First seen on the back of a Mini in 1961, the Cooper name has been synonymous with the brand for over half a century. But how many people know the story of how racing driver John Cooper and his father Charles revolutionised this iconic little car?
The legendary JCW badge - John Cooper Works - today stands for outstanding dynamics, superb handling and a driving experience that is second to none.
But John and his father Charles could have had little idea of the impact they would have when they joined forces to form the Cooper Car Company in 1946.
The Cooper Car Company became the first British motor racing manufacturer to win the Formula One constructors' championship, which it took two years in a row. Its Cooper-Climax cars also brought Jack Brabham the championship titles in 1959 and 1960.
When the Mini launched in 1959, John Cooper created a revamped version shortly after and pitted it in a race at Monza against an Aston Martin DB4. The little Mini, driven by Roy Salvadori beat the Aston Martin by a full hour!
John sold the company following Charles’ death in 1964 and turned his attention to the Mini Cooper. It went on to dominate the rally circuit, winning Monte Carlo in 1964, 1965 and 1967.
But the Mini’s start in life was very different. It was a car designed out of necessity for fuel economy when petrol was rationed following the Suez Canal crisis in 1956. It originally had a one-litre engine - later deemed too sporty and relaunched in 1959 with just 848cc.
With front-wheel drive short overhangs and wheels planted on each corner its low centre of gravity gave it go-kart handling still coveted today. John Cooper saw the potential.
Mini and Cooper’s success continued throughout the 60s, and then returned in the 90s and early 00s with the very last Classic Minis rolling off the production line in 2001.
It was at this time, the New MINI by BMW was created. Keeping unique design features such as chrome bumpers, and grill and a centre dial dashboard, round air vents and toggle switches all reminiscent of the original cars.
Simultaneously, John Cooper Works was set up by John’s son Michael, producing tuning kits to increase performance for these new cars.
When the MINI Cooper S launched in 2002 John Cooper Works was asked to enhance the already exciting car. The John Cooper name once again transforming the MINI with racing DNA.
More than 70 years later the Cooper and MINI names remain one of the best loved brands in the world.
At Dick Lovett MINI, we have a number of John Cooper Works cars available across the range, from 3-door Hatch and Convertible to the Countryman and Clubman, all offering the ultimate in performance, handling and styling.