One of the reasons why many of us enjoy watching sport, no matter the type, is that it sometimes throws up great stories that provide us with memories that last a lifetime. They may even perhaps inspire us to take up something – Paddy Hopkirk and his Mini Cooper winning the Monte Carlo Rally was one such moment.
As a world-leading supplier of Mini parts and a supporter of classic rallying here at Minisport, we are constantly helping fellow enthusiasts to repair, restore or to reimagine their own Minis – their love of this great motor innovation inspired by the reputation and memories it evokes.
With January 2019 marking 55 years since Paddy and his co-driver, Henry Liddon, won the illustrious event (sealing The Mini as a true icon of British culture and innovation in motorsport) – to celebrate, we’re going to drive back in time and relate those special moments leading up to (and after) the historic win.
‘It Can’t Be Done’ – The Origins of Paddy Hopkirk’s Mini
Those wonderful stories provided by sport may be framed by a certain narrative – the participants are simply a favourite of ours and or it’s an underdog story; people say they cannot win – but we want them to win! The Mini Cooper was the latter, and soon became the former – the underdog that quickly became the favourite of many.
The Mini was beginning to make waves in the British car market in the early 1960’s; small and compact, its size was somewhat misleading as its 850cc engine could get the most from a fuel tank, making it an extremely economical drive. These attributes attracted John Cooper, owner of the famed Cooper Car Company; designers of already-successful Formula One cars.
Coincidentally, John’s friend, Alec Issigonis, was the designer of the original Mini and lobbying the brand’s owner, the British Motor Corporation (BMC), of its potential racing abilities, John was commissioned to work alongside Alec to create a Mini that could compete in top-level motorsport.
As portrayed in the advert we collaborated on with the modern-day Mini company, John was told regularly that the prospect of getting this tiny vehicle to compete in road racing ‘can’t be done’. How wrong they were – the original Mini Cooper saw the engine upgraded to 997cc, with other significant works including the addition of twin SU carburettors, a closer-ratio Mini gearbox and front disc brakes, which were very uncommon in such small cars at the time.
Released in a thousand units 1961, the Mini Cooper was designed to meet the rules of Group 2 rally racing. The abilities of this new Mini soon captured attention – in 1962, whilst driving a Mini Cooper, John Love (from Rhodesia, modern-day Zimbabwe) became the first non-British driver to win the British Saloon Championship. A growing reputation that soon would be known all around the world...
The Mini Cooper S: The Beginnings of a Racing Icon
Whilst the original Mini Cooper instantly proved successful, to get it winning on the world stage required much more work – a fact that John Cooper was already well aware of. Encouraged by the success, the BMC commissioned Cooper to design an even sportier version that would offer a significant improvement.
The Mini Cooper S model was completed by late ‘63 – its 1071cc engine supplemented its power and the addition of a nitride steel crankshaft and strengthened bottom end allowed for further tuning. By the time the model was updated in August 1964, it had sold over 4,000 units – later, it would sell even more. All thanks to its rallying success earlier that year...