CONSTRUCTORS: COOPER CAR COMPANY
Name: Cooper Car Company
Charles Cooper built his first racing car in 1936. This was a special based on an Austin Seven. After serving with the Royal Air Force during the war, Cooper and his son John decided, in 1946, to build a car for the new 500cc racing series. They used a JAP motorcycle engine and mounted it behind the cockpit in a chassis which was built from Fiat Topolino components. The car was very successful and in 1948 production was underway as the 500cc formula boomed. Various engines were fitted to the cars. The first Cooper to race in Grand Prix was at Monaco in 1950 when Harry Schell ran one of the tiny cars. Unfortunately he was involved in the first-lap accident.
The 500cc formula became known as Formula 3 in 1951 and Cooper chassis were used all over Europe. In 1951 Cooper built a Formula 2 car and these were run in European events by Harry Schell's Ecurie Bleue. Fitted with Bristol engines they began to achieve more success in 1952 - when the World Championship was run to F2 regulations - with Eric Brandon's Ecurie Richmond and privateers such as Mike Hawthorn. Hawthorn finished third in the British GP and won the non-championship Daily Mail Trophy at Boreham.
With the Formula 1 regulations changing to 2.5-liter engines in 1954 Cooper faded from the Grand Prix scene, although there was usually a handful of the cars at the British GP. In 1957, however, Climax engines were fitted into Cooper chassis and Jack Brabham became a regular at Formula 1 races. The cars were underpowered as the Climax engines were expanded to 1.9-liters. In 1958 Stirling Moss drove one of Rob Walker's cars to victory in Argentina, the nimble little car being able to make up for the horsepower difference to the 2.5-liter Ferraris. Moss won the BARC 200 at Aintree and at Monaco Maurice Trintignant gave Rob Walker another victory. Roy Salvadori produced some impressive showings in the works cars but there would be no more wins in 1958.
For 1959 Climax stretched the engines to 2.5-liters and the Cooper-Climax was fully competitive. Jack Brabham won the Monaco and British GPs, Stirling Moss won in Portugal and Italy and Bruce McLaren won in the United States. Brabham won the World Championship and Cooper took the Constructors' title. That year High Efficiency Motors and Scuderia Centro Sud fitted Maserati engines into Cooper chassis and BRP's Cooper-Borgward F2 cars appeared from time to time in F1 races. There was even a Cooper-OSCA.
The same pattern emerged in 1961 but the Ferraris were stronger and it led to Ferrari-engined Coopers being tried by Scuderia Eugenio Castelotti.
As other teams - notably Team Lotus - began to catch up with rear-engined technology, Cooper's fortunes waned but there were still occasional victories. Bruce McLaren won at Monaco in 1962. In 1963 McLaren's best was second at Spa while his Cooper team-mate Tony Maggs finished second at the French GP. It was a similar story in 1964 when McLaren collected only two second places. That year Charles Cooper died and not long afterwards John was seriously injured in a road accident. The running of the F1 team was effectively handed over to Ken Tyrrell.
In 1965 McLaren and new signing Jochen Rindt managed only one podium between them. John Cooper decided to sell the company to the Chipstead Motor Group. He retired to run a car dealership in Ferring, Sussex. The Cooper factory was moved from Surbiton to Byfleet and in 1966 the Derrick White-designed cars were fitted with Maserati engines for the new 3-liter formula. The factory chassis were run by Rindt and John Surtees and there were a variety of customer cars for Rob Walker (Jo Siffert), Anglo-Suisse Racing (Jo Bonnier) and Guy Ligier. Surtees won the Mexican GP. In 1967 McLaren went off to start his own team, Rindt was joined by Pedro Rodriguez, and there were the usual privateers. Rodriguez won the South African GP in January but otherwise results were disappointing and in 1968 the company looked to BRM for engines. The team hired Ludovico Scarfiotti and Brian Redman to drive but Scarfiotti was killed while racing a Porsche on a hillclimb event and Lucien Bianchi was hired to replace him. Then Redman had an enormous accident at Spa when he suffered a suspension failure. He was replaced by Vic Elford. The teams scored just a handful of points and at the end of the year Cooper closed down its factory team.
The Cooper name continued in the automobile world thanks to the company's version of the Mini both as a racing machine as a popular road car. A total of 150,000 Mini Coopers were sold before production stopped in 1971.
In the late 1980s John Cooper Garages began supplying conversion kits to a new generation of Mini enthusiasts, notably in Japan. In January 2000 he was awarded a CBE for his services to the automobile industry.