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Not A Bad Legacy For The Son Of A Car Mechanic

Jun 12, 2008
The Mini, it has to be said, is quite a unique little car. There are many cars on the road that, seen from a distance, look similar and confusion often happens when trying to identify one. This ever happens with a Mini. It is one of the first cars a child will learn to identify and one that always holds a high position in people's estimation. But where did the inspiration come from for a car manufacturer to build something so unique?

We go back to the 1920's when a man called Charles Cooper was running a small garage in Surbiton that made their speciality the maintenance of racing cars. Cooper had a son called John who left school at fifteen to join the Royal Air Force as an instrument maker during World War Two. After the war, father and son began to produce simple, cheap single seat racing cars for individuals utilising surplus military hardware and these vehicles proved very popular. By 1948, it was necessary for the two to formulate a proper company to meet demand.

What made the Mini so different to what people were used to was the fact that the engine was placed in the back of the vehicle. Where many people saw this as groundbreaking innovation the pair say it was purely down to practical reasons that this happened. With the car being powered by a motorcycle engine, it was easier to put the engine at the back to enable it to be chain driven more efficiently.

Coopers interest in racing continued throughout the years allowing him to break several records at Montlhery in 1953, but he was finding less and less time to compete in races himself and found this took a lot of the fun out of it. But John Cooper's part in the motor racing world is often understated. Beginning in the early 1950's all the young, budding racing drivers wanted to drive a Formula One Mini Cooper and these included Stirling Moss and Bruce McLaren.

While attending the United States Grand Prix in Florida in 1959, Cooper met the USAC National Champion and Indianapolis 500 winner - Rodger Ward. The racing abilities of the Mini impressed him so much that he encouraged John Cooper to try the little car out at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Confidence for the Mini to cope on this track was not high among the other drivers but they were left with dropping jaws when the second lap saw the car reaching over 144 miles per hour.

The Mini has been popular among every class of people, from rally drivers to ordinary road users. Rally drivers love the performance and handling abilities, road users love the ease of parking and the low road tax and there aren't many teenager girls that don't just love the whole cuteness of the car.

Many young people these days strive to make something of themselves. They do their best at school, go on to university and excel in all things. However, all you need is a vision as John Cooper proved and his vision will live on long into the future despite the sad fact that he passed away on Christmas Eve 2000.
About the Author
Car expert Catherine Harvey looks at the man behind the Mini and what drove im to invent it.
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