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Mini Cooper

Mini Cooper Published: 8th Apr 2020 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mini Cooper
Mini Cooper
Mini Cooper
Mini Cooper
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Forget the modern German BMW namesakes, the original British small wonder is still the Mini marvel to own and drive and never better than in super Cooper form

When it comes to legendary pairings, right up there with the likes of Astaire & Rogers, Morecambe & Wise and Lennon & McCartney is BMC & Cooper. Among petrolheads, that last one is perhaps the most iconic motoring collaboration of all time. Could you imagine a world without the Super Cooper? Issigonis hatched the masterpiece but racing constructor John Cooper gave the Mini some stardust and they are the most desired by far. However, you need to tread carefully when buying a Cooper.

Timelines

1961 Mini Cooper arrives with a 997cc engine, remote gear change, close-ratio gears, 3.76:1 final drive ratio, seven-inch front disc brakes, duotone paint plus a contrasting duotone interior borrowed from the Mini Super.

1963 Motorsport based Cooper S complements the regular Cooper with choice of three engine sizes.

1964 Revised SN4417 Smiths speedometers introduced with orange warning lights and calibrated to 105mph for 998cc Cooper and 130mph for 1275cc Cooper S. Hydrolastic suspension replaces rubber cone layout across entire Mini range (September), revised sun visors and rear view mirror, door courtesy light switches also introduced.

1967 MkII replaces MkI with redesigned grille and surround, bigger rear window, and larger tail light clusters. Plain black interior becomes standard at the end of September. Instrument dials given redesigned faces and rounded bezels.

1968 All synchromesh gearbox introduced.

1969 998cc Cooper engine prefixes change to: 99H 377CH (dynamo) and 99H 378CH (16ACR alternator). 1275GT replaces the 998cc Mini Cooper in November but Cooper S MkIII supersedes the MkII, 1971 MkIII Cooper S production ends.

1989 Cooper reappears albeit as a kit, becoming an offcial model the following year when a limited run of RSP Mini Coopers (Rover Special Projects) tests the water for a de-specced version.

1990 Cooper name reintroduced (along with a wealth of Cooper tuning and customising options) after demand for Cooper/Janspeed tuning kit exceeded expectations but Rover deciding to simply slot in the 1275cc A-Series engine for 61bhp to create a new Cooper with a retro paint scheme.

1992 Single point fuel injection replaced SU carb, boosting power to 63bhp – last Cooper made in late 2000.

Driving

It’s not the outright performance that’s so impressive – because Coopers aren’t seriously fast cars as such. In fact the hallowed 0-60 time of 16-17 seconds sounds positively pedestrian but what makes the Cooper such a winner is the way you can carry the speed through bends; driving one quickly is largely about conserving momentum.

Classic cars don’t have to be fast to be fun and any Mini proves it, let alone the souped up Cooper. Of course the Cooper suffers from all the usual Mini faults; it’s noisy, uncomfortable and austere but because the fun factor is so high you’ll happily live with such downsides.

Don’t dismiss the Rover Mini Cooper. Apart from being newer, and considerably cheaper than the original, it’s no rip off repro either and remains true to the blueprint. What you gain is a lustier 1.3-litre engine, better all round performance (not much down on a stock Cooper S if truth be told with a 0-60mph time of less than 12 seconds), welcome extra refinement, including better cruising, and on later models, safety kit such as a driver’s airbag.

Best models

We’ve deliberately left out the Cooper S because it deserves a feature in its own right. Basically it’s straight choice between the original or the 90’s reboot but with all cars the key thing is their provenance and honesty as fake Coopers were rife in their day. If you opt for an original there’s choice of ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ suspensions with the later the best handler but at the expense of the ride (not that Hydrolastic cars are comfy!) but bear in mind many cars have been converted over to ‘dry’. Some pre RSP Coopers will be quickest due to the tuning options, as much as 78bhp with the John Cooper S model.

Prices

There’s big difference in values between the original BMC car and the 90’s Rover issue even though they sport the same character. Rover Coopers can start from as little as £5000 although will need some work, stretching to as much as £20,000 for a concours rare Rover Cooper Sports model althoughthis is the exception to the norm as half this is plenty. In fact, if the Cooper name isn’t important then it’s as well to remember that the regular 1.3i Sprite offers the same performance for even less.

BMC Coopers start from £15,000 for a decent original car with a further 10 grand added for concours Coopers but this is still comfortably under what an equivalent Cooper S will sell for.

Verdict

The S may be best but you’ll find better value in a regular Cooper, which can easily be modified to match or exceed that icon. A Cooper is certainly just as much fun and that goes for the Rover model which is far more plentiful, cheaper, plus has the modern refinements an increasing number of enthusiasts will increasingly demand for modern motoring.

Delights of a downton

The 1967 Mini Cooper pictured here is rarer and as rapid as Cooper S, as it’s a Downton-tuned version. The car is owned by Paul Moran buying it in 2012 as several boxes of bits who comments: “A dealer was selling the Cooper as a project, but they didn’t know that it was a Downton-tuned car (the outfi t that made the Cooper S-ed). Once I’d handed over my money I started to research the history”. It transpired that the car had a unique build number which couldn’t be explained but turned out that the original owner was Rubery Owen [Ro Style wheel fame-ed]. It took three years for Paul to return his Cooper to the road, with as much of the original car retained as possible, although when he had the engine rebuilt the engineering company discovered that the camshaft was a profi le it had never seen before so presumably was a Downton item. The brakes, driveshafts and dampers were also upgraded to Cooper S items for better reliability.

Top five faults

Originality

Authenticity is vital as there are a lot of ‘Cooperised’ Minis out there. There’s a myriad of differences that only the experts know. Essentially, Coopers boast 7ins front disc brakes, no servo, twin 1 1/4ins SU carburettors, nine studs holding cylinder head in place etc… but there’s a lot more so seek owners’ club help

Body

Minis rust badly and if anything the latter Rover ones can fare worse. You need to check everywhere; outer and inner panels, floor, bulkhead – leave no stone unturned including those infamous rear subframes. Part and even new shells are available although latter BMH one isn’t strictly to BMC blueprints but close enough

Engine

Cooper engines need to be checked for worn piston rings and bores, betrayed by engine oil being burned, especially upon acceleration while a noisy top end suggests that the rocker gear is worn. Oil pressure should be 40-70lb at normal running mode. Rover Cooper EFIs have their own running issues on top of all this

Transmission

The Cooper’s gearbox is under even greater pressure, largely because of its lubricant being shared with the engine; but whining is usually down to worn bearings.

Check for general wear and this includes the driveshafts and the CV joints, the latter clicking on full lock if worn. Parts for AP auto box are scarce

Running gear

Steering should be light and positive; MkII racks have tighter turning circle. The rubber cone ‘dry’ suspension is durable and easy to fix. In contrast ‘wet’ is known to leak (check ride height) and parts are becoming harder to source. On all, check rear radius arms. Brakes generally fine apart from the handbrake quadrants



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