John Cooper awarded a CBE for services to the motor industry in 1999

A Legend in the Making
Since his birth in 1923 John Cooper grew up surrounded by cars. His father Charles ran a small garage and also worked as a mechanic for land-speed record driver Kaye Don. After leaving school at 15 to become a toolmaker, John went on to tool instruments in the RAF. When John was in his mid twenties he left the RAF and with his father formed the Cooper Car Company as he was determined to race cars.
In the late 1940's John and his father built their prototype Cooper 500 - a cigar shaped single seater with a mid mounted engine, one of the first of it's type. John teamed up with old friend Eric Brandon and raced the 500's. It was extremely successful and was quickly snapped up by the private racing teams and their drivers, including Sterling Moss. The Cooper Car Company boomed and the success led into new developments in the early 50's. The front engined Cooper Bristol F2 was born. This too was a success and was driven by the greats, including Fangio. A new layout resulted in a rear engined Formula 2 car, of which a special version was built for Jack Brabham, who drove it to 6th place in the 1957 Monaco Grand Prix. It's lightweight construction and sharp handling was starting to challenge the big boys like Ferrari and Maserati.

Rear-engined Cooper 500's

Front-engined Cooper Bristol

Rear-engined Formula 2

Coopers dominated F1

In 1958, the Cooper Car Company started to fill the trophy cabinet. Stirling Moss drove Rob Walker's F2 T43 Cooper to victory at the Argentinian Grand Prix - it was the first ever rear engined car to win a GP. Later that year another of Rob Walker's Cooper won the Monaco GP. In '59 and '60 the Cooper Car Company won both drivers and constructors titles. This led to competing at Indianapolis where the Americans thought it very odd that the engine was in the rear - in the wrong place to them. The Coopers didn't win due to tyre problems, but a year later all F1 cars followed the Coopers lead and were rear engined.

Coopers dominated Formula 1, 2 and 3. Young talents like Jackie Stewart drove the Cooper F3 BMC car, which ironically shared the A series powerplant that ended up in the Mini.

Birth of the Mini Cooper
Formula racing was beginning to be dominated by the big companies, they bankrolled new technology that the Coopers couldn't keep up with, so they turned their attention to rallying and road racing. John had driven the Mini and liked the pin sharp handling and low weight, so the Mini Cooper was born.
John Cooper persuaded the Mini's creator, Sir Alec Issigonis, to let him produce a high-performance version of the car even though Sir Alec did not believe it would sell.

In 1961 the first Mini Cooper hit the streets and was an immediate success, firstly with a 997cc engine producing a massive 55bhp. Then followed the rare 970cc Cooper S and in 1963 the superior 1275cc S which pumped out 76bhp, which was an even bigger hit on the streets. It was this model which would form the basis for the Works Rally car. The Cooper S achieved legendary status when the 91bhp Cooper Works cars won the Monte Carlo Rally outright for 4 years running from 1964-1967 (although the Minis were disqualified from the 1966 rally for having faulty headlamps!) Even the British Saloon Car Championship circuits were dominated by the Coopers, winning races left, right and centre. The Mini Cooper was now an icon and everybody wanted a Cooper. The good and great of the 60's had Coopers, including Paul McCartney, Graham Hill and Enzo Ferrari!

Paddy Hopkirk's Cooper drives to glory at the '64 Monte Carlo Rally

'66 RAC Rally

Another Cooper tackles Monte Carlo

'66 Monte Carlo Winner - but disqualified

A wolf in sheep’s clothing: The creation of the Mini Cooper
Long before Alec Issigonis drew his legendary sketches of the Mini, he became a good friend of one of the leading constructors of racing cars at the time: John Cooper. Cooper used Morris engines in his Formula Junior racing cars and was therefore a much-appreciated specialist acknowledged by Issigonis as the right man for discussing engine concepts. So John Cooper was deeply involved in the process of developing the Mini right from the start.
With the Mini gradually becoming reality, Cooper was confident that this new car set to enter the market was exactly what he had been looking for for a long time: the foundation for a sports car able to compete with the Lotus Elite. Cooper had already tried to challenge the Elite with a Renault Dauphine powered by a Coventry Climax engine, but was far from happy with the car’s handling. So as soon as he got his hands on this new small athlete, he started preparing the car for racing, taking an original Mini Cooper to the 1959 Italian Grand Prix in Monza together with his driver, Roy Salvadori.
From the start, their journey to Monza developed into a race with Reg Parnell, another famous racing driver, who was travelling to Italy in his Aston Martin DB4. At the finish line Cooper’s new Mini was a whole hour faster and Cooper was more than convinced that the Mini had all the potential he had been hoping for.

Starting out with 1,000 Mini Coopers
Cooper then approached Issigonis with the proposal to develop a small GT out of the Mini. But Issigonis, as before, saw the car as a 'people’s car for everybody' and turned down the suggestion. Not letting go, however, John Cooper contacted George Harriman, the Chief Executive of BMC, directly. BMC or, to use the full name, British Motor Corporation, had been formed in 1952 by he merger of various British car makers, comprising, among others, the Austin, Morris, MG and Wolseley brands. And Harriman was convinced of Cooper’s idea, agreeing to build a small series of 1,000 Mini Coopers in order to test public response.
With the engine not supposed to displace more than one litre, Cooper set off by increasing stroke from 68.3 mm (2.69´´) to 81.3 mm (3.20´´) and reducing engine bore from 62.9 mm (2.48´´) to 62.4 mm (2.46´´), spreading out these dimensions on four cylinders to provide cubic capacity of exactly 997 cc. Compression was increased from 8.3 to 9.0, and larger intake valves as well as double carburettors were added as further features. Additional modifications were the larger outlet opening and a reinforced crankcase designed to cope with the extra power of the engine. Cooper also modified the gear ratios in the interest of higher top speed, engine output increasing to 55 bhp and top speed to approximately 130 km/h or 81 mph. To add the right brakes for this extra power, Cooper finally fitted 7-inch Lockheed disc brakes on the front wheels.
Many motorsport enthusiasts were thrilled by this new concept and a long series of successful entries in motor racing convinced BMC that this was the right car for the future.
A power unit built for success: 1,071 cubic centimetres, 70 bhp. Now Issigonis also changed his mind, joining forces with John Cooper to boost engine output to an even higher level. The concept applied for this purpose had already proven its merits in John Cooper’s Formula Junior power unit: small engine stroke with a large bore, combined with reinforced bolts for the cylinder head. Proceeding from this concept, the engineers choose the 848-cc power unit as the basic engine for the Cooper S. With stroke remaining unchanged at 68.2 millimetres or 2.69´´, bore was increased to 70.6 millimetres or 2.78´´, thus reaching the absolute limit. This enabled John Cooper to achieve two important targets at the same time, engine displacement, at 1,071 cc, remaining below the 1,100-cc limit applied in the racing class envisaged, whilst the short stroke allowed the engine to rev reliably and smoothly at high speeds. Accordingly, maximum output was 70 bhp at 6,200 rpm and maximum engine speed an even more impressive 7,200 rpm.
Clearly, this extra power also meant a higher top speed requiring John Cooper to take a look at the brakes, too: Brake disc diameter was increased to 7½ inches, and brake power was now boosted by a servo. Introducing disc brakes, Cooper also opened up the door for Lockheed to enter a new market. So far disc brakes had been featured only on much larger and more expensive cars, but were now able, thanks to the success of the Mini Cooper, to move down into lower market segments.

1997 Rover Mini Cooper with sports pack

Ten years of production with a 19-year break in between: the return of the Mini Cooper
The Mini Cooper was built to these – or similar – specifications for exactly 10 years, from July 1961 to July 1971. But then Lord Stokes stopped production. Worldwide demand nevertheless remained substantial, inducing John Cooper to build tuning kits of great popularity particularly in Japan. Assuming responsibility for the Mini for a number of years, Rover Group requested Cooper to sell these kits also in their home market, where they likewise became a great success. Recognising this market opportunity, Rover brought back the Mini Cooper in 1990, various versions of the car being built once again in Longbridge up to the end of Mini production. John Cooper Garages, going even further, built a number of limited editions based on the Mini Cooper S, such as the Grand Prix, Sport 5, Cooper S touring, and the 90-horsepower version. And naturally there are also the John Cooper Tuning Kits available. In addition, it produced bespoke specials for it's most enthusiastic customers, while continuing to offer its expert engine tuning service for its conversion kits.

Trevor Godwin / Ian Harrop pilot their Rover Mini Cooper at the Dukeries Rally

End of an Era
After 137 versions and 41 years the final Mini, chassis no. 5,387,862 rolled off the production line at Longbridge on Wednesday 4th October 2000. Accompanied by strains of the 'Self-preservation Society' the red Mini Cooper S was driven off the production line by 60's icon Lulu.

Issigonis drives 1 millionth in '65

90 bhp Cooper S Works

Last ever Classic Mini (Cooper S)


New MINI Cooper
During the mid to late 1990's, john Cooper Garages was invited to contribute it's expertise to BMW Group's new MINI project. the company formed a team that would commence work on the design and production of engine and chassis enhancement kits for the new MINI Cooper. John was delighted when his son Michael was asked to put the new prototype MINI Cooper through it's paces.

On Sunday 24th December 2000 John sadly passed away, aged 77, signaling the end of an era, but his boundless talent, energy and enthusiasm meant that he presided over the birth of a new one. With the advent of the John Cooper Works in a newly converted premises, an exciting new car adventure was about to begin. By 2002 John Cooper Works launched approved tuning kits for the new MINI Cooper. Mike Coopers plans to get the Cooper name back into racing became a reality when the John Cooper Challenge was introduced in the UK. A multi discipline race series designed to give drivers everyday road use and racing at the weekends from the same vehicle. the series instantly sold out.

By 2003 MINI gave John Cooper Works full approval to produce tuning kits for MINI Cooper and Cooper S. The John Cooper Works Tuning Kits are available from John Cooper Works and MINI dealerships worldwide. John Cooper Works competed in the Nürburgring 24 Hour Race with the first 'Works' entry since 1967.

MINI Cooper S Works

MINI Cooper S Works Cabriolet

S Works at Nürburgring 24 Hour Race

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