Features

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

MINI and Cooper 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.

• Eight design innovations that made the MINI

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. 

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.

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'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

MINI Vision Urbanaut turned into working concept car
MINI Urbanaut - front
MINI

MINI Vision Urbanaut turned into working concept car

The MINI Vision Urbanaut is a driveable, radical concept, which previews some interior touches coming on next-generation MINI Hatch
29 Jun 2021
Best 60s cars: the 30 greatest cars of the 1960s
Best cars of the 60s - header
Best cars & vans

Best 60s cars: the 30 greatest cars of the 1960s

The swinging sixties brought a vast array of unforgettable cars that would establish the path of the industry for decades to come. We pick our top 30 …
21 Jun 2021
LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini
LEC MINI Electric
MINI

LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini

The conversion sees the Mini’s A-Series engine replaced with a dinky electric motor and a 20kWh battery for a range of 70 miles in the city
10 Jun 2021
BMW and MINI launch charging service for UK electric car customers
BMW charging scheme
BMW

BMW and MINI launch charging service for UK electric car customers

BMW and MINI's new package offers access to more than 11,000 charge points in UK
26 May 2021

Most Popular

New 2021 Volkswagen Taigo coupe-SUV breaks cover
Volkswagen Taigo R-Line - front
Volkswagen Taigo

New 2021 Volkswagen Taigo coupe-SUV breaks cover

The new VW Taigo is a sportier, more aggressive looking version of the brand’s T-Cross and is aimed at lifestyle buyers
29 Jul 2021
New Bowler Defender Challenge review
Bowler Defender Challenge - front
Land Rover Defender

New Bowler Defender Challenge review

The new Defender Challenge is the first Bowler under JLR ownership, and it’s a cracker
28 Jul 2021
New 2021 Kia EV6 boasts up to 328 miles of range
Kia EV6 - front
Kia EV6

New 2021 Kia EV6 boasts up to 328 miles of range

Kia reveals more specs for its bespoke electric car, with the EV6 offering long range and an 18-minute 80 per cent rapid recharge time
21 Jul 2021