The notion that the Mini might have a future as anything other than basic transport was an anathema, the idea of a high-performance version was laughable. One man though, saw it quite differently. Racing car manufacturer John Cooper already knew quite a bit about tuning BMC’s A-Series engine, he was running the company’s Formula Junior effort at the time and a test drive in a prototype Mini convinced him of the car’s competition potential. The Mini Cooper soon established its credentials as a rally and race winner and the stage was set for even faster versions. The first of these, the 1071cc Mini Cooper ‘S’ of 1963, took engine development a stage further and provided the basis for the 971 ‘S’ and 1275 ‘S’ of 1964.
This wonderfully original Cooper S Mark 1 is more than a little unusual. This particular car was bought by a wealthy American Rolls Royce and Bentley collector, along with a Mini 850 for his wife, in the very early 1970’s. He then decided to send the Cooper S to the legendary craftsman at Wood & Pickett in around 1973, for a full no-expense-spared makeover. It was here that the car was repainted in the eye-catching Emerald Green metallic paint and the interior was re-trimmed in sumptuous contrasting orange Connolly leather. The list of extras and upgrades is exhaustive but notable are the rectangular Cibie headlights with recessed spotlights in the grille, a Hollandia fold back sun roof and folding rear bench seat with access to the boot for extra storage. The two Minis were exported to New York after this and then passed to Bob Grossman, an exotic car dealer who had raced Cunningham Jaguars at Le Mans in the 1960’s.
Extraordinarily, this Cooper S is showing some 10,000 miles from new which the vendor believes to be accurate given previous sales listings and copies of original letters written by a past owner. It also featured in an article in Cooper World, written by Steve Burkinshaw who is an expert with regards to coach built minis. This magazine can be found in the history file and details of some recent recommissioning work carried out by the current vendor. A truly unique Mini in so many respects, a Mark 1 with such low mileage would itself be hard to find; an unrestored car, even harder. But an unrestored Mark 1 with exceptionally low mileage and a full Wood & Pickett conversion must be one of a kind. Certainly worth a closer inspection and undeniably a car worthy of any collection, be it Minis or Rolls Royce’s.