Five things you need to know about the Cooper name

He's the man: John Cooper, pictured with one of the last proper, sorry "original" Minis bearing his name.

Charles Cooper and his son, John, started making basic and affordable racing cars back in 1948. They had no idea they would revolutionise motorsport the world over, while John would go on to create one of the most iconic and loved cars of all time: the Mini Cooper.

Today, here are five Cooper facts for your enjoyment.


The Coopers’ idea to put the engine in the back of a Formula 500 racer created a revolution.

It is completely fair to say that Charles and John Cooper changed the face of modern motorsport when they did something that John always claimed was simply “the practical thing to do.” It was to put the 500cc motorcycle engine in the rear of the Formula 500 car they designed, running counter to the front-engine, rear-drive layout that was dominant in motorsport at the time.

The engine drove the wheels via chain, so putting it closer to the rear wheels was very practical indeed. It also eventually revolutionised top-line motorsport around the world, following the Cooper-built car’s success in Formula 1 and at Indianapolis.


Creator Alec Issigonis was initially furious about the idea of a fast Mini.

As other, wealthier constructors started copying the Cooper formula but with more sophistication and technology, the F1 team’s fortunes started declining. However, by that time John Cooper had started playing around with the idea of a performance version of his friend Alec Issigonis’s latest creation – the Mini. Cooper saw potential for the small, light car to be transformed into a successful race and rally car.

But Issigonis – a thoroughly practical and pragmatic man – was said to be horrified by the idea of his utilitarian creation being transformed into a performance car. After some persuasion (and intervention by BMC management), he eventually collaborated with Cooper to create the legendary Mini Cooper and Cooper S.


Mini Cooper was a marvel in the Monte Carlo Rally.

That Mini creation would go on to be ridiculously successful in several forms of motorsport around the world – and a pretty special road car as well.

The Cooper cars dominated the Monte Carlo Rally in the 1960s (attracting much controversy over their disqualification from the 1966 event following a 1-2-3 finish), while they also had much success in international rallying. But they also took out a number of British and European Touring Car titles, as well as numerous class wins at Australian endurance events, including the legendary Bathurst 1000.

John Cooper Works

John Cooper Works was set up in 2000 to produce go-faster bits for BMW’s new Mini.

John Cooper Works (JCW) was founded in 2000 and has no direct roots back to the original Cooper Car Company started by Charles and John Cooper in 1948. Oh, except for the fact that it was started by John and Mike Cooper, John’s son.

The company produced performance parts and accessories for BMW’s new version of the Mini (with BMW’s official blessing), but was quickly absorbed by the German manufacturer. Before John Cooper’s death in December 2000, he officially licensed his name to BMW for the Mini Cooper and Cooper S models. In 2008, BMW bought John Cooper Works outright.


Yep, this is a Cooper too. Following sale of JCW to BMW, Mike Cooper has switched to two wheels .

Following the sale of John Cooper Works to BMW, Mike Cooper launched a new company with his son Charlie, again making vehicles with the Cooper name on them. Only not quite what you might expect – he makes bicycles.

Cooper Bikes makes and sells a range of delightfully minimalist and seriously cool (well, for bikes, that is) commuter bicycles, including an upcoming electric bike called the Cooper E.

Unsurprisingly Cooper prefers the bike industry over the car industry, saying in an interview at a bike trade show: “The auto industry is like a war. Here, everyone is friendly. Those people over there are the competition, but we are going out for beers after the show!”


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