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Racing Legends:
John Cooper

A true Outlier takes hours of deliberate practice at the craft he has chosen, mastering it and perfecting every detail. His ideas are his future and the will to make his vision a vivid reality will make him do things otherwise impossible to others and reach goals that will make him remembered forever.

Going motor racing is indeed an activity for the few: it is a full-time blood-sport that requires time, patience and a lot of sacrifices and resources.  By using his intuition, John Cooper, the son of Charles Cooper, a well-established race mechanic in Surbiton, started a motorsport revolution by manufacturing highly competitive racing cars with the engine placed behind the driver. With the help of his father and a friend, in 1947 he created the first rear-engined F3 single seater by simply joining together 2 front-end sections of 2 wrecked Fiat Topolinos and by using a single-cylinder 500cc JAP engine. When he started racing and selling these little rear-engined cars, John Cooper began a true motorsport revolution, making obsolete the front-engined Formula cars of the time.

Fun, but tremendously effective, Cooper's tiny 500cc F3's proved to be the school for legendary drivers like Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren and a whole generation of drivers who later became world champions. With an eye for technology and improvement, in that little garage in Surbiton simple and brilliant ideas were being developed forward. From the little F3 single-seaters, John Cooper rapidly expanded towards bigger and more complex formulas, all rear engined and capable of beating world-class adversaries.  He was an innovator and a man passionate about new technologies and new ideas and one of the fathers of modern motor racing. Also, he was the mind behind one of the most iconic cars ever made: the Mini Cooper.

Believing that the MkI Mini had a potential to be a great sportscar, John Cooper took the unusual decision replace the original 850cc engine with the one he used in his Formula Junior single seaters. Thanks to this genius intuition, John Cooper was able to create a style icon that conquered the hearts of the jet set and the celebrities of the 1960ies and became one of the symbols of the British Invasion. That small but tremendously attractive people's "matchbox on wheels" soon turned in a symbol of practical yet elegant sportiness, thrilling many outliers, actors, weekend boy-racers...even Enzo Ferrari drove a Mini Cooper! Against all odds, the Mini was capable obtain many racing successes from international rallies to circuits all over the world: no one would have place their bets that this little motorcar would have been able to win everywhere. Despite the huge production numbers, the Mini Cooper was a very individualistic way of expression of artists, musicians and iconic characters of an entire generation. George Harrison painted his Cooper with psychedelic graphics for the film "Magical Mystery Tour", while Paul McCarthney and John Lennon daily drove their Coopers, the same as Mick Jagger! British comedian and actor Peter Sellers even had a one-off bespoke Mini made by Hooper and also Steve McQueen had a Mini for a certain period of time. In the 60ies, even if you could afford a Rolls Royce, you had to have a Mini Cooper!

Over the years, John Cooper's brainchild, which was born out of the singular experiment of putting a Formula Junior engine in a small car became the quintessential accessory for all those successful individuals who need to express their individual taste. The Mini Cooper stands still today as a testament to John Cooper's genial and forward-thinking mind!
The Outlierman's Capsule Collection MINI John Cooper Works is an homage to the creativity and to the revolutionary style of the 1960ies Mini Coopers and to the spirit of the gentlemen who made this little motorcar their icon for daily sportiness. John Cooper's talent and the true outlier essence still live today in the young generations who drive a Mini every day both on the road or on the track. Every Outlier should always be judged by the size of his spirit: without any doubt, John Cooper was a giant.

Jacopo Villa, contributor

Photos: © BMW AG, courtesy of BMW Group PressClub


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