PEOPLE: JOHN COOPER
Name: John Cooper
Nationality: Great Britain
John Cooper's father Charles built his son a racing car based on the Austin Seven in 1936, as a 12th birthday present. Cooper Jr promptly went for a spin in the car on the old Brooklands oval, much to the annoyance of the racing officials.
After the end of the war the two Coopers decided to build another racing special for the planned new 500cc formula. Based on the Fiat 500 Topolino chassis the car was powered by a JAP motorcycle engine and was clothed in aluminium bodywork. The car was run in hillclimb events in 1946 and it was not until the middle of 1947 that there were sufficient entries for the first 500cc race in Britain. This took place at the old airfield at Gransden Lodge and was won by Eric Brandon in a Cooper. The Coopers decided to put the car into production as 500cc racing boomed in 1948 and 1949.
The first Cooper appeared in a Grand Prix at Monaco in 1950 but it was underpowered in comparison to the opposition. The Cooper company concentarted in the 500cc Formula 3 and on Formula 2, notably with Harry Schell's Ecurie Bleue. With the World Championship being run to F2 rules in 1952 the cars figured more strongly, notably with Bristol and Alta engines.
When Formula 1 went to 2.5-litre rules in 1954 Cooper dropped out of the F1 scene but in 1957 cars started to reappear in F1 with the new Coventry Climax engine and Cooper driver Jack Brabham became a regular F1 competitor. The following year Stirling Moss drove a Rob Walker Cooper-Climax to victory in the Argentine GP and at Monaco Maurice Trintignant gave the team a second victory. For the 1959 season the Coventry Climax engines were stretched further and the cars became fully competitive and Jack Brabham won the World Championship and Cooper Cars took the Constructors' title.
Cooper had led the rear-engined revolution in F1 but as others caught up, notably Lotus, there were fewer Cooper victories although Cooper driver Bruce McLaren still won occasional races. In 1964 Charles Cooper died and soon afterwards John was very seriously injured in a road accident. The running of the Cooper F1 team passed into the hands of Ken Tyrrell and the following year Cooper decided to sell his entire company to the Chipstead Motor Group. He retired to run a car dealership in Ferring, Sussex. In the mid-1960s Cooper's racing machinery created commercial opportunities, notably with the Mini Cooper S, a high-performance version of the Mini. In total 150,000 of these were built before production ended in 1971 although in the late 1980s John Cooper Garages began supplying conversion kits to a new generation of Mini enthusiasts, notably in Japan.
In January 2000 Cooper was awarded a CBE for his services to the automobile industry. He died later that year.