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Mini Cooper S

Published: 31st May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mini Cooper S
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Fancy owning a motorsport legend for road and track use? Paul Davies looks at true classics that made their name on rally stages and race tracks, and still provide a fine drive today

The ultimate incarnation of designer Alec Issigonis baby car with ‘wheel at each corner’ concept. Tweaked initially by innovative racing car builder John Cooper - then later with more than a little help from the equally brilliant Daniel Richmond, of Downton, and BMC’s own Eddie Maher - the diminutive Mini Cooper S completely re-wrote the rule book when it came to ‘cheap’ performance saloons. Nimble handling - if a little hampered by wheels of only 10ins diameter - plus a favourable power to weight ratio gave the ‘S’ a bigger punch than its size suggested.Rallymen like Paddy Hopkirk and Timo Makinen, racers John Rhodes and Gordon Spice, not to mention irrepressible dual-discipline wheelman, Barrie ‘Whizzo’ Williams were some of the stars. With just a little recall you can think of a score or so other famous names; they made the Cooper S, and it made them. Three outright victories on the Monte Carlo Rally (it should have been four, if not for a political disqualification!) plus numerous British saloon car titles, established the Cooper S as a favourite competition car from its birth in 1963. In fact if we stretch the envelope a little, it was still winning 15 years later in softer Mini 1275GT form - indeed it’s still winning now in many club and historic events. The first cars featured a very special version of the robust and tuneable A-series engine, with nitrided crankshaft and numerous other lovely competition-bred parts. The 1071cc version was based on an over-square Formula Junior engine, whilst the 970cc version (which remained in production for less than 12 months) was specifically created to creep under the one litre class limit on international events. The big selling model was the lustier longstroke 1275 S, which in competition trim became1293cc, and boasted well over 100bhp. From 1969 onwards the production engine lost many of its specialist components, but guys likeRichard Longman - a former Downton employee - kept on tuning and racing them to great effect. The Cooper S prompted an explosion of the tuning industry, from bolt-on bits such as wheel spacers and bonnet clips, to serious stuff like the Arden eight-port cylinder head that overcame the power-sapping siamesed porting of the production head. BMC (later British Leyland) Special Tuning supplied factory-developed parts, and so did a host of independent specialists. Nowadays real Cooper S cars (we’re not counting the BMW New Mini here!) are hard to find, but if you get a good one you will own a piece of automotive history - and driving it will put a big grin of your face. Every time.

Mini Cooper S Summary


1071 S: 1963-64; 970 S: 1964-65; 1275 S: 1965-71; Total - 191,000 (all models).


Engine: Transverse BMC A Series overhead-valve 1071 cc; 970 cc; 1275 cc.
Gearbox: Four-speed, mounted below crankshaft.
Drive: Front wheels.
Power: 70 bhp (1071/970); 75 bhp (1275).
Suspension: Independent all round, with Moulton rubber cone ‘springs’ and then Hydrolastic fluid damping (known as ‘wet’ cars).
Brakes: Servo discs at the front, drums to the rear.

Claim to fame

Monte Carlo Rally: 1964 (Hopkirk/Liddon), 1965 (Makinen/Easter), 1967 (Aaltonen/Liddon). Osram-GEC Saloon Car Championship: 1969 (Richard Longman). British Touring Car Championship: 1969 (Alec Poole), 1978 and 1979 (Longman/1275GT). More race and rally wins than anyone can count!

Where to buy

Mini specialists, clubs and the small ads in the likes of Classic Cars for Sale - of course. Genuine ‘works’ cars sometimes appear at major auctions but in contrast are rarely likely to make the local paper.

What to look for

Fakes. It’s easy to replicate from the parts bin, but the engine’s not likely to be genuine S. Lack of extra bolt on the cylinder head is a give-away, plus wheels without ventilation holes and no bigger discs. Check chassis and engine numbers with experts to be on the safe side. May have been re-shelled due to rust or accident damage.

What to pay

Don’t expect to pay less than £7000 for a real S, and you’ll need the same again to bring it up to scratch. Cars with ‘works’ history have been known to reach £30,000-plus so if you are offered a car on the chep then expect it to be a fake, stolen, or in poorer condition than it actually looks.


Mini Cooper Register, Spring Cottage, Small Hythe, Tenterden, Kent TN30 7NE;

Classic sport

Anything ‘clubbie’ from autotests to special stage rallies. Outclassed in top level rallying by the Porsche 911 (Historics) and Ford Escort Twin Cam (Post Historic) but still a good class winner.

Maintenance, tuning and sport

The market is still very much alive with off-theshelf availability of most performance parts; latest technology offers even bigger-bore engine kits and sophisticated induction systems based, would you believe upon motorcycle carburettors! Look for ads in specialist Mini and tuning magazines.

Competitive Rating: 10

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