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Mini Cooper S

Super Cooper Published: 1st Feb 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mini Cooper S

Fast Facts

  • Best model: 1275 S
  • Worst model: Anything fake
  • Budget buy: Anything tatty
  • OK for unleaded?: No . you need an additive
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L 3048x W 1410mm
  • Spares situation: Very good
  • DIY ease?: No problem
  • Club support: Excellent
  • Appreciating asset?: Surprisingly rapidly
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Tiny car but huge fun
Early cars were Austin or Morris. Downton badge suggests it’s tuned Early cars were Austin or Morris. Downton badge suggests it’s tuned
Check for that extra stud on the cylinder head to signify that it’s a genuine S engine. A-Series is durable and parts supply is no great problem Check for that extra stud on the cylinder head to signify that it’s a genuine S engine. A-Series is durable and parts supply is no great problem
Cooper interior shown, the S differs slightly in trim (well worth knowing if you suspect a fake). Comfort is minimal, reclining seats help Cooper interior shown, the S differs slightly in trim (well worth knowing if you suspect a fake). Comfort is minimal, reclining seats help
Pre-69 cars had slide windows and useful door pockets Pre-69 cars had slide windows and useful door pockets
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Outrageous point-to-point performance rather than pace makes it unmatched as a Q car. Minimal refi nement but maximum fun, the Cooper S is as easy to run as a normal Mini, meaning fakes and bodges all too rife so take care when buying

Mini Cooper S

Small but big on fun. There’s one thing that tends to group the most desirable classics; they’re invariably hugely costly to buy and maintain. But not always, because the Mini Cooper S is the proof; for relatively moderate money you can have unfeasible amounts of fun in a car that’s a fraction of the size of most classics. Indeed, it’s those diminutive proportions that make the Cooper S so enjoyable to drive; the resulting light weight gives the car an agility that most of its rivals – or potential rivals – just can’t match. There’s a catch though, because while the Cooper S has long been appreciating, the rate at which it’s currently gaining value means that it won’t be long before all but the scrappy S’s of are priced out of reach. With 2013 marking the icon’s 50th birthday, it’ll be thrust back into the limelight once more and values will continue to positively soar further. So if you want one don’t delay.


Fakes have foxed many experts but what’s wrong with one if the price is right and you like it?

1959 Soon after the launch of the Mini 850, racing driver John Cooper reckoned this new small car would make a great racer. Alec Issigonis didn’t agree, and blocked Cooper’s plans to produce a racing edition along with a faster road car. Cooper didn’t give up though; he went over Issigonis’ head and got approval from his boss George Harriman to build at least 1000 cars, so the car could get the necessary homologation. 1961 The Mini Cooper quickly became a legend, but that 1-litre capacity restricted the available power. What was needed was a larger, more powerful engine to make the car truly competitive in motorsport. With two years of Cooper sales now notched up, Issigonis needed no persuading of the value of a fruitier edition. This time BMC’s competitions department oversaw development, with Downton Engineering’s legendary Daniel Richmond helping out on a consultancy basis.

The decision was made to revert to the original 848cc block, which could be developed to fi t the 1000cc and 1300cc motorsport class limits that prevailed – the desired capacity could be achieved simply by fitting a different crankshafts, expensive nitride-hardened EN40B steel ones.

1963 Costing some £700 and loaded with top Group seven insurance, it initially featured a 1071cc powerplant and, packing a 70bhp punch and capable of revving to a heady 7200rpm (no wonder most folk forked out £12 for an oil cooler). Capable of 94mph along with 0-60mph in around 13 seconds, the S used the same four-speed gearbox as the regular Mini as standard, but buyers could instead choose a more highly geared fi nal drive along with a close-ratio transmission for just £7.50!

The focus of the S over the standard Cooper models was extra power and more braking capacity through the use of beefi er front discs, but there was extra agility too, with a more direct steering rack. The plan was to build 1000, but when production was halted after a year, more than 4000 had found owners.

Replacing the 1071 S were two options – the 970 and the 1275. While the former was offered for a short time only, and was built solely for homologation purposes, the latter would become the definitive Cooper S, with its torquey powerplant – there was a very healthy 80lbft on tap. Strong and reliable, it’s the Cooper S 1275 that’s become the most sought after of the breed.

In contrast, the 970cc Cooper S was available to special order only, and while it offered just 65bhp, this free-revving engine is also the sweetest of all the Cooper S options – and the rarest too. 1964 The Cooper would get the same upgrades as the regular Mini, most notably Hydrolastic suspension that appeared in September. However, while regular models reverted to dry-cone set-up late in 1969, the Cooper S, strangely, continued with fluid suspension right through until the end in 1971.

1965 That April the 970cc model was culled, leaving the 1275 to carry the Cooper S fl ag through to 1971, when the model would die altogether.

To mention every detail of the Cooper S and its differences and changes could fi ll Classic Motoring and some essential guide books are available. Heated rear window was made optional for ’66 while the Mk II took over in late ’67 boasting a wider rear window, new rear lights, larger front grille and certain interior changes where the trim was predominantly all black for Coopers although the seat design was improved.

Let’s not forget the 1990 reincarnations, launched as a Rover Mini. Essentially they were all 1275cc Coopers boasting no more power than a 1.3 Mini but extra tuning kits to make a modern Cooper S by John Cooper himself. These are a lot cheaper than a ‘proper’ Cooper S but boast modern refinements and safety kit. And crucially just as much fun as the originals!


As more than one motoring magazine test put it, the Cooper S was not so much a drive, more an experience and proves you don’t need power to have fun. Even the most powerful Cooper S packs just 76bhp – the 970S has 11bhp less – so you could be forgiven for thinking there couldn’t be many thrills on offer. But with a kerb weight of just 640-698kg depending on derivative, the Mini’s agility never fails to raise a smile. While the Cooper S isn’t slow, the fun it offers isn’t down to the outright speed available (0-60mph 11.5 seconds 98mph for the 1275, 14 secs 92mph for the 1071) but rather the combination of razor sharp steering and throttle response, aiding that already grin-inducing handling and general zippiness every Mini has. Look upon one as a go kart but for four!

When Motor put a 1071cc Cooper S through its paces in 1963, it was enthralled, with multiple references to a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It was moved to say: “The car is completely tractable, giving as good a service for shopping on Saturday morning as when racing on the Silverstone club circuit in the afternoon or rallying the same night. At a price of under £700 inclusive of purchase tax, this is one of the most inexpensive, most versatile and most exhilarating road cars ever offered”.

The greasy-fingered Practical Motorist even got its hands on one a year later, swapping spanners for driving gloves. It came away saying it’s a car you’d buy for the sake of driving enjoyment, yet still mustered over 34mpg out of one – although did hint that the sight of a super quick Mini did get other drivers’ backs up!

A more modern retrospective test in a glossy monthly almost 30 years later showed that the Mini’s fun factor was as strong as ever if not comfort and refinement. “You can go for gaps Fiestas fear to tread” it said, finishing by adding because the hot little Mini is minimalist “You can actually use it to its maximum.”


The Cooper S was always going to be a safe investment, but recent rises in value have taken many owners by surprise. The cheapest Cooper S is the 1071, but even projects are now fetching close to £10,000 while really superb examples are changing hands for in excess of £30,000 – expect to pay £18,000 for something tidy but not ready to show.

The 1275 S is the easiest to find, but prices tend to be higher than those for the 1071 S; something really good can command up to £35,000, although something that’s not too good to use is more likely to be £20-25,000. That leaves the 970 S, which is rare but less sought after. That doesn’t stop vendors from asking stiff prices though, so don’t expect to secure a good one for much under £25,000, while superb examples are closer to £30,000. Rally-prepared cars start at around £40,000 for something ready to go, but when it comes to cars with a rallying history – never mind an ex-works car – it’s possible to spend over £60,000.


When it comes to Mini improvements, the sky is the limit, but as originality is key for many buyers they don’t get so carried away and introduce modifi cations that can’t be reversed. Focus on improving usability, reliability and performance rather than simply personalising for the sake of it, and if you fit new parts, make sure you keep the originals.

What To Look For


  • Fake Cooper Ss are far too commonplace so gen up or you may be taken for a ride. As ever, speak to an owners club for guidance and check out Original Mini Cooper and Cooper S by Herridge & Sons (01409 281990); itfs a great book (ISBN 978-1-906133-19-1) packed with all you need to know . and more. Itfs also worth buying a copy of John Parnellfs originality guide (MBI, ISBN 0-7603-1228-1); essential reading if youfre not to be duped.
  • On the other hand therefs nothing wrong in buying a eCooper-isedf Mini so long as you know itfs not the real thing . and more importantly havenft paid Cooper S type money!
  • If you’ve come across a car that has been in motorsport, you check it against FIA papers.


  • Ensure you’re getting a genuine Cooper S powerplant; substitutions are often made. There are key issues that can crop up, the most likely being overheating and oil leaks. Also check for worn piston rings and bores, betrayed by oil being burned, especially upon acceleration after the over-run, while a noisy top end suggests that the rocker gear is worn.
  • If the engine runs unevenly, the carbs are probably worn or out of balance. Sorting this is easy and cheap, but fixing a cylinder head thatfs cracked between the valve seats isn’t so straightforward.
  • The Cooper’s gearbox is under great pressure, as its lubricant is shared with the engine. Until 1968 there was no first-gear synchromesh; many cars have post-1968 eboxes as theyfre easier to use. If 22G1128 is stamped on the transmission casing, a four-synchro gearbox is now fitted.
  • Beware that Mini ‘box has been utilised as they are of course much cheaper, not as strong plus the ratios are all wrong. Ditto the final drive unit.


  • Minis rust very badly, and the Cooper S is no exception! You need to check everywhere; outer and inner panels, floorpans, bulkhead . leave no stone unturned. Inner and outer front wings are especially rot-prone, especially the metal around the headlamp and all the seams between the various panels.
  • The rain gutters can rust through while the rear wings are just as likely to have rotted as the front ones. The rear valance could well be history by now and the same goes for the lower edge of the bootlid and the boot fl oor . which is frequently eaten away by leaking acid from the forgotten battery.
  • The sills are often rotten, along with the wheelarches, door bottoms, fl oorpans and subframes; once the latter has started to corrode signifi cantly, wholesale replacement is needed.


  • Pre-65 S featured conventional ‘dry’ suspension, with rubber cones and telescopic dampers. Subsequent cars had Hydrolastic suspension. Conversions from Hydrolastic are common, so if you want a completely original car make sure yours hasn’t been changed; it’s an involved job to convert it back. Leaks are common so check it sits all square.
  • The Mini’s rack-and-pinion steering is one of the things that makes it such a delight to drive; vagueness or stiffness means a fresh rack is needed, but itfs a cheap and easy task to perform. If the play is in the steering wheel, itfs because the bushes at the top (and maybe the bottom) have worn out; expect to pay ’65 to have them both replaced.
  • Still on steering racksc Mk II cars had a reduced turning circle and a 25 teeth rack. To enable this to be fi tted it requires Mk II steering arms and the rack isnft quite so high geared.


  • Good in their day, but as the car is driven hard, they struggle to cope, so worn and scored discs are normal. With virtually everything available to rebuild the braking system (standard callipers are obsolete sadly), therefs no excuse for poorly anchors.
  • This is an area well worth improving as there are numerous upgrades available but later Rover hardware necessitates larger wheels so originality is compromised, if that bothers you.

Three Of A Kind

ABARTH 595/695
ABARTH 595/695
Rare and very costly, if you can afford an Abarth 595 or 695 you’ve still got a guaranteed investment. They’re an absolute blast to drive too, thanks to the punchy rear-mounted engine, light weight and quirky styling.
MG 1100/1300
MG 1100/1300
Hugely under-rated, the MG is a great classic as it’s effectively an overgrown Mini but more practical plus prices are far lower. 1100 pretty tepid but last 1300 had almost Cooper S tune engine and same close ratio gearbox.
Forget its reputation. With its freerevving all-alloy engine, sharp steering and brilliant agility, the Imp Sport gives the Mini a run for its money – and tuning is easy too. Don’t forget rare Sunbeam Stiletto coupe.


The Cooper S is even more desirable now than it was half a century ago. As a result, these are some of the most faked cars around – which is surely a measure of just what hot property they are. Although, nearly 120,000 Coopers of the various types were produced, the Cooper S is much rarer. All are great to drive and unlikely to depreciate, but the pick is the Mk1 1275 S, built between April 1964 and September 1967. As long as you buy a good one, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see your super Cooper go up in value rather than down.

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