the Cooper S AEG510 to boost power to compared to 55bhp for the UK built In October 1968, British s Spanish partner Authi its first Mini, christened the Featuring a single carburettor engine, it was a Cooper in all but name and was as one by the media.

After all, did the C stand for?

It was in the motorsport that BLMC revealed its attitude to the Cooper Car Company. ordered its Competitions department to in the 1969 British Saloon Car employing John Handley and Rhodes to drive red and white Cooper 1275Ss. The erstwhile team, Cooper, its F1 team now down was cast out into the

Undeterred, John Cooper up with fellow BLMC Downton Engineering and, backing from Britax, ran two and black 1275Ss for Steve and Gordon Spice.

However, the had now caught up with the once Mini. The Mini s small tyres wore out much than the larger tyres on like the Ford Escort and a move up to 12in wheels was not to stop the rot. 1969 was the the Ford Escort 1300GT as a saloon car racer and overcame the despite the efforts of its drivers. It was not all and gloom, though.

The Arden once again played the card and Alec Poole won the 1000cc class and the 1969 Saloon Car Championship in a blue

1969 also brought big for the entire Mini range, the announcement of the ADO20 Mini in that year. This encompassed the introduction of wind-up and concealed door-hinges, along a new variant: the Mini Clubman. The 1275GT replaced the 998cc Cooper, which was the first of BLMC s cull of cars with out-of-favour BMC consultants. would be next.

Quite the 1275GT was a better car: it was equipped, had the superior 7.5in brakes from the 1275S and the 59bhp 1275cc engine the ADO16 1300 saloon gave more torque and acceleration. The only surprise was why BMC had not this power unit to the Cooper earlier in the interests of

The last Mk2 Mini Cooper 998 from Longbridge on 12 November


The Cooper 1275S in production and, from 1970, it made the transition to Mk3 form, although sales of variant were down on the car s heyday. It s difficult to ascertain this was due to lack of promotion on s part or the fact that the 1275S had simply gone out of There was certainly no attempt to the car from the bog-standard Mini 850 and apart from the wider wheels. Despite the higher and performance the 1275S lacked the GT s equipment, go-faster stripes and up-to-date image.

It s as if the 1275S available for those buyers who one for competition use.

The marketing was now definitely on the 1275GT and not the Cooper S. The car was no competitive in motorsport, an arena was to be dominated by the Ford Escort Escorts winning the RAC Rally year from 1972 to BLMC had closed down its Department in October 1970 and Turner was now plying his trade as Manager with Ford. Stokes may not have believed competition sold cars, but most certainly did and, as the wore on, British Leyland shed any sporting image it a mantle inherited by Ford.

In 1971 the Authi Mini ceased production to be replaced by the version of the 1275GT, which from the UK car in that it retained the nosed bodyshell.

The last Cooper 1275S came off the production line in June when the three year with the Cooper Car Company in June 1968 expired. In Lord Stokes stated why the Cooper was axed: It was an expensive car to there were so many body pressings. We lost £20 per Mini.

Then people why I scrapped the Cooper. We were more money to Mr Cooper we were making in profit.

In the Mini Cooper S lasted August 1971 when the was launched, supplanting the round-nosed and the last Mini Cooper S Mk3 was at Longbridge on 28 June 1971.

Mini Cooper Electric Cars
Mini Cooper Electric Cars
Mini Cooper Electric Cars


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