In Europe and England in the 1950s, skyrocketing fuel prices brought on by the Suez Crisis were driving sales of microcars and so-called “bubble cars”. BMC chief Leonard Lord considered these motorbike-powered cars dangerous and uncivilized, so he charged his team to develop a compact car capable of carrying a family of four with a level of refinement not found in micro cars. Alex Issigonis was lured away from Alvis to spearhead the engineering team and his only limitations were that the car should fit in a 10 x 4 x 4 foot box, and be powered by an existing engine to keep costs low. Issigonis’ resulting front-drive, transverse-engine Mini would soon prove to be one of the most influential cars of all time. More than 5 million were built between 1959 and 2000, along the way becoming a cultural icon and symbol of British pride. The Austin Mini is a truly classless automobile that was embraced by everyone from the working man to the Royal Family.
Despite its pragmatic purpose, the Mini’s innovative hydrolastic suspension and “square” stance gave it tremendous kart-like cornering ability. This captured the attention of Issigonis’ friend, racing car builder John Cooper. Together the pair persuaded reluctant BMC management to allow them to develop a hot version of the Mini for homologation purposes. The resulting Mini-Cooper featured a larger engine, front disc brakes, twin SU carbs and a close ratio gearbox. The Cooper was followed by the Cooper S, with 1,071 cc or 1,275 cc engines to homologate the car for the Under-1100 and Under-1300 classes, respectively. The Cooper and Cooper S took the rallying world by storm, and could also be seen handily whipping much larger competition in the British Saloon Car championship. In the same way the standard Mini was a British pop-culture Icon, the Cooper S became an icon in the world of motorsports.
This fabulous 1965 Austin Mini Mk1 is one of just 2,384 originally built to the hottest 1275 cc Cooper S specification. The accompanying British Motor Industry Heritage Certificate shows this car was special-ordered via Wimbledon Motor Works, Ltd of London with a build date of September 22, 1964 and that it is one of just 1,060 of its type built for the home market. It was finished as it is today in Tweed Gray with an Old English White roof and despatched on October 5th 1964, registered “FLO 979C”. The first owner was an advertising executive named Roger John Paterson, who registered the car through his company, S.P.M. Advertising, Ltd. Mr. Paterson specified his Mini in the same configuration as the Works racers, and it is clear that he was quite fond it, retaining the car for nearly four decades. Unlike so many examples of the Cooper S, Mr. Paterson kept his car in road trim and never raced it, so it has survived the years remarkably intact, down to the correct original engine, body and hydrolastic suspension. It was used regularly before being taken off the road between 1976 and 1981, when it was treated to a light restoration and returned to duty with the Patersons.
The Cooper S would stay in the family until Mr. Paterson’s death in 2003. At that time, Mrs. Paterson consigned the car with UK specialist Sussex Sports Cars. Following the sale, the second owner returned “FLO” to Sussex Sports Cars for a more comprehensive restoration. Part way through the project, he sold the car and the new Italian owner had it converted to left hand drive and the interior updated with red highlights, though he never took delivery.
Now fully restored, FLO 979C would pass through the hands of respected dealer Duncan Hamilton before crossing the pond to join the personal collection of noted dealer and enthusiast Bill Noon in 2006. Mr. Noon would have the Cooper S sympathetically prepped for historic rallying. It was issued an FIA passport and in 2008, Noon and his co-driver would compete in the legendary Tour Auto in France. The car performed very well, even winning one of the hillclimb stages outright.
Mr. Noon parted with “FLO” in 2011, when it joined a large collection of English and European sports cars. Recently refreshed and presented in fast-road specification, this Mini Cooper S remains in excellent condition, wearing its original livery of Tweed Gray with Old English White roof. The paint is in excellent condition, and the body is straight and tidy. Chrome and bright fittings are in fine order, and the car rides on correct original steel wheels wrapped in sticky 165/70R-10 Avon CR6 ZZ tires that are equally suited for road or rally duty. The interior remains in excellent condition, in left drive and with red and gray trim using correct type materials and patterns. It presents in fine fettle throughout, with very good detailing. Should the next owner want to participate in more serious events, a pair of color-keyed racing bucket seats will be included, as will the Safety Devices roll bar and a discreetly installed on-board fire system.
The 1,275 cc Austin A-Series engine presents in beautiful condition in factory correct dark green paint and topped by twin S.U. carburetors complete with original air cleaner intact. The engine runs well and delivers a healthy punch, propelling the tiny Cooper along the road at surprising speed. Combined with the hydrolastic suspension and grippy Avon rubber, the driving experience is an absolute thrill.
This is rare opportunity to acquire a genuine, documented Mk1 1275 S with matching numbers and excellent history from new. Discreet modifications make it ready for the road or for use in any number of driving events worldwide. A sheer delight to experience, this is a wonderful example John Cooper’s legendary giant-slayer.