Car of the month : September 2004

Ian Nicholls introduces us to a prime example of the Mini Cooper 1275S, first introduced 40 years ago…

IF you were assembling a collection of post-war classic British cars – money no object – alongside the usual Jaguar E-type (series 1, of course), MGB, Austin Healey 3000 and Aston Martin DB5 there would have to be one particular variant of the humble, mass-produced Mini. The variant I have in mind was the blueprint for the hot-hatch (before they’d thought of the ‘hatch’ bit…), a giant-killer amongst cars whose exploits on track and rally stage endeared it to motorists around the world. That car is of course the original Mini Cooper S.

The 997cc Mini Cooper introduced in 1961 proved the formula worked: the Cooper S was the real thing. With engine components made from stronger materials, the Cooper S was actually developed by Downton Engineering in Wiltshire under the supervision of boss Daniel Richmond, who was a consultant to BMC. The first version was the 1071S, followed by the rarest, the 970S, a true homologation special of which fewer than 1000 were made in 1964/65. MG employee Alec Poole won the 1969 British Saloon Car Championship in a 970S.

But the most famous variant is the Mini Cooper 1275S introduced in 1964. Most of the Mini’s 23 international rally wins came courtesy of the 1275S. Hard to believe it now but the Mini Cooper 1275S was the Subaru Impreza of its day. The most sought-after 1275S is the Mk1, made from 1964 to 1967, and examples of these do not come any better than Mervyn Holsey’s 1966 car. Trained mechanic Mervyn learnt his craft working for BL and Volkswagen main dealers, which enabled him to restore this car fom a wreck in a garden to the concours winner you see here.

2004 marks 45 years of the Mini and 40 years of the 1275S. In 1971 British Leyland killed off the Cooper S, citing it as a deterrent to potential Mini buyers. BMW felt differently and have revived the Cooper S brand with great success, but perhaps the original is best…

Note the MkI Morris Mini Cooper grille with wide slats. Many feel the Mk1 Minis were externally more stylish than later variants.

The car now sports Revolution alloy wheels.

Keith Adams

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