The Mini Cooper was one of Britain’s great motor sport legends, an inspired confection that became the definitive rally car of the Sixties. Because of its size, maneuverability, and front-wheel drive, the Cooper could dance around bigger, more unwieldy cars and scuttle off to victory.
The hot Mini was a perfect blend of pin-sharp steering, terrific handling balance, and a feeling that you could get away with almost anything. Originally the brainchild of race car builder John Cooper, the Mini’s designer, Alec Issigonis, thought it should be a “people’s car” rather than a performance machine and did not like the idea of a souped-up Mini. Fortunately BMC (British Motor Corporation) did, and agreed to a trial run of just 1,000 cars. One of their better decisions.
The Cooper S, built between 1963–67, came in a choice of 970 or 1071cc engines and had wider wheels and different badging from the stock Cooper.
Roof-mounted spotlight could be rotated from inside the car.
Radial tires were on the Cooper S but not the standard Cooper.
Windshield was glass, but all other windows were made out of Plexiglas to save weight.
With a low center of gravity and a wheel at each extreme corner, the Mini had the perfect credentials for tramlike handling.
24 PK wears the classic Mini rally uniform of straightthrough exhaust, Minilite wheels, roll bar, twin fuel tanks, and lightweight stick-on license plates. BMC had a proactive Competitions Department.
Competitions departments often swapped license plates, bodyshells, and chassis numbers, making it hard to identify genuine ex-race Coopers.
In the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally, the Cooper produced a giant-killing performance, trouncing 4.7-liter Fairlanes to win. It never looked back, winning the ’62 and ’64 Tulip Rallies, the ’63 Alpine Rally, the ’65 and ’67 Monte Carlo, and more than 25 other prestigious races.
The 1071 cc A-series engine would rev to 7,200 rpm, producing 72 bhp. Crankshaft, conrods, valves, and rockers were all toughened, and the Cooper also had a bigger oil pump and beefed-up gearbox. Lockheed disc brakes and servo provided the stopping power.
Though this is a 1071cc example, the 970cc version was the rarest of all Coopers, with only 964 made.
This example, 24 PK, was driven by Sir Peter Moon and John Davenport in the 1964 Isle of Man Manx Trophy Rally. But, while leading the pack on the penultimate stage of the rally at Druidale, 24 PK was badly rolled and needed a complete reshell. Many race Coopers led a hard life, often rebuilt and reshelled several times.
Front grille was quick-release to allow access for emergency repairs to distributor, oil cooler, starter motor, and alternator.
For night rally stages, Coopers needed maximum illumination. Straps held on the headlight protectors.
PRICE TO PAY
The price difference between the Cooper and the S was £569 ($860) for the standard car and £695 ($1,050) for the S.
The Cooper has typical rally-car features: wood-rim Moto-Lita wheel, fire extinguisher, Halda trip meter, tachometer, stopwatches, and maplight. The only features that would have been standard equipment are the center speedo, heater, and switches.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Austin Mini Cooper (1963–69)
PRODUCTION 145,000 (all models)
BODY STYLE Sedan.
CONSTRUCTION All steel two-door monocoque mounted on front and rear sub-frames.
ENGINES Four-cylinder 970cc/ 997cc/998cc/1071cc/1275cc.
POWER OUTPUT 65 bhp at 6500 rpm to 76 bhp at 5800 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Four-speed, no synchromesh on first.
SUSPENSION Independent front and rear suspension with rubber cones and wishbones (Hydrolastic from late 1964).
BRAKES Lockheed front discs with rear drums.
MAXIMUM SPEED 100 mph (161 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 12.9 sec
0–100 MPH (0–161 KM/H) 20 sec
A.F.C. 30 mpg (10.6 km/l)