Mark McGrady is a die-hard MG Rover enthusiast and has owned some of the marque’s finest cars over the years. His Mini Cooper is rather special with a lovely continuous history.
Read on for the fascinating story of this now-pampered Mini Cooper SPi Plus S Works.
Words and photography: Mark McGrady
Built in Longbridge in December 1995 as a single-point injection car and painted in Tahiti Blue with a white roof, this Mini Cooper was the car I’d always wanted. It’s unusual because it would only become a mainstream colour choice the following year with the introduction of the multi-point injection cars.
Once purchased the car was taken to John Cooper Garage, Ferring – a 24-hour round trip from Cumbria, setting off at midnight and driving through the night to get there for their opening time and then getting home at around midnight the following night.
The first conversion to be fitted was the Si plus pack. There were two options available – 77bhp and a higher 82bhp which was, naturally, chosen and fitted. Visiting John Cooper Garages was an amazing experience and, over a few visits, I had many conversations with the legend that was John Cooper, and who was an absolute gentleman.
Some John Cooper Garages upgrades later…
With the introduction of the MPI S Works cars, John Cooper Garages brought out an S Works conversion for the single-point injection cars too, although you had to already have the 82bhp version of the Si plus pack, which made this a rare add-on and took the car to 86bhp.
This was booked in at the new facility at East Preston, just down the road from Ferring, and unfortunately after arriving after the very long drive, I found out there was no exhaust manifold available to carry out the conversion. The MPI cars had an LCB exhaust manifold with the oxygen sensor location in a different place, so it was not suitable for my car. John Cooper heard what had happened, made a ‘phone call to Janspeed and somebody was dispatched to collect the modified exhaust manifold.
It became apparent that the oversight over the exhaust was due to my SPi car being the first to be converted to S Works spec, a number which only totalled around ten cars when John Cooper Garages closed, making this car quite special as number one of ten.
A cherished member of the family
Another feature of this car is that the logbook has been amended to state the car as an Si Plus S Works. The conversion was approved by Rover but, when asking the DVLA to amend the logbook, I was told I needed a letter of certification from the manufacturer. I contacted Rover who declined saying it wasn’t approved. I spoke to John Cooper and, once again, a ‘phone call was made which resulted in a letter of apology from Rover along with the document for the DVLA. I believe this is the only John Cooper-converted car to have the logbook amended in this way.
Interior trim is Monaco with all door furniture and accessories out of the JCG catalogue and all have John Cooper’s signature as well as the Motalita steering wheel. The rear speakers are upgraded ‘S Works’ items which are connected to a period Alpine 7525R and auto changer.
The car has been in our care for almost 26 years and was a daily driver for the first ten years. It has attended shows all over the country and has an easier life now, only coming out in the sun. Living in Cumbria means that there are some years when it only covers around 30 miles between MoTs. That is not a comment on the weather in Cumbria. Well, maybe it is!