When is a Cooper Mini not a Mini Cooper?
April 4, 2008 4:57 PM   Subscribe

Many years ago, my father used to race a "Cooper Mini". What the hell is a Cooper Mini?

Lets get the obvious one out the way - This wasn't an Austin/Morris/Leyland/Rover family car breathed on by Cooper Motor Works. For obvious reasons the little road car is foiling my efforts to find out anything about this thing.

I know very little about the car:
* It was a single seater.
* It was (or had modified to become) a drag racer.
* It raced against (and allegedly beat) Shelby Cobras on a regular basis.
* It was racing at the time that "the American drag racers first tried to win over here"
* It used to race at the "Poddington Raceway"

From that I'm assuming that the car was racing in the late 60s, but I have no idea how old the car was at the time.

Anyone got any suggestions...?
posted by twine42 to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd guess this is something to do with it and these books would contain info about it and these people would tell you all about it over a pint of real ale.
posted by merocet at 5:06 PM on April 4, 2008

I think you may have gotten your facts crossed. Have you looked at the Cooper Wikipedia article yet? Based on that, it would seem to me that, indeed, Cooper made many racing cars, including one seaters. It would not seem that one of those one seaters was called a Cooper Mini. According to the article, the Mini Cooper came about when John Cooper had the idea of putting a little more juice, and some other performance tweaks in a model like the BMC Mini.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 5:56 PM on April 4, 2008

Not a Cooper Mini, a Mini Cooper.

Basically, it's a souped up version of the classic Morris Mini. Aside from the souped up engine, the original production cars were distinguishable by having hydrolastic suspension, twin petrol tanks ( af filler cap on both rear corners), and a white roof.
posted by veedubya at 6:12 PM on April 4, 2008

veedubya, did you even read the question?
posted by amro at 6:32 PM on April 4, 2008

I think there's probably some confusion or miscommunication here. The time period is the same as the Mini Cooper's. Who in their right mind would give a car the same name as a popular car but with the names reversed? It sounds like it might have been a nickname for a one-off, like if a guy named cooper built cars, and made one smaller than the others, he might call it a Cooper Mini as a joke. But it seems very unlikely that it would actually be the official name for anything that wasn't a Mini Cooper.
posted by alexei at 6:39 PM on April 4, 2008

It used to race at the "Poddington Raceway"

AKA Santa Pod, the former RAF Podington.
posted by holgate at 6:43 PM on April 4, 2008

alexi has it.

Also, the Shelby Cobra was designed as a road racing car and not well suited for drag racing

A single seater car would not be usually race against a Cobra in any type of racing

The idea that "American drag racers" would have to "try to win" in England is funny
posted by Fins at 6:46 PM on April 4, 2008

More here, perhaps:
[April 11, 1966] The U.K.s first permanent, purpose built dragstrip opened, Santa Pod Raceway near Wellingborough. It rained until midday! There had been some frantic action in the hours leading up to the morning of the event, as the sun rose over the horizon a temporary roof was being fixed to the control tower and the metal staircase was being welded to allow the officials to gain entry to the three story building. There was a total of sixty entries including 15 dragsters. Amoung them were Ken Cooper with his Bazooka slingshot which ran low 14 second passes
(Pics of Ken Cooper's cars on other sites.) The whole Santa Pod scene -- American-influenced drag racing in the English Midlands during the 60s and 70s, when the difference between British and American cars was massive -- is best described as idiosyncratic.
posted by holgate at 6:53 PM on April 4, 2008

Thanks for the answers guys....

veedubya : No. Definitely not a Mini Cooper.

Fins : I'm sure there is exageration in the story, but apparently the big manufacturers came over expecting to wipe the floor with their big V8 cars and failed in a spectacular fashion. They vanished for a couple of years and then came back with cars that the Brits just couldn't match.

holgate : Cool... Unless 'Juggernaut' is a nickname for Model Y Fords (which a quick search suggests isn't true) that 'More Here' link makes passing references to another car my dad had part share in - a Y Type with a huge Jaguar engine in it. I'll look around to see who Colin Dunster is...
posted by twine42 at 11:37 PM on April 4, 2008

Cooper made race cars. The Cooper Mini was a "worked" Mini. Later turned in to a brand by Morris in the late 60's.

When I was a kid the some New South Wales highway patrol cars were Coopers.

Cooper got a 5 Pound royalty from Morris to use his name, when Leyland took over they thought the 5 pounds was too much and axed it. Sales for the Clubman GT which was the replacement marque plummeted.

Real Coopers had two petrol fillers, and a 1100 or 1350 cc twin carburettors. In the words of the bard, they went "like a shower of shit""

Also, the Shelby Cobra was designed as a road racing car and not well suited for drag racing

A single seater car would not be usually race against a Cobra in any type of racing

The idea that "American drag racers" would have to "try to win" in England is funny

Shelbys, Toranas etc just couldn't go around corners as well as Coopers.
posted by mattoxic at 3:52 AM on April 5, 2008

This cool 1960-64 timeline details the first Americans drag racing in the UK (thanks holgate). Looks like the only quick Brits used Chrysler and Buick V8s.

Even back then cars raced in classes.
Two liter British engines don't race against six liter American engines.
Single seater cars don't race against two seat Cobras.
And, it looks like it was KEN Cooper made the car your dad raced.

Interesting reading, thanks for the question.
posted by Fins at 10:22 PM on April 6, 2008

Y'know, looking at that timeline, the history of drag racing in the UK makes a lot more sense. The early drag strips were on RAF bases, some used by USAAF during WW2, some with an ongoing American presence. (Even now, the US bases in Britain import left-hand drive cars from the US as part of staff relocation packages.)
posted by holgate at 2:27 PM on April 7, 2008

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