Features

MINI John Cooper Works: a history of the hottest MINIs around

The MINI and Cooper names have been linked since the 60s and the John Cooper Works badge is still reserved for the ultimate versions

Throughout the Mini’s history, owners have been overcome by the desire to make their pocket rocket go even faster. There’s a thriving aftermarket industry, although one name’s become synonymous with fast Minis: Cooper.

The original Mini Cooper appeared in 1961, when Formula One team owner John Cooper bored out the standard car’s engine and fitted it with twin carburettors. He also added disc brakes and a close-ratio gearbox – and the car was a hit on the rally stages and with the buying public – which is why BMW revived the Cooper badge when it launched the new MINI in 2001.

• Classic Mini vs modern MINI: which is the better car?

Cooper, Cooper S and even Cooper D badges have graced every version of the new MINI that’s been sold since the brand’s revival for the 21st century, but the fastest and sportiest models of all bear the John Cooper Works name plate. 

However, the very first JCWs weren’t factory models, as the John Cooper Works company was founded by John’s son Michael Cooper as a tuning outfit for the new MINI. 

John Cooper Works’ first offering was a Tuning Kit for the standard MINI Cooper in 2001, which only boosted power by 11bhp to 126bhp, at a cost of around £1,500. Nevertheless, it had BMW’s blessing, so the standard MINI warranty was still valid.

In 2002, the Cooper S Tuning Kit was released, boosting the supercharged car to 200bhp. This kit could be fitted at a MINI dealer, and brought uprated engine parts and a new exhaust, as well as subtle John Cooper Works lettering. 

• The future of MINI: head man Jochen Goller reveals all

Another upgrade in 2005 added an extra 10bhp, although with a price tag of £3,600 for the Tuning Kit, these early JCW models are rare indeed. Come 2007 and the second-generation MINI, the turbocharged Cooper S had a similar performance upgrade. But everything changed in 2008 when BMW bought John Cooper Works, and also launched the first factory-built JCW version of the car. 

This allowed MINI to properly develop the performance model to pack 211bhp. It also fitted an electronic limited-slip differential, Brembo brakes and BMW’s advanced Dynamic Traction Control system. The result was one of the fastest and finest-handling hot superminis you could buy, and few cars could match its performance-per-pound ratio.

• Paddy Hopkirk and the Mini that won the Monte Carlo Rally

Both generations of JCW proved a hit with performance car fans, but MINI took these models and built a pair of extreme versions to send off their respective generations in style. The GP models got even more power and spoilers front and rear for more downforce , while the back seats were replaced with a roll cage to finish off the road-racer feel. 

The GP models featured mechanical parts from the MINI Challenge one-make race car, and both of these special editions delivered stunning performance and pin-sharp responses. What’s more, as production for both versions was strictly limited to just 2,000 examples, the GP cars are still desirable today.

John Cooper Works MINIs: the range in full

John Cooper Works Tuning Kit (2005)

Price new: £18,785Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl supercharged, 210bhp0-62mph: 6.6 secondsTop speed: 143mph

John Cooper Works GP (2006)

Price new: £22,000Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl supercharged, 218bhp0-62mph: 6.5 secondsTop speed: 149mph

John Cooper Works (2008)

Price new: £21,220Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbo, 208bhp0-62mph: 6.5 secondsTop speed: 147mph

John Cooper Works GP II (2013)

Price: £28,790Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl turbo, 211bhp0-62mph: 6.3 secondsTop speed: 152mph

 

The Magic of MINI

The Magic of MINI: special feature

• The future of MINI: head man Jochen Goller reveals all• Classic Mini vs modern MINI: which is the better car?• How many MINIs? The MINI range reviewed• Eight design innovations that made the MINI• MINI John Cooper Works: the hottest MINIs arround• MINI's greatest concept cars• Paddy Hopkirk and the Mini that won the Monte Carlo Rally• Can the new MINI 5-door really be used as a family car?• MINI Countryman ALL4 Racing Dakar Rally ride review• MINI UK factory: how we make the MINI• MINI adverts: the campaigns that built the brand• Win a MINI for a year

Recommended

David Brown Mini Remastered Marshall Edition revealed to celebrate audio company’s 60th birthday
DBA Mini Remastered Marshall Edition - front
David Brown

David Brown Mini Remastered Marshall Edition revealed to celebrate audio company’s 60th birthday

The new limited-edition restomod Mini is produced in collaboration with Marshall Amplification
4 Apr 2022
MINI stops production in Oxford until 18 March
MINI
MINI

MINI stops production in Oxford until 18 March

Semiconductor shortage and war in Ukraine cited as reasons for plant closure 
9 Mar 2022
MINI launches three new special edition trims across its line-up
MINI special edition 1
MINI

MINI launches three new special edition trims across its line-up

The new MINI editions are called Resolute, Untold and Untamed - and all three come with a range of design changes and equipment upgrades
8 Feb 2022
MINI Recharged unveiled as official classic EV conversion
MINI Recharged - workshop
MINI

MINI Recharged unveiled as official classic EV conversion

MINI will offer a fully electric conversion, with 121bhp and 100 miles of range, for its classic models at its Oxford factory
24 Jan 2022

Most Popular

“Mid-sized electric cars are way beyond the financial reach of most mums and dads”
Opinion - electric car prices
Opinion

“Mid-sized electric cars are way beyond the financial reach of most mums and dads”

Mike Rutherford thinks the industry needs to face the fact that a lot of people can’t afford a brand new factory-fresh car
16 May 2022
Best electric cars to buy 2022
Best electric cars
Electric cars

Best electric cars to buy 2022

There are more electric cars than ever to choose from, so we've picked some of the best you can buy in the UK now
28 Apr 2022
Shell and ABB team up to deliver world’s fastest electric car charger
Shell charger
News

Shell and ABB team up to deliver world’s fastest electric car charger

New Shell and ABB-developed Terra 360 EV charger can add 62 miles of range in less than three minutes
16 May 2022