Ex-Works Monte Carlo Rally Mini
Monte Carlo Cooper was specially kitted out for endurance rallying, and boasts additional dials and controls. It still wears competition stickers with pride.
It’s fair to say the Mini Cooper – which won the hearts of millions of driving enthusiasts the world over – was never part of the plan. BMC created the Mini as a cheap-to-run family car. Nothing more, nothing less.
However, sales were initially slow, and when Grand Prix-winning team owner John Cooper told BMC bosses the model had the potential to be a great competition car, they jumped at the chance to broaden its appeal.
Working closely with Alec Issigonis, who was lukewarm on the idea of his urban runabout being converted into a performance car, Cooper created a faster, more agile Mini. Originally fitted with a 997cc engine – 147cc more than standard – the MkI Cooper also featured the world’s smallest disc brakes, which were developed by aircraft maker Lockheed.
Launched in 1961, the Cooper was pressed into competition action virtually immediately. But while it recorded some decent results, it was not an instant hit with BMC’s older driving stars. Many regarded it as a punishment, often pleading with the management to let them pilot the firm’s ageing Austin Healeys instead. All that changed in 1964, when young Irish hot-shot Paddy Hopkirk swept to victory in the Monte Carlo rally driving a 1,071cc Cooper S. This was the world’s most prestigious motorsport event, and the win transformed the Mini’s image overnight.
After the 1,071cc Cooper S came an even faster version – the 1,275cc S seen here. This particular car was built for ‘Flying Finn’ Rauno Aaltonen and was part of a six-car assault on the 1965 Monte Carlo. Although BMC emerged victorious, with Timo Makinen recording the Mini’s second straight victory, CRX 88B retired early on. Compared with today’s rally cars, the Cooper S is very basic, and the rudimentary roll cage and thin safety belts prove how brave the likes of Hopkirk, Aaltonen and Makinen were.
Just as the original Mini created the template for the modern small car, the Cooper S did the same for the hot hatch as we know it. Volkswagen and Peugeot may get credit for turning GTIs into money-spinners, but if you’re looking for the model that started it all – this is it.
In this review
- 1IntroductionWe rank and rate the best and worst in exclusive 12-car shoot-out.
- 2Ex-Works Monte Carlo Rally Mini - currently readingMonte Carlo Cooper was specially kitted out for endurance rallying, and boasts additional dials and controls. It still wears competition stickers with pride.
- 3Original Mini Minor (1959)Superb packaging gives space for four adults, although seats are tiny. Practical touches have become design classics, while on-road experience is sheer fun.
- 4MINI Cooper MkI (2001)With comfortable, well equipped cabin, 2001 car is a world away from original, although its retro styling both inside and out remains faithful to forebear.
- 5MINI JCW World Championship 50Special-edition JCW 50 pays tribute to F1 title-winning team of 1959 and bears the signature of racing legend John Cooper. It also features raft of racy upgrades.
- 6Clubman Mini 1275 GTReworked Mini GT clubman has boxy nose, 1,275cc powerplant, a more luxurious cabin and fresh instruments.
- 7Mini ClubmanFunky Clubman builds on Sixties’ rear barn-door set-up With a unique side arrangement to allow easy access for those in the back. Attention to design and engineering detail is true to original car’s revolutionary concept.
- 8Mini TravellerMinimalist, Colour-coded interior and dependable if diminutive engine give estate all the charm of the standard mini, but Traveller’s larger boot and barn-style rear doors ensure added practicality and versatility.
- 9MINI GP WorksHigh-performance Works gp ensured the first-generation new MINI went out in style, thanks to sporty body mods, stripped-out cabin and potent powerplant.
- 10Mini MkII (1967)It may have been touted as all-new, but 1967 MkII still features spartan principles of its predecessor, including sliding windows, simple door handles and a basic dash
- 11Mini MigliaEye-catching Miglia racer’s low ride height and super stiff suspension give it incredible cornering ability. Inside, carbon fibre dash and modern race instruments provide a touring car feel.
- 12Rover Mini CooperModel shares the same cramped driving position as the original, and familiar Cooper badging ensures it looks the part.
- 13ERA Mini TurboWith potent engine and sporty modifications, ERA MINI Turbo had all the ingredients for success, but appeal of fastest classic variant was hit by recession and sold in small numbers.