The Mini Cooper and Cooper S – 1961–2000
Issigonis' friend John Cooper, owner of the Cooper Car Company, designer and builder of Formula 1 and rally cars, saw the potential of the Mini. Issigonis was initially reluctant to see the Mini in the role of a performance car - but after John Cooper appealed to BMC management, the two men collaborated to create the Mini Cooper. The Austin Mini Cooper and Morris Mini Cooper debuted in 1961.
The original 848 cc engine from the Morris Mini-Minor was increased to 997 cc, boosting power from 34 bhp to 55 bhp (25 to 41 kW). The car featured a racing-tuned engine, double SU carburettors, close-ratio gearbox and front disc brakes, uncommon at the time in a small car. One thousand units of this iteration were commissioned by management, intended for and designed to meet the homologation rules of Group 2 rally racing. The 997 cc engine was replaced by a shorter stroke 998 cc unit in 1964.
A more powerful Mini Cooper, dubbed the "S", was developed in tandem and released in 1963. Featuring a 1071 cc engine and larger servo-assisted disc brakes, 4,030 Cooper S cars were produced and sold until the model was updated in August 1964. Cooper also produced two models specifically for circuit racing, rated at 970 cc and a 1275 cc, both of which were also offered to the public. The smaller-engine model was not well received, and only 963 were built until the model was discontinued in 1965. The 1275 cc Cooper S models were discontinued in 1971.
Sales of the Mini Cooper were as follows: 64,000 Mk I Coopers with 997 or 998 cc engines; 19,000 Mk I Cooper S with 970, 1071 or 1275 cc engines; 16,000 Mk II Coopers with 998 cc engines; 6,300 Mk II Cooper S with 1275 cc engines. There were no Mk III Coopers and just 1,570 Mk III Cooper S's.
The Mini Cooper S earned acclaim with Monte Carlo Rally victories in 1964, 1965, and 1967. Minis were initially placed first, second and third in the 1966 rally as well, but were disqualified after a controversial decision by the French judges. The disqualification related to the use of a variable resistance headlamp dimming circuit in place of a dual-filament lamp. It should be noted that the Citroën DS that was eventually awarded first place had illegal white headlamps but escaped disqualification. The driver of the Citroën, Pauli Toivonen, was reluctant to accept the trophy and vowed that he would never race for Citroën again. BMC probably received more publicity from the disqualification than they would have gained from a victory - but had the Mini not been disqualified, it would have been the only car in history to be placed amongst the Monte Carlo winners for six consecutive years.
In 1971 the Mini Cooper design was licensed in Italy by Innocenti and in 1973 to Spain by Authi (Automoviles de Turismo Hispano-Ingleses), which began to produce the Innocenti Mini Cooper 1300 and the Authi Mini Cooper 1300, respectively.
A new Mini Cooper named the RSP (Rover Special Products) was briefly relaunched in 1990 to 1991, with slightly lower performance than the 1960s Cooper. It proved so popular that the new Cooper-marked Mini went into full production in late 1991. From 1992 Coopers were fitted with a fuel-injected version of the 1275 cc engine, and in 1997 a multi-point fuel injected engine was introduced, along with a front-mounted radiator and various safety improvements
The Mini Clubman and 1275GT – 1969 to 1980
Mini clubman 1976
In 1969 under the ownership of British Leyland, the Mini was given a facelift by stylist Roy Haynes, who had previously worked for Ford. The restyled version was called the Mini Clubman, and sported a more square frontal look, similar to that of the much larger Austin Maxi. (In fact, the Clubman and 1275GT shared exactly the same indicator/sidelight assembly as the Maxi.) The Mini Clubman was intended to replace the upmarket Riley and Wolseley versions. A new model, dubbed the 1275GT, was slated as the replacement for the 998 cc Mini Cooper. (The 1275 cc Mini Cooper S continued alongside the 1275GT for two years until 1971.) The Clubman Estate took over where the Countryman and Traveller left off.
The 1275GT is often incorrectly described as the "Mini Clubman 1275GT". The official name was always just the "Mini 1275GT", and it was a separate, distinct model from the Clubman (albeit, it shared the same frontal treatment as the Mini Clubman, and was launched at the same time).
In 1971, the 1275 cc Mini Cooper S was discontinued, leaving the Mini 1275GT as the only sporting mini on sale in the UK for the rest of the decade. (Innocenti in Italy, however, continued making their own version of the Mini Cooper for some time.) While not as quick as a 1275 Mini Cooper S, the 1275GT was cheaper to buy, run, and insure. It was the first Mini to be fitted with a tachometer. It also featured a standard-fit close-ratio gearbox. Performance of the 1275GT was lively for the time, achieving 0–60 mph in 12.9 seconds, and the excellent midrange torque offered a 30–50 mph time in fourth gear of only 9 seconds. The bluff front-end, however, meant that the model would struggle to attain a 90 mph top speed. The 1275 cc A-series engine could be cheaply and easily tuned, though the cheap purchase price and prominent "sidewinder" door stripes meant that this model developed a reputation as something of a "boy-racer special" during the '70s and into the '80s.
The Mini Clubman and 1275GT were responsible for two motoring "firsts". They were the first vehicles to use a flexi printed-circuit board behind the dash instruments (universal nowadays, but technically advanced for 1969). Secondly, the 1275GT was the first vehicle to be offered with run-flat tyres; from 1974 this model could be ordered with optional Dunlop Denovo tyres on 12-inch diameter rims. In the event of a puncture, the Dunlop Denovo tyre would not burst and quickly deflate, but could continue to be used safely at speeds of up to 50 mph. This was a useful safety feature, although the increased road noise and relatively poor grip of this tyre meant that many 1275GT buyers ignored this option.
Throughout the 1970s, British Leyland continued to produce the classic 1959 "round-front" design, alongside the newer Clubman and 1275GT models. The long-nose Clubman and 1275GT offered better crash safety, were better equipped, and had vastly better under-bonnet access, but were more expensive. The Mini Clubman and 1275GT were replaced in 1980 by the new hatchback Austin Metro, while production of the original "round-front" mini design continued for another 20 years. At the end of Clubman and 1275GT production, 275,583 Clubman saloons, 197,606 Clubman Estates and 110,673 1275GTs had been made