The Mini has won the famous Monte Carlo Rally three times, in 1964, 1965 and 1967.
It also won in 1966, with Mini Cooper's finishing 1st, 2nd & 3rd, but all three cars were later disqualified on a lighting technicality by the French and a French car won that year instead.
The Mini was the first British car to win the European Rally Championship.
The late James Hunt's first racing car was a Mini in 1966.
Niki Lauda's first racing success was behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper in a hillclimb.
The Italian Job, starring Michael Caine featured 14 Minis.
British production of the Mini Cooper ended in July 1971, but it was re-launched on the 7th July 1990 and subsequently fitted with fuel injection on the 29th October 1991.
The "replica" of the famous 1965 RAC Rally (& the 1966 Scottish Rally too) winning ex-Works Mini Cooper S (DJB 93B) sold for over one hundred thousand pounds at the recent Bonhams Auction House Race Retro Sale.
As we know, Alec Issigonis was the genius who created the Mini, but John Cooper the successful racing car constructor of the famous Cooper Car Company Ltd was the mastermind who developed the performance Mini. Thanks to him, the Mini Cooper became a real giant killer in all forms of motor-sport, as such proving itself as a very safe and capable machine and was the reason the whole Mini range became a success. Without the Cooper involvement the Mini, excellent as it is in all its forms, would never have been as successful or had quite the same appeal and the Mini Cooper proved to be the most significant model of the 1960s perhaps of the century.
John Newton Cooper was born on 17 July 1923 in Kingston-Upon-Thames and from the very beginning his life revolved around cars and motor racing thanks to his father, Charles Cooper.
The origins of John Coopers involvement with the Mini go right back to the London Motor Show of 1957, where the prototype road going Lotus Elite was unveiled by Colin Chapman. On seeing this, both John and his father were inspired into building a high-performance road car.
Cooper tried to find a successful formula for a four-seater road car that could outshine the two-seater Lotus Elite. He had experimented with a Renault Dauphine body but had failed despite the use of Coventry Climax engines and ZF gearboxes as the car handled very poorly. As he was a customer of Morris Engines, which were used in Cooper Formula Junior cars, Issigonis the technical director, would liase with Cooper on engineering matters. The successful combination of BMC A series engines in Formula Junior led to Cooper running the works team and ultimately gave him access to prototype ADO15s (Minis).
During the sourcing of the Formula junior engine and John Coopers involvement with Alec Issigonis, the subject of the soon to be announced Mini often cropped up. John was extremely interested in the car, mainly due to its unconventional layout of transverse engine, front wheel drive and rubber suspension. He and his grand prix driver Roy Salvadori were loaned a pre-production Mini for the Italian Grand Prix in 1959, but John was unable to drive the Mini to the meeting, as he had to trailer a F1 car, so Roy Salvadori drove it instead. Both men were later amused to find that the Mini had beaten fellow Formula 1 star Reg Parnell on the journey from London and he had been driving an Aston Martin DB4GT. The car was then used as a run-around during the meeting and both men were very impressed. While at the circuit, Aurelio Lampredi, famous chief designer for Ferrari, spotted the Mini (although it had not been given a name as yet) and took it for a drive. He was gone for several hours and Cooper was convinced that Lampredi must have crashed, finally he returned breathless and excited, exclaiming that if it were not for the fact that it is so ugly, Id shoot myself if that isnt the car of the future. From this point onwards John Cooper new that the Mini was the road car that he should use for the basis of his performance car.
Unfortunately at first, Alec Issigonis was not enthusiastic about the idea, maintaining that the Mini was designed as a peoples car and not a performance car. Undeterred, together with Ginger Devlin, John began to tune a Mini. After two weeks, the engine was up-rated and contained the constituent parts of a Formula Junior engine to improve the performance and small prototype disc brakes from Lockheed were fitted to the front. John presented this tuned Mini to BMC Chairman, George Harriman (successor to the now retired Leonard Lord) and after a brief test-drive, the response was very positive, not only for the product, but also the prospect of a link for BMC with the Formula One world championship team. Then a royalty agreement was drawn up and with a handshake, one of the most significant events in motoring history took place, the Mini Cooper had been created!
Like the best performance cars, the Cooper's development became linked to competition, hence the S designation. BMC and even Alec Issigonis had been mightily impressed by the Cooper's performance on the road and in competition, Issigonis wanted to be involved with the Cooper now too. Another major influence behind the new car was BMC competitions manager Stuart Turner, who wanted a much more powerful rally weapon and the Cooper S was to be just the job.
For all the facts on the world beating Mini Coopers that brought home all the trophies, their famous drivers, the rally results and more mind blowing images than you can shake a stick at, check this site out: -
John Cooper always remained enthusiastic about the Mini even though the UK produced Cooper model was originally axed by a short sighted British Leyland in July 1971. But his enthusiasm, demand from Japan and new management thinking from the Rover Group Ltd, saw that famous name once again adorn high performance Minis. First with the John Cooper Conversion Kits and then from 1990 with the Rover Mini Cooper models that remained in full production until the very last Mini rolled off the Longbridge production line on 4/10/2000. Which was a Mini Cooper.
John Cooper was warm, very approachable and was always happy to chat to Mini enthusiasts at the Mini shows and events that he attended. He also continued to sell Mini Coopers plus his John Cooper Conversion Kits and large range of accessories for Minis via his business at the Cooper HQ and Honda Garage in Ferring.
Sadly after a long illness, John Cooper died on 24 December 2000. But he had deservedly been appointed CBE during the same year and there is no doubt that his achievements take pride of place in automotive history and his legend will live on, nowhere more so than in the hearts of Mini enthusiasts around the world.
Here's a link from my YouTube account showing the trailer for the famous 1969 comedy crime caper starring Michael Caine, Benny Hill, Noel Coward and a whole host of top British stars that no doubt helped towards making the Mini the long lasting and much loved classic that it became. And that's simply because it was the greatest car advert of all time and it really put the 3 main stars (that upstaged everyone else) which just happened to be a trio of patriotically coloured Mini Cooper S through their pace in breathtaking fashion! Yes it's that immortal classic called "The Italian Job" and don't forget that "You're Only Supposed To Blow The Bloody Doors Off!"
So click on the play button and watch the trailer, then go and buy the DVD unless you already own a copy because no film collection is complete without it. Just make sure that you buy the original and best though because the classic Mini Cooper S really earned it's place in this film, unlike the multi-million dollar product placement given to some cars that are mere fashion accessories today and have achieved nothing and don't accept any recent poor imitations either: -
Plus there are these fantastic Registers that are dedicated to a few examples of the later Rover Mini Cooper models. No doubt more will be created in time to cover all the other models too: -