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Rover Mini

Published: 30th Jun 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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The Rover’s return

Although it’s not as desirable as the original, the 1990’s relaunch of the classic Cooper is not to be sneered at if you want classic Mini thrills – at a mini price

I REALLY WANT A MINI COOPER BUT THEY’RE GETTING EXPENSIVE

Yes, prices for the original Cooper and especially the Cooper S, have soared dramatically over the past couple of years. So what about a Rover-badged one instead?

THEY’RE NOT AS GOOD!

Okay, granted, they don’t possess the cachet of the proper original Cooper of the 1960s and never will but the Rover rebadge is a good alternative that’s, with rare exceptions, at least half the price of an original plus at least you won’t run the risk of being ripped off by purchasing an expensive fake as you can with the Cooper S!

TELL ME MORE…

Rover decided to relaunch the Cooper in 1990 – and drop the 1275 GT Clubman, which ironically replaced the Cooper in 1969, at the same time – to give the ageing 30 something Mini a new lease of life simply to see out its last ten years. True, this time the Cooper wasn’t a hotted up Mini anymore as they all now shared the same 1275cc engine.

However, this kicks out just over 60bhp which was just a shade more than the original Coopers did and so performance is not just improved but not far short of the iconic S. Best of all, it gives Cooper-like performance and fun but with the benefit of more refinement and comfort plus many do not need major work or even restoring due to their age.

THEY LOOK GOOD!

Yup, like a Mini Cooper should complete with a two tone paint job (BMC’s head of competitions Stuart Turner thought of that back in the 1960s to deflect heat away from the interior during hot overseas rallies) although the ‘signed’ bonnet stripes are a matter of taste. But you get flared wheel arches and replica Minilite alloy wheels as a trade off. Inside you enjoy a much nicer interior design with a smidgen of civility thanks to Metro seats and a proper, decently planned dashboard.

ANY GO-FASTER BITS?

Loads from John Cooper (John Cooper Works equipment) who also relaunched the Cooper S with up to 84-90bhp and performance – enough to shame a Golf GTi. Aside from go-faster equipment there are a raft of customising parts, available and you can turn the interior of these Minis into a mini Roller if you wish with all that wood and leather that’s still available.

WHAT ARE THE BEST MODELS TO GO FOR?

The first Rover Coopers came (single) carb-fed but a year later, fuel injection replaced it for 63bhp. Full Works tune engines are good for 90bhp and 84bhp in less frantic ‘Touring’ tune. Try to get one with worthwhile extras such as the Sports Pack which included Koni dampers, wider wheels and even a leather trim option.

Some cars were also fitted with a five-speed gearbox – something the Mini has demanded for years – but these are rare finds.

For 1997 model year the (Mk7) Mini received its last facelift – but it was a significant one. Added safety was incorporated while the radiator was – at last – front mounted; together with an electric cooling fan, it reduces engine noise making the car more bearable on a run.

Talking of which all Minis also received a taller final drive ratio to make motorway driving more relaxing. Bear in mind that, like the MGR V8, the Japanese loved ’em and of those exported a good number boasted automatic transmission and air con.

HOW MUCH THEN?

You can get a good solid fairly original Cooper from around £500-£4000 with the tuned S models appreciably more. All are vastly cheaper than the 60’s namesakes although there are exceptions, notably a last of the line Cooper Sport 500 (£8000-10,000+) and the rarest of them all, the Sports LE where just 100 were built.

Average and project Coopers can be had for less than £1000 but as tempting as they may be, a basket case may not be worth bothering with due to the cost of renovation.  And in the same vein, just incase you have a rotting old Mini around doing nothing, bear in mind that surprisingly little fits these later models – even though they look almost identical!

Talking of which…. As a standard Cooper provides no more power than a normal Mini, there’s nothing to stop you doing what they did back in the swinging 60s and 70s and tuning and customising a standard Mini (of which you may be able to find in better nick and cheaper) into a Cooper-eater.

SAME OLD MINI MALADIES, THEN?

Pretty much so; they all rust in the same places and the rear subframes and the floors from stem to stern are still real rot spot regions which will cause an MoT failure (you can replace subframes at home and save quite a bit of cash, but it’s dirty, rusty job). Although the engine is so well proven, still watch for oil leaks and smoking, clattering high milers.

A clicking on full lock signifies worn out CV joints (easily replaced), and check the driveshafts, along with the radius arms at the rear which also fail. All later Minis featured a ‘dry’ suspension so there’s no hydrolastic fluid leaks to worry about.

ARE THEY CLASSICS?

Thought you’d ask that question! Given that Minis went out of production almost 15 years ago after a 41 year run, then all are classics to some degree but some are more desirable than others.

Rover Coopers introduced sporty Mini motoring to a new audience although within the ranks of Mini enthusiasts aren’t held in such high esteem as John Cooper’s original Coopers and never will be.

But what the Rover models offer is classic Cooper motoring for a lot less cost than if you wanted an original plus you get a better car into the bargain especially in the brakes and the interior departments as well as one you can use everyday.

John Cooper gave his blessing to this 90’s revival and that’s what really counts, isn’t it?



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