April 12, 2009

Obsession | Mini Cooper John Cooper Works (JCW)

Mini Cooper John Cooper Works

I doubt that I have to explain to many of you what the initials JC in JCW stands for, especially if I were to add in, the word MINI. John Cooper (1923 -2000) was renowned throughout the world of motor sport, and to the little British car which still bears his name, he was the ultimate master of performance.

But to truly appreciate the man and what he achieved, one has to understand the story behind the man.

John's father Charles Cooper ran a small mechanical workshop in Surbiton, Surrey. After service in the Royal Air force during World War 2, he joined his father there making single seat race cars for privateers.

Together they formed a company in 1948 specifically to design and build race cars, and were so successful, that by the early 50's names like Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss, Maurice Trintignant, and Bruce McLaren were to be seen behind the wheels of Cooper products.

Much of their success in racing came from the fine handling of their cars. Although most race cars at the time were powered from the front, the first Cooper built cars were propelled by motorcycle engines. Hence, they positioned the engines in the rear.

Perhaps unbeknownst to them at the time, they were the forerunners of what we now know as open wheel rear-engined Formula One cars. In fact, Cooper later remarked, "We certainly had no feeling that we were creating some scientific breakthrough...We put the engine at the rear...because it was the practical thing to do".

Much of Cooper's success came from what I like to think of as, "Thinking outside the box", and it is that which brings us to the story of the MINI Cooper.

John Cooper's association with the MINI came through his friendship with Alex Issigonis, the designer of the original MINI. Coming from a race and rally background, John quickly saw the potential that the MINI could have in competition use.

The first MINI Cooper was launched in 1961, with the acclaimed Cooper S coming two years later.

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