Mini Cooper S - Rally Giant in a Small Package
One of the most influential cars to come out after the Second World war was definitely the Austin or Morris Mini (1959). Not only was it groundbreaking in terms of technology and concept, but it was the first small car with front-wheel drive and a transverse mounted engine. For the late 50’s, this was a big achievement and a totally new product on the market, even if the car was diminutive in size and only about 3.05 meters long.
Innovative concept in design
Very soon after its introduction, the Mini displayed many advantages of its concept. It was very light and nimble, and the front wheel drive completely changed the driving dynamic. In contrast to other cars in that class on the market, the Mini was an advanced machine with great road handling and small turn circles. It was ideal for city driving, but with such capabilities it was ideal for something else too – racing!
Potential of the Mini
John Cooper, the owner of Cooper Car Company, and friend of Alek Issigonis, the Mini designer, saw the potential of the Mini. The platform was there, but the engine just wasn’t powerful enough. Issigonis and Cooper developed a 997 ccm engine by increasing the stroke and capacity of a regular Mini engine (848 ccm), and increasing the power from diminutive 34 bhp to 55 bhp. The new model was introduced in 1961, and it was named Mini Cooper Mk1. The Mini Cooper was fantastic, and the bigger engine, revised suspension & braking helped enhance the already great driving characteristics. With its perfect road handling, the Mini Cooper could handle the curves much better than some more expensive and powerful cars.
Small power output by lots of performance
In 1963, the Mini Cooper S version was introduced. It had more power (70 bhp) and it was better equipped with servo assisted disc brakes on front wheels. A year later, all-new 1275 ccm engine was introduced, and with this powerplant, the Mini Cooper S stayed in production up until early 70’s.
Mini Cooper was successful right from the start
From the very beginning of production, the Mini Cooper was made to race – which it did with great success. The small city car was very well received in touring car races and hill climbs, but the main battlefield for the Mini Cooper was always the rally. According to some sources, the Mini Cooper brought home no fewer than 153 racing wins in 1962 alone. The first big win was in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally, where the Mini surprised everybody with its potential. In 1965, the Mini again scored the first place with its competition well behind. It looked like the Mini would win again in 1966 and it did, only to be stripped of the winning position days after the race. In a highly controversial move, the organizers disqualified the Mini, which had finished first, because it had “an uneven number of headlights“. The first place was given to Citroën and the Mini crew went home reasonably angry. However, they were back the following year (with their headlights in order too), and won Monte Carlo once again.
In the touring car championships, the Mini was often very competitive. As for the UK, the Mini was a regular title holder in smaller classes and had a very interesting cup championship. Some drivers even had a special driving technique for the Mini. They would hardly use the brakes, and instead brake by sharp turning – which resulted in burning of the front tires. John “Smoking“ Rodhes’ Mini used one set of brake pads for the whole season and two sets of front tires per race.
Today, the Mini Cooper is as popular as it was in the 60’s, and a well-remembered champion. They are still quite fast and interesting cars to both drive and race.
Video – Mini Cooper S drive