When the Austin Seven and Morris Mini Minor saw the light of day in 1959, designer Alec Issigonis could not have imagined: The little Mini would form the basis for a car that surprised everyone and everything in international rallies: The Mini Cooper S.It became the most appealing Mini version during the 41 year that the Classic Mini was built.
After the introduction of the very first Mini, Issigonis' friend and Formula 1 constructor John Cooper quickly realized it: The basic ingredients made the Mini very suitable for racing and rally events. In 1961 Cooper added technical - sporty - adjustments to the small English creation. Thus the Mini Cooper was born.
The Mini Cooper has been cosmetically and technically modified in comparison with the base model. The Cooper was recognizable by the roof, among other things. It was painted in a contrasting color to the rest of the compact body. More important were the technical adjustments. The displacement of the standard 848 cc engine of the Morris Mini-Minor was increased to 997 cc for the Cooper. This led to an increase in power from 34 to 55 HP. Performance was polished thanks to a twin SU carburettor. A close-ratio gearbox and disc brakes on the front wheels were also features of the Cooper. It turned out to be the harbinger for an even faster – now legendary – version.
The S is in the name
In 1963, the sixties ruler of the Rallye Monte Carlo saw the light of day. Like the base model of the Mini and the regular Cooper, this one was also built as Austin and Morris. Technically, the Coopers of both brands were identical. The adjustments that made the Cooper an "S" too. Where the "regular" Cooper was already equipped with the necessary technical gadgets, John Cooper went a step further for the "S". More powerful disc brakes, a double tank, an oil cooler and a 1071 cc 70 HP engine gave birth to a car with fabulous driving characteristics, which were enhanced thanks to a sporty conventional chassis. The Morris Mini Cooper S with 1071 cc turned out to be the harbinger of an even faster – now legendary – version. And he won the Monte Carlo Rally for the first time in January 1964, with the duo of Paddy Hopkirk and Henry Liddon as crew.
The regular Mini Cooper and the Cooper S were changed. The "S" with 1071 cc engine was succeeded in 1964 - after a production of 4031 copies - by two new variants. They could be equipped with the hydrolastic suspension system, the system that worked with rubber elements and incompressible fluid, which was reminiscent of the operation of the hydropneumatic system of Citroën. In addition, they were given new engines. The regular Cooper now got a 998 cc engine. For homologation purposes, 963 Cooper S versions were allocated the 970 cc with 65 HP engine. This one was only built for a year. The engine that gave the Cooper S its definitive fame was the 1275 cc engine with 77 HP and a top speed of 165 kilometers per hour. In that capacity, the Cooper S – to everyone's surprise – won the Monte Carlo Rallye twice more officially and once unofficially, giving the sympathetic little bomb eternal fame. Wins in other classics only enhanced that status.
Three times official winner, once unofficial
The Mini Cooper S drove in "Monte Carlo" from 1964 to 1967 as the winner all the time. To the astonishment of the international journal, the victory of 1966 (including podium places two and three, also occupied by the Cooper S) was declared invalid, so that Citroen with the DS and her two Finnish crew members declared the winner. The controversial decision was based on the faulty lighting that graced the three Minis that year. The name of the small car had long been established in motorsport circles thanks to the victories in 1964 and 1965. Rallies in which the Cooper S as Morris Mini drove heavy guns from Mercedes, Jaguar and Volvo.
Not just a sporting success
The Cooper S did not stand alone in the various international rallies. The top version of the Austin Seven and the Morris Mini Minor was a sales hit anyway. The longest-produced version – the one with the 1275 cc engine – found a buyer 40.153 times. The Cooper versions also piggybacked on the exterior changes made to the Minis during the 1967s and 1969s. From XNUMX, the Coopers - just like the other Minis - got the more angular grille, the larger rear window and the larger rear light units. And when the third generation of the Mini was introduced in XNUMX, the Cooper changed again. The door hinges on the outside disappeared, and the door windows in the front doors were no longer sliding windows, but could be turned down. The "normal" Cooper was taken out of production, the "S" was built on.
Production of the Cooper S also ended in 1971. In the final years of its impressive career, British Leyland supplied the peppery Mini alongside the less temperamental Mini 1275 GT, which remained in production until 1980. The latter version was characterized by the Clubman nose and rostyle rims. He succeeded the regular Cooper, but couldn't match the Cooper S: neither in performance nor in appearance. It shows the three-time winner of the Rallye Monte Carlo wrote his own history within the classic Mini range. In fact, thanks to the Cooper S, the little Mini became a legend.