The legendary Mini Cooper S celebrates its 50th Anniversary in April 2013.
The original Austin/Morris Mini, released in the UK in 1959, featured an east-west engine of 848 cc producing 34bhp with a top speed of 72 mph.
Although Alec Issigonis, designer of the Mini, claimed that he had no thoughts of competition or motor sports when he designed it, the reality is that he designed a car with excellent road holding and stability and with an agility and a compactness that could make up for lack of outright performance. So it’s not really a great surprise that he eventually teamed up with John Cooper, who had successfully been using BMC “A” series engines in his Formula Junior race cars, to produce a more potent Mini.
The first Mini Cooper was introduced in September 1961, and featured a larger 997 cc engine with twin SU carburettors, modified cylinder head and a three branch exhaust system. A remote gear shift and tiny 7 inch front disk brakes completed the picture. The 997 cc Mini Cooper produced 55 bhp and increased top speed from 72 to 88 mph, while reducing 0 to 60 mph times from 30 seconds to 18 seconds. And this was just the beginning.
The original Mini Cooper S (S for Special) was launched in April 1963, with a larger 1071 cc engine (to suit the 1100 cc racing class regulations). A new cylinder block was used, along with a strengthened gearbox, thicker rear drum brakes, larger front disks with power servo, wider wheels, etc. The new package producing 70 bhp (ie twice the power of the original Mini 850 cc engine), with a top speed of almost 95 mph and 0 to 60 mph down to less that 13 seconds. Compare this to BMC’s “real” sports car of the time; the 1100 cc MG Midget with only 55 bhp, top speed of 88 mph and 0 to 60 mph in 18 seconds.
In 1964, the Mini Cooper S range had increased to include three different engines: 970 cc, 1071 cc and the legendary 1275 cc, all designed to fit within the 1 litre, 1100 cc and 1300 cc racing classes respectively. The 1275 cc engine, producing 76 bhp was launched in April 1964 and survived until the end of the original Coopers in 1971, and into the UK 1275GT (which wasn’t really a Cooper). A Mini Cooper S with the 1275 engine became a very popular road car, and an extremely successful competition car.
The Mini Coopers are remembered by different people for different reasons, but winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967 (and many say 1966 as well), plus having a starring role in “The Italian Job” are fond memories for many.
Cooper S in Australia
Australians were presented with their local version of the 997 cc Mini Cooper in October 1962, with the 998 cc engine introduced in early 1964. Production of the Australian Mini Cooper lasted until late 1964.
The Australian Mini Cooper S MkI was launched in September 1965 (just before the 1965 Bathurst race) and came with a 1275 cc engine, 7.5 inch disk brakes, hydrolastic suspension, Smiths heater, laminated windscreen, Dunlop SP41 radial tyres, front seat belts, and a right hand fuel tank. The Australian Cooper S was a slightly different creature to its UK counterpart, mainly because of the local content in what was essentially the local Mini Deluxe body shell, with windup windows and quarter lights. The 970 cc and 1071 cc Cooper S were never produced in Australia.
The Mini Cooper S MkII was introduced in May 1969, and featured new badging, black interior, bolt-on wheel arch extensions, an alternator, and a four speed synchro gearbox. It retained most of the MkI external features (eg bumper, tail-lights, front grill, etc) and did not adopt these parts from the UK MkII Cooper S.
Australian Cooper S production continued until 1971 when all Minis were given the new Clubman type body shell (although unlike the UK, the Cooper S mechanicals did go into the Clubman GT).
Approximately 7,400 Australian made Mini Cooper S cars were built. The Cooper S in Australia repeated the racing and rally successes in Europe, with the highlight being the first nine places in the 1966 Bathurst 500 endurance race.
Click Here to visit our Australian Classic Cars Image Gallery for more images of the 1970 Mini Cooper S MkII.