How MINI met John Cooper'Cooper' is a name plastered on the back of nearly every MINI, but where did it come from? From the latest MINI GP to the classic Mini we tell a little bit of its story.
It's one of the most famous names in automotive history yet the majority of people who say it have no idea where it came from. Cooper, now a name synonymous with Minis, used to do so much more than be a mere nameplate. John Cooper along his father founded the Cooper Car Company and they made racing cars. Cooper's cars changed the face of racing at all levels thanks to their innovative rear engine design. The likes of Moss, Brabham, McLaren cut their teeth in them. To say that Cooper made an impact would be an understatement. When the original Mini came out, Cooper decided he wanted to make it into something a little bit racier. So, Alec Issigonis, the MINI's designer, was a little bit reluctant, but Cooper was a persistent man and with sportier, racier, distinct and [unk], Mini Cooper debuted in 1961. The Cooper alongside the Cooper Sport was a hit both on and off track and remained in production until the 70s. Why no longer you ask, well, because that's when British Leyland took over and decided it didn't want to pay Cooper to license the name. Order was restored in 1990 and the Mini Cooper came back. The original MINI couldn't last forever though. The last proper Mini rolled off the line on the 4th of October 2000. It was a red Cooper Sport and as it left the production line, BMW took control of the Mini name. In the year 2000, John Cooper founded John Cooper Works to modify the newer, bigger BMW Minis. It's job was to make the new car just a little bit more kickass. Sadly, shortly after the company was founded, John Cooper passed away. His son, Mike, took over. John Cooper Works offered a myriad of packages to make your Mini just a little bit more special. The Cooper could come with for limited time, a [unk] upgrade and then after that, a noise upgrade. The Cooper S though could come with chain suspension, bigger breaks, more noise, more power, and some jazzy aero tweaks. It was essentially Mini plus. The good thing about buying a John Cooper Works though, was that they were allied with BMW and unlike other Mini tuners, getting one in wouldn't affect your warranty. JCW's chilling talents didn't end there though. In 2006 towards the end of the first new Mini's production brand, it released the car with possibly the longest name ever given to a vehicle, the Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP Kit. It had no rear seats, less sound-deadening, a 218 brake horsepower engine, an awesome supercharger wind, and its own unique look. Only 2,000 were made and each was numbered on its roof and inside. Such was the success of John Cooper Works that in 2007, BMW bought the company outright declaring it would make a perfect sub-brand. No longer an aftermarket jobby, JCW cars are built alongside the stablemates of the Oxford Plant, sync of John Cooper Works now as Minis end division. Now you can get a JCW version of pretty much every Mini, even the off marked Countryman and Paceman. They're all fast, yet still off a decent economy if that's your sort of thing. As the second generation of Mini ended its life, there was new exclusive JCW model, the GP2. Now, it's just as merry and exclusive as its forebear. It's got tweak suspension, a silly spoiler, bigger brakes, 1.3 minimal camber on its wheels and a tweak 1.6 liter 218 brake horsepower engine, it'll rip your face off and take you from north of 62 in just 6.3 seconds and up to 150 miles an hour. The GP is supposedly the ultimate Mini, the Mini that licks sights more than any other, the car that will make you go wibblier than these. So, is it? Come on. What do you think? This is a car that's been boiled down and distilled to create the most entertaining driving experience possible. This is the essence of John Cooper Works of MINI at the moments of fun. Fun, you see, has to be accessible to all, yet, still make you feel like you're on the edge. The controls are all very easy to use. The gear shifter's direct and slick, the steering is nice and light. There's plenty of visibility, it's just easy. So, into that cracking throttle response which is heightened by pressing the sport button and the chassis more compliant than a frustrated businessman in a dominatrix's dungeon, and, well, you've got a recipe for smiles. Also, throwing the fact there's less sound-deadening in here, is cracking motor just that little bit more. This is what a kid might think a racy Mini should be like. But there is a problem. There's a downside to accessible brilliance and it's a selfish one. I hate that it's so easy. Don't get me wrong, it's a brilliant car, but this light steering doesn't really stream sport and neither does the gear change. With the GP1, you have to put some effort in to get it to do what you wanted it to. You have to put your back into it. And I wonder, whether accessibility like this is an invitation for some who would say not that much experience to buy one over to the corner and end up in a hedge wondering, just what the hell happened. Worries aside, it's still the fastest, best-handling Mini you could buy, and it's very entertaining, and that's all down to a family that once ruled the racing world. So, Cooper, John Cooper Works on the Mini Cooper, now you know a little bit more about where it all came from, how it all started. You know, it's not just a name. It's much, much more than that.