Figure 1.Illustration from the “Motor” Drawing believed by Michael Turner
Coopermen: “Action with a purpose” –a comparison of Cooper with Lotus
Part of the Chapman F1 design peers series
“With only 1/27th of Mercedes manpower they [Cooper] won 11 out of 14 races in which they ran”
“They were used by all but one of the greatest Fifties crop of front –line British racing drivers ……Cooper cars became the world’s largest manufacturer of pure-bred racing cars, and in 1959-60 they achieved ultimate success in twice becoming FI Champions…….during the period, the Cooper Car Co.Ltd, pioneered quantity production of proper racing cars .from 1946-to the end of manufacture in 1969 as many as 1500 racing Coopers had been built”
The editors have long intended to provide an article comparing and contrasting Lotus and Cooper in our series analyising the world’s greatest FI designers and marques. Cooper possibly having a slightly less romantic persona as compared to Lotus. However Coopers were great innovators .Both marques were London based and multiple World Champions with differing design methodologies. A comparison of the two provides for challenging and rewarding analysis.
Coopers hold a significant place in British and international motor racing history in relation to technology, drivers and achievement.
In many respects Cooper democratized the sport of motor racing by making available professional cars and kits in the immediate post war period contributing to morale, return to normality and a kick start into innovation. They were the first real mass producers of racing cars for sale.
When Owen wrote his “Racing Coopers” it was the official history of Coopers and he records that father and son were very proud of being British .They used British sourced components when they could. Furthermore they adopted a policy of selling cars to private entrants in the belief it would encourage beginners and build the British challenge in international motor racing by improving its uptake, strength and quality.
The prompt came to complete this piece when the editors read of the Museum of London’s poll to discover London’s most significant individuals. The absence of motorsport personalities despite their achievements –engineering , aesthetic , sporting , economic ,national reputational and their combined impact on 1960’s culture prompted the editors to call attention to their combined outstanding achievement an indeed London loci.
From the net:-
“The Cooper Car Company was founded in December 1947 by Charles Cooper and his son John Cooper. Together with John’s boyhood friend, Eric Brandon, they began by building racing cars in Charles’ small garage in Surbiton, Surrey, UK in 1946. Through the 1950s and early 1960s, they reached auto racing‘s highest levels as their rear-engined, single-seat cars altered the face of Formula One and the Indianapolis 500, and their Mini Cooper dominated rally racing. Due in part to Cooper’s legacy, Britain remains the home of a thriving racing industry, and the Cooper name lives on in the Cooper versions of the Mini production cars that are still built in England, but are now owned and marketed by BMW.”
It’s believed in total Cooper built 1400 -1500 cars? And of course this ignores the Mini-Coopers.
It’s important to note that like Chapman the Coopers attempted minor diversification which included a three wheel economy car and light weight scooter. Although not involved with aviation to the same extent as Chapman, Charles Cooper dabbled in making his own light aircraft.
Subscribers might like to see directly relevant and complementary A&R
- Lotus chassis design
- The 500 [F3] and why Chapman did not enter
- Dedicated Lotus articles –peers of the equivalent Cooper’s
- London and Motor sport locations
- Chapman and Warren Street
- Coventry Climax engines
Both marques have extraordinary complex history and on occasions obscure and built multiple iconic automobiles.
Here we take the primary prism of Cooper and look at their work in some detail with Lotus material being available in dedicated but separate pieces. The editors do not have the skill and space does not permit the fullest and most comprehensive forensic level comparison.Therefore the editors have been selective in their selection of material that highlights both similarities and differences of design philosophy.
We invite subscribers to examine our dedicated articles on Chapman and Lotus to gain detailed insights were appropriate. Where we discuss comparisons this has been written in italics to distinguish from the main text.
We invite our subscribers to benchmark both marques and we hope the information provided will assist this. We have sought to provide a tabulation of the Cooper types in the belief that;-
- Subscribers can use the net etc.to follow up on types of interest to them
- To help comprehend the diversity of types produced by Cooper .This can be further analyised into productivity etc.
- It’s important to make forensic levels of comparison. The editors intend this particularly in the case of the Coopers Types 39 and Monaco, this tabulation can be used to overlay marque and type number against each other. Note Taylor gives type number and function which assists this exercise for Lotus.
The essential comparison of the two marques is as follows. Based on this we proceed to look at some specific examples. We hope too that this article might remind and reconnect people with London’s preeminence in motor sport –both pre and post war:-
Cooper-Lotus peer comparison
|Spts Racing [large]||Yes||Yes|
|Austin Seven Spc’||Yes||Yes|
|World Champ Driver||Yes||Yes|
Nye on Cooper comments:
“Modern enthusiasts tend to expect chassis number identification of historic racing cars .This is always a dodgy businesses real life and theory generally differ” He goes on to expand his rationale. It’s one with which we concur and adopt throughout all our articles regardless of marque.
The Team and Design Methodology
The main personnel at Cooper’s were [Charles & John were father &son owners]
- John Cooper
- Charles Cooper
- Eric Brandon
- Derrick White
- Owen Maddock
- Jack Brabham
- “Noddy” Groham
- Ron Searles
- See also personnel involved with Cooper Driving School
Charles Cooper was born in 1893 and was therefore 67 years old in 1960 when he enjoyed his greatest success in International motor racing.
Owen provides a nice cameo of Charles Cooper in explaining he had been a motorcyclist, inventor, mechanic, racing driver, pilot, designer of aeroplanes and racing cars.
He acquired his flying skills at the Redhill Flying Club which was about 20 miles south of Surbition, both in county of Surrey.
Charles Cooper was an interwar racing mechanic who after national service opened a small garage/repair shop in Surbiton, Surrey.
On leaving school, Charles Cooper was taken on as an apprentice at Napier & Son‘s engineering works in Acton. It was while working at the Napier plant that Cooper got his first taste of motor sport, working on the racing and record-breaking cars of company director and pioneering driver Selwyn Edge. Soon after completing his apprenticeship World War I broke out. Britain declared war on 3 August 1914, and only three weeks later Cooper enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps. He saw active service throughout the war, invalided home after being gassed during the capture of Valenciennes in late 1918, only weeks before the signing of the Armistice with Germany.
During the course of the war Cooper had built a considerable body of experience of practical mechanics on top of his engineering training and, following a short period spent turning a profit by reconditioning war-surplus motorcycles, in 1919 he decided to set up his own garage. He bought a plot of land on Ewell Road in Surbiton, near his family home, and built the business that would form the foundation for his future success. He married Elsie (née Paul) in 1922 and the following year their son, John Cooper, was born.
During the early years after the Great War Cooper’s interest in motorcycles and motor sport brought him into contact with another record-breaking pioneer driver, Kaye Don. Cooper gradually became a key part of Don’s racing team. In addition to tending to Don’s varied stable of MGs and Bugatti’s, that were regularly raced at Brooklands, Cooper was also involved in the preparation and running of the Sunbeam Silver Bullet, Don’s 1930 land speed record challenger. In his spare time, Cooper constructed a midget car for his nine-year-old son, with a custom-made chassis and bodywork, powered by a 175 cc (10.7 cu in) motorcycle engine. He built himself a Flying Flea light aircraft from plans published in Practical Mechanics, and in 1936 he constructed a second special for John, now in his early teenage years, this time based on an Austin 7.
Cooper’s Brooklands connections later blossomed into a partnership with Alfa Romeo racer Ginger Hamilton. With Hamilton’s assistance, in 1934 Cooper moved his business to new premises about a mile down the road. The new garage and Vauxhall Motors dealership that Cooper built on wasteland behind 243 Ewell Road, which opened onto Hollyfield Road, was to become the heart of the Cooper operation right through its glory years.”
Charles Cooper has been described by Nye as “burly, bespectacled mechanic “who was also blunt, autocratic , quick tempered and some might consider him something of a rough diamond He also had a reputation for being cost conscious ,a straightforward practical engineer and a self-employed businessman. Just after the war he established himself reconditioning ex-Army motorcycles until he could afford to lease a yard. His approach was conservative in many respects but this was used to advantage in many respects. The cars from his factory were safe, robust and generally reliable. Nye observes:-
“Postwar, Charles and his son John found The Cooper Car Company Ltd; to build a long and fast-developing series of racing cars and sports cars. The new concern grew rapidly and by modern standards it was incredibly efficient .even during its most prolific years of worldwide sales and race successes its staff seldom exceeded 35, and was generally fewer than 30………….
Yet supplying so many cars in kit form enabled the company to thrive with its always compact and often overworked staff. It minimized capital investment and overhead costs in a way close to tough, economy –minded Charles Cooper’s heart”
John Newton Cooper
John Cooper inherited and shared his father’s interest in engineering and of course were in a family business .There were personality differences and John was probably easier going and more light hearted. John born in 1923 was a peer of Colin Chapman although slightly older. In 1960 at the height of Cooper achievement he was 37 years old.
[From the net]
“John Cooper CBE (17 July 1923 – 24 December 2000) was a co-founder, with his father Charles Cooper, of the Cooper Car Company. Born in Surbiton, Surrey, United Kingdom, he became an auto racing legend with his rear-engined chassis design that would eventually change the face of the sport at its highest levels, from Formula One to the Indianapolis 500.
Charles Cooper ran a small garage in Surbiton that specialised in maintaining racing cars. His son John left school at age 15 to become an apprentice toolmaker and served in the Royal Air Force as an instrument maker in World War II. After the war, his father and he began building simple, inexpensive single-seat racers for privateers, often from surplus military hardware. The cars were extremely successful and quickly in high demand, and in 1948, they founded their own company to build more.
In stereotypical British fashion, Cooper always downplayed the story about how they decided to put the engine in the back of their racing cars, insisting it was a matter of convenience. The original design for the first rear-engined Cooper racing car was drawn up by Owen Maddock, a designer employed by Cooper Car Company. Because the car was powered by a motorcycle engine, they put the engine in the back, driving a chain. “We certainly had no feeling that we were creating some scientific breakthrough! We put the engine at the rear…because it was the practical thing to do,” Cooper said.
Initially, John raced his own cars on a regular basis, but as the company grew, he found less time available to compete. He did, however, find time to set a number of records at Montlhéry at the end of 1953.
In the early 1950s, it seemed as if every aspiring young British racing driver began behind the wheel of a Cooper, and Cooper’s Formula One cars were driven by the legendary drivers of the time — Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss, Maurice Trintignant, and Bruce McLaren. In a nine-year period, the team took 16 Grand Prix wins, as Brabham and the team won back-to-back World Championships in 1959 and 1960.
While in Sebring, Florida, for the 1959 United States Grand Prix, Cooper got to know American driver Rodger Ward, the reigning USAC national champion and Indianapolis 500 winner. After Ward had been astounded by the cornering ability of Cooper’s little cars on the road course, he offered to arrange a test for them at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, saying, “You’ve got to try out your car around the Oval. Indy’s waiting for you!” Cooper took one of his Formula One cars to the Speedway in the fall of 1960, as drivers, constructors and racing personalities gathered in “amused tolerance, mixed with obvious curiosity,” according to Cooper. When Brabham, an Indy rookie, began his warmup laps, he was unaware of the requirement to gradually build up his speed on the track. He clocked his second lap at 144.8 miles per hour, fast enough for the third row on the previous race’s grid! Ward was so enthused, Cooper had to agree to let him drive the car, too. From that point, the Indianapolis establishment realized the writing was on the wall and the days of their front-engined roadsters were numbered. Within a few years, John Cooper’s revolution of open-wheeled racing was complete.
Cooper’s development of the British Motor Corporation Mini — the Mini Cooper — was adored by both rally racers and ordinary road drivers. Before John Cooper’s death, the Cooper name was licensed to BMW for the higher-performance versions of the cars, inspired by the original Mini, sold as the MINI. John, along with his son Mike Cooper, served in an advisory role to BMW and Rover’s New MINI design team.
Cooper was the last surviving Formula One team principal from the formative years of the sport, and he often lamented later in life that the fun had long since gone out of racing. He helped establish Britain’s domination of motorsport technology, which continues today, and he received the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his services to British motorsport. He remained head of the West Sussex family garage business (which had outlets for Mini Cooper at East Preston and Honda at Ferring) until his death at age 77 in 2000.
John Cooper and Eric Brandon were peers and friends.
Having read john Cooper’s autobiography he emerges as warm engaging enthusiast who was extremely modest about his families and team achievements .He presents as genuine, straight forward and without pretention.
“Action with a purpose” is a quotation from his autobiography and one we feel particularly appropriate for these well engineered highly successful racing cars and constructors.
Owen Richard Maddock (24 January 1925 – 19 July 2000)  was a British engineer and racing car designer, who was chief designer for the Cooper Car Company between 1950 and 1963. During this time Maddock designed a string of successful racing cars, including the Formula One World Championship-winning Cooper T51 and T53 models.
The T51 was the first mid-engined car to win either the World Drivers’ or Constructors’ Championships, feats it achieved in the hands of Jack Brabham in 1959. A year earlier Stirling Moss had taken the first ever Formula One victory for a mid-engined car in another Maddock-designed vehicle: a Cooper T43. In addition to his Formula One work, Maddock also produced race-winning Formula Two, Formula Three and sports car designs. After leaving Cooper in 1963 Maddock went on to a successful career as an engineering consultant, including a spell as a hovercraft designer working for Saunders-Roe on the Isle of Wight. In his spare time he also enjoyed racing hovercraft, and was a co-founder of the Hovercraft Club of Great Britain.
Away from engineering Maddock was an accomplished jazz musician. Among others, he was a part of Mick Mulligan‘s Magnolia Jazz Band, playing sousaphone, that featured George Melly on vocals. When the band decided to turn fully professional Maddock preferred to remain an amateur and left the group. He also counted saxophone, bass clarinet and piano among his repertoire, and continued to play and compete in jazz competitions until shortly before his death.
Following unsuccessful approaches to HRD and Trojan, Maddock was taken on by the Cooper Car Company, run by father and son team Charles and John Cooper. Charles Cooper had been involved in motorsport since the 1920s, having acted as racing mechanic to Kaye Don for many years, and had built John a racing special as a twelfth birthday present in 1936. Working at the family garage in Surbiton, the pair constructed their first motorcycle-engined 500 cc (31 cu in) racing car in 1946. A string of wins followed, raising the reputation of the Cooper 500 to such an extent that they were able to begin selling replicas to fellow competitors.
Despite their growing popularity, by the time Maddock joined the company in September 1948 they were still not large enough to be able to justify taking on a full-time engineer. In addition to his drafting duties Maddock therefore also filled the roles of fitter, storekeeper and van driver, among many. Gradually the Coopers began to make more use of Maddock’s drafting skills, however, realising that having proper technical drawings was preferable to sketching designs to full scale on the walls, where they were frequently painted over! Some smaller parts were fabricated from crude sketches, or frequently simply by eye. During his time with Cooper Maddock became renowned for the detail and artistry of his blueprints, and with a talent for lateral thinking his contribution to the design of Cooper’s cars grew rapidly. By the time of Cooper’s heyday the design process was essentially a three-way tag match between Maddock, John Cooper and star driver Jack Brabham. Maddock’s protégé and eventual successor, Eddie Stait, later recalled to historian Doug Nye that “John had a lot of the original ideas and then Owen would add some very original thinking in developing those ideas; they were a team … and Jack of course contributed a lot.“
Unusually for the time Maddock sported a full beard. As a result of this he quickly became known around the Cooper establishment as “The Beard”, while to Charles Cooper he would always be “Whiskers”. His mercurial temperament and volatile temper sometimes grated against his employers’ nerves. Once, when a potential new recruit arrived for a job interview, Charles Cooper asked his secretary whether he had a beard. On being told that he did, Cooper told her to “Send ‘I’m home. I’ve got enough trouble with the one I’ve got!”
John Arthur ‘Jack’ Brabham was born on 2 April 1926 in Hurstville, New South Wales, then a commuter town outside Sydney. Brabham was involved with cars and mechanics from an early age. At the age of 12, he learned to drive the family car and the trucks of his father’s grocery business. Brabham attended technical college, studying metalwork, carpentry, and technical drawing.
Brabham’s early career continued the engineering theme. At the age of 15 he left school to work, combining a job at a local garage with an evening course in mechanical engineering. Brabham soon branched out into his own business selling motorbikes, which he bought and repaired for sale, using his parents’ back veranda as his workshop.
One month after his 18th birthday on 19 May 1944 Brabham enlisted into the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Although he was keen on becoming a pilot, there was already a surplus of trained aircrew and the Air Force instead put his mechanical skills to use as a flight mechanic, of which there was a wartime shortage. He was based at RAAF Station Williamtown, where he maintained Bristol Beaufighters at No. 5 Operational Training Unit. On his 20th birthday, 2 April 1946, Brabham was discharged from the RAAF with the rank of leading aircraftman. He then started a small service, repair, and machining business in a workshop built by his uncle on a plot of land behind his grandfather’s house.
Generally Nye comments:-
“this is no means to claim that Cooper’s works was a haven of peace and unity …….far from it , Cooper’s could sizzle with discontent and friction , the atmosphere tense and combative and neatly always because “the Old Man” would not spend money. His men were poorly paid .they worked all hours .the works was dark , dingy, freezing cold in winter ……..”
Cooper racing cars benefited from clear thinking practical unpretentious men an inestimable input feedback and of practical engineering skill from drivers like Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren. They also enjoyed the support, loyalty and general continuity of hard working staff.
Lotus had equally modest start in Tottenham Lane. Chapman entered trials before club racing with 750 Motor Club. He also had the input of some extremely talented and dedicated colleagues like the Allen brothers, Mike and Frank Costin .Of course this pattern continued throughout the 1970’s and 80’s when Chapman required greater specialist support and FI became more complex and aerodynamics played a bigger part. Subscribers are directed to A&R articles like Warren Street and Design Decades to get historical background and fuller context.
Chapman also enjoyed the benefits of gifted drivers like Clark who was able to exploit Chapmans sophisticated designs if not provide the same engineering input and feedback as Brabham
New Kids on the Grids
Cooper democratised the sport by following the intentions of the 500 Club and its specifications. They did not make the engines that powered their cars. Cooper and Lotus brought a very different method of building racing cars .They used proprietary engines, sold cars in kits and allowed the owner to source or use their own engine making the sport affordable and encouraging innovation/improvisation along with close racing
Cooper Design Methodology and Sales
Nye provides some useful cost comparisons:-
1939 new BMW 328 cost £625 but a £1,000 in 1947
Ditto Bugatti £200 £500
Cooper design was invariably straightforward and efficient design .The editors fully recommend subscribers use the net to explore drawings [Carblueprints being extremely useful for drawings] In order to assimilate Cooper Form and Function and in order to appreciate the Cooper 2.5 L Climax subscribers are directed to the cutaway by Hatton.
Nye again informs us about production:-
“But not all of them by any means were completed in the Cooper factories, for UK purchase tax made cars in kit form most attractive and many Coopers were sold in this tax free form and were completed by their purchaser and his mechanics. Therefore, what sketchy chassis production records have survived can tell only part of a very complex and obscure story”
The curved-tube chassis [from the net]
Figure 2.Editors sketch illustrating all the primary design principles used by Copper -see text for development [see also Costin and Phipps]
The curved-tube chassis was the more controversial of the two novel ideas. The existing Cooper 500 chassis design process had been one of evolution since the earliest production 500s rolled out of the Surbiton works in 1947, and had been based on simple, traditional twin longitudinal box-section ladder frame. With the introduction of the Mark V in 1950 this was augmented by a beefed-up and stiffened body support structure,  creating a semi-space frame chassis. This was refined further over the next two years, with the Mark VI marking a switch to equally sized tubular upper and lower longerons, and the Mark VIIA introducing tubular upright sections as well. However, for 1953’s Mark VIII the Coopers decided to start afresh with a completely new chassis design.
A true space frame design uses only straight tubes, properly triangulated to pass loads either in tension or compression. Following proper engineering practice, when he started to develop plans for the new chassis design Maddock sketched out various straight-tubed space frame designs. However, when he showed each to Charlie Cooper his response was “Nah, Whiskers, that’s not it…“ Frustrated, Maddock finally went away and drew a frame in which every tube was bent. To his surprise, rather than dismissing it Cooper’s reaction was to snatch the plans out of Maddock’s hands and exclaim “That’s it…“ Although the curved tube design broke several engineering rules Maddock and the Coopers later rationalised their decision. Their arguments were that curved tubes could be located and routed so as to leave adequate space for mechanical components, and as the tubes could be run close under the car’s bodywork this could be attached directly to the frame, saving the weight and complexity of a dedicated bodywork frame. Although the idea started as a joke Maddock would later defend the design, even in the teeth of strong criticism from Cooper’s star driver Jack Brabham. Brabham would come to recall that Maddock was latterly an even stauncher defender of the curved-tube concept than Charles Cooper.
Subscribers are directed to Costin and Phipps where they will find very exact technical descriptions of several Cooper chassis. In addition there are invaluable photographs and chassis drawing .Designers ought to study these as simultaneously there are Lotus comparisons.
In brief it’s worth recoding an observation by Costin and Phipps;-
“In many ways the FI Cooper is the enigma of racing car design; it defies many structural laws yet in 959 and 1960 it won the majority of important races………..simplicity , strength and reliability are far more important to the Cooper family than pioneering new ideas for the worlds motor industry”
Colin Chapman of course was a structural engineer and many of his colleagues and supporters were from the aviation industry. Chapman was driven by a combination of theoretical first principles and mechanical efficiency achieved through low weight. Subscribers are directed to Costin and Phipps were some of the most accurate and graphic illustrations exist comparing and contrasting Chapman and Cooper design methodologies.
It might be said that Coopers were pragmatists and Chapman purist. The Cooper method worked in its time.
Chapman moved on and introduced the monocoque chassis in the early 1960’s [see A&R dedicated articles on this and Lotus 25]
Form, Function, fusion and fortuitousness
Of course the mid-engine layout was not new.
The deliberate inexpensive concept of F500 demanded motor cycle engines and this practically meant chain drive .The simplest method therefore was to connect the engine to sprockets on the rear axle. Hence the engine behind the driver.
Cooper significantly also produced some attractive front engine sports cars and a pure race car [as Lotus was during the 1950’s]
Credit has to be given to Owen Maddox for the conceptual leap that took the Cooper 500 idea and mutated it into the T39 sports racing car and adopted the Coventry Climax engines.
The editors provide this rather attractive colour photograph which is particularly graphic and self-explanatory. Taken with the body off its revealing and cross references the Cooper concept of bent tube chassis design. It’s recommended that subscribers might obtain the fullest comprehension of Cooper design and indeed contact with Lotus by reference to Costin & Phipps and the cutaway drawings of Coopers by Hatton.
The editors have discovered some informative Cooper bare chassis photographs on the net but space precludes inclusion here.
Figure 3.Colour image of the 1960 Cooper from the Motor presentation pack 1960
The 500 Formula [F3]
John Cooper had thought of entering trials in the immediate post war period. He might have been persuaded by his friend to consider F3 and the possibility of a scrap Fiat 500 in their possession might have been material as might have been their close proximity to Crystal Place racing circuit in South London.
“immediately after World War II, a tremendously dynamic movement began in Britain to promote a formula for “poor man’s motor racing “.it all revolved around the idea of building sketchy little four wheel chassis carrying 500 cc motorcycle engines amidships behind the driver , so that a direct chain drive to the rear axle could be retained , exactly as on the parent motor-cycle …………..Colin Strang and Clive Lones in Britain were the two father figures of this type of racing and in 1946 Charles and john Cooper began copying their pioneering efforts by building 500’s from chopped Fiat 500 chassis frames powered by Speedway J.A.P. engines. After minor teething troubles the prototype 550 lb. cooper-JAP proved most successful. In 1948 a batch of Cooper Mk.II’s were offered for sale……..”
In 1946 his infectiously enthusiastic son John plotted with boyhood friend Eric Brandon to build a chain driven motor cycled –engined , single seater special for 500 cc “poor man’s formula “ racing .
From the net:-
“The first cars built by the Coopers were single-seat 500-cc Formula Three racing cars driven by John Cooper and Eric Brandon, and powered by a JAP motorcycle engine. Since materials were in short supply immediately after World War II, the prototypes were constructed by joining two old Fiat Topolino front-ends together. According to John Cooper, the stroke of genius that would make the Coopers an automotive legend—the location of the engine behind the driver—was merely a practical matter at the time. Because the car was powered by a motorcycle engine, they believed it was more convenient to have the engine in the back, driving a chain. In fact there was nothing new about ‘mid’ engined racing cars but there is no doubt Coopers led the way in popularizing what was to become the dominant arrangement for racing cars.
Called the Cooper 500, this car’s success in hill climbs and on track, including Eric winning the 500 race at one of the first postwar meetings at Gransden Lodge Airfield, quickly created demand from other drivers (including, over the years, Stirling Moss, Peter Collins, Jim Russell, Ivor Bueb, Ken Tyrrell, and Bernie Ecclestone) and led to the establishment of the Cooper Car Company to build more. The business grew by providing an inexpensive entry to motorsport for seemingly every aspiring young British driver, and the company became the world’s first and largest postwar, specialist manufacturer of racing cars for sale to privateers.
Cooper built up to 300 single-and twin-cylinder cars during the 1940s and 1950s,  and dominated the F3 category, winning 64 of 78 major races between 1951 and 1954. This volume of construction was unique and enabled the company to grow into the senior categories; with a modified Cooper 500 chassis, a T12 model, Cooper had its first taste of top-tier racing when Harry Schell qualified for the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix. Though Schell retired in the first lap, this marked the first appearance of a rear-engined racer at a Grand Prix event since the end of WWII.”
Figure 4.The editors believe this to be a Cooper 500 car
“the single –seater Cooper is currently the only F3 racing car in production .made at the famous little works at Surbiton in Surrey by the Cooper father and son team it achieved such popularity a few years back that its production figures gave the factory the reputation of having built more racing cars than any other firm in the world .originally based on the Fiat “500” it rapidly grew into a miniature Grand Prix machine-powered by a rear mounted motor cycle engine.
Basis of the current Cooper 500 [and all Coopers] is a light weight tubular chassis frame. the front suspension and rear suspension is independent by transverse leaf spring and wishbones , the outer anchorages of the rear springs being provided with three alternative positions for the securing bolts .this feature permits the driver to experiment with over and under steering characteristics .all four wheels are of cast magnesium , the front ones being equipped with integral brake drums .rear braking is effected by single ,inboard –mounted disc.The engine , usually a twin ohc ,air-cooled Norton racing unit , is mounted in the rear of the car where it drives the rear wheels , motorcycle style through roller chains and a Norton, Burman or Albion gearbox…..sometimes the cheaper and less complicated J.A.P. speedway engine is fitted but since the introduction petrol fuels to 500cc racing this difficult to cool unit has lost much of its already waning popularity.
The Cooper 500 has won too many records for them to be mentioned here, but its development is now practically stagnant, small sports car racing having almost displaced F3 events”
|Specification for:||Cooper 500|
|Cylinders||single cylinder||single cylinder|
|Cooling||air cooled||air cooled|
|Bore & Stroke||79.62 x 100 mm||79.62 x 100 mm|
|Compression Ratio||8.7 to 1|
|Valve gear||twin ohc|
|Maximum bhp||39.5 at 6200 rpm|
|Fuel pumps||AC mechanical|
|Fuel tank capacity|
|Gearbox||usually Norton ,4-speed positive stop|
|Brakes :front||hydraulic drum 8in|
|Brakes : rear||1 inboard disc [hydraulic]|
|Dry weight||500lb [approx.]|
|Wheels||bolt on magnesium -alloy|
|Maximum speed [estimated]||105 mph [estimated]|
It’s worth noting that the F3 regulation stipulated a minimum weight of 200 kg [440 lb.] and minimum ground clearance of 10cm [4in.].It had been expected that amateurs would be able to build their own car for approximately £150 possibly assuming they had an existing engine
The Cooper 500 in 1949 retailed at £575 and the 1000cc version at £775.
When supplies of Fiat parts were not available Cooper’s commissioned their own notable were the cast Elektron wheels. The JAP engine is estimated to produce 45bhp.
These prices were not cheap. [See our cost comparison articles etc.] The Norton engine was the best available. It was not a production road engine but top class dedicated racing engine.
The fact that Chapman did not enter F500 is interesting and none of the biographies offer an explanation. Since speedway was important in London and indeed J.A.P.were based in Hornsey area it would seem sensible. The editors feel that Chapman entered trials because it was inexpensive, there was the dual use car utility factor and the extensive network of the 750 Motor club. Chapman like Coopers made participation affordable through kits which allowed incremental build up /and or use of existing engines. Chapman struck out for affordability by utilizing the Austin 7 and Ford side valve parts essentially prewar. His trails cars included the first Mk.1 Austin Special, the Mk.II and Mk.IV. It’s worth noting that F500 with the best of intentions possibly anticipated and envisaged its cars being fitted with a range of proprietary British motor cycle engines but the use of the ohc Manx Norton rendered it expensive.
The A&R is drafting a dedicated article just of F500 and questioning more thoroughly why Chapman might not have participated.
Sports Cars and F2
Owen gives a very good technical brake down of the Cooper –Bristol [and it’s worth accessing this] he suggests the Mk.1 was capable of 137mph but the improved Mk.2 with increased bhp of 150 was able to achieve 145 mph.
The body of course was formed of 18g aluminium alloy and fastened by Dzus.
Figure 5.Editors sketch of the Cooper-Bristol F2 racing car
Of the Cooper –Bristol F2 2litre Roberts wrote:-
“When it was decided to build a 2 litre car, Coopers chose to incorporate various chassis ideas from their supremely successful 500’s.Bristol engineers worked closely with Cooper to produce this machine which was soon outclassing others of its day.
He provides the following technical specification [see tabulation below]
The T20 Cooper-Bristol was a 6cylinder engine giving an estimated 127 bhp.Although quite modest it was hoped the light chassis would offer reasonable competitiveness.
Figure 6.A&R item.1953-54 dinky D23G Cooper- Bristol [image from the net]
The editors recommend where possible subscribers access photographs /and or drawings of the F2 Bristol engine car before the body is fitted. [See A&R dedicated piece on Bristol/BMW 6 cylinder engine]
This will reveal a primary perforated ladder chassis with substantial mounts for the elliptical springs, medium size tubes enclosing the main components and forming forward cockpit hoop and very light weight tube onto which the body is attached.
Using the editor’s sketch the form and function of the T20 is readily evident.
John Cooper states that the Cooper Bristol was retailed at £2,000 in 1953 and he considered it very good value for money considering the quality of the components and construction.
In addition Cooper produced some significant sports and sports racing cars possibly in a sort of mould that Lister would later develop. These cars included those with engines from:-
Of these cars the Cooper –MG registered “JOY 500” would be the most significant. It would influence AC and hence the Cobra.These group of cars date from the early to mid-1950.
John Cooper relates that the Cooper MG was approximately 700 lbs. lighter than the standard vechicle.
Chapman and Lotus produced a succession of sports racing cars through the 1950’s and 60’s. They too used MG and Bristol engines in the Mk.VIII and Mk.X.
Chapmans entry into GP racing was in F2 followed by FI and this was accomplished with the Type 12  and Type 16 [1958.] It’s worth noting of course these were front engined cars and several years after the successful mid-engine layout introduced by Cooper with the T39.
Chapman and Lotus continued to produce F2 cars through the 1960’s and these included Type no’s 3, 41 and 48 etc.
The Formula Single Seat Racing Cars
Nye explains that 1957 saw a new 1500cc racing class for unsupercharged cars. Charles and John Cooper “immediately recognized the customer potential for F2”
“designed by that remarkable father and son team ,Charles and John Cooper the F2 model adheres to the principle of using a light weight basic structure in conjunction with independent four wheel suspension and cleverly arranged weight distribution .power –unit is the Coventry Climax FPF twin ohc engine …………although during their successful 1957 racing the F2 Coopers retained their traditional front and rear suspension by transverse leaf springs and “simple” wishbones…………the car is a model of ingenuity with the engine installed at an angle of 15 degrees [to enable carburetters ]to be accommodated within the body paneling at the rear of the car , and a built in unit with a ZF limited slip differential and a special four speed gearbox. Controlled by a right hand gear lever in the cockpit, and by rods and bell-cranks the gearbox has been developed by Cooper’s from a Citroen font wheel drive unit .the specially cast and strengthened light alloy casings are supplied by E.R.S.A of Paris and then fitted with special gears by the Cooper Car company, with approximately 60% of its weight on the rear wheels, the F2 Cooper is less troubled by wheel spin than many front –engined designs”
Figure 7.From Carblueprints: Cooper type /, 1958 with Coventry Climax engine
Figure 8.Editors photograph of early Cooper
Figure 9.From on Four Wheels.Quaroruote.1960 Cooper FI with Climax engine.
The Cooper T51
Formula 1 cars of the 2.5 litre formula era 1958 to 1960
|1960||Ferrari||246 rear engine||2497||260||550|
On the T51 Nye wrote:-
“When the Cooper Climax cars driven by wily Australian Jack Brabham won the World Championship titles in 1959 and 1960, they set the seal on Grand Prix’s so called rear engine revolution………..when Cooper showed how it could be done, won those back to back World Championships titles in 1959-60 and persuaded the rest of the racing world to follow suit”
From the net;-
“Aesthetically and aerodynamically the T51 was a natural development of the T43 and T45 cars that had given Cooper their first two wins. The Coopers continued their practice of building spaceframe chassis that ignored orthodox design thinking in having several curved links and the rear-engine layout meant weight savings and aerodynamic advantages over the front-engined cars, which typically had separate gearbox and differential cases, and had to find room for prop shafts to the rear wheels. Also the location of the fuel tanks on either side of the cockpit rather than at the rear meant the car handled more consistently with different fuel loads, a vital factor during races which lasted up to three hours. One notable throwback, however, was the car’s leaf spring rear suspension, although it used a more modern coil spring and wishbone setup at the front.”
Figure 10.Editors sketch of the Cooper Climax
We have noted Chapman had little success with his front engined single seat GP cars .It was later with the Type 18 of 1960 that success started. From this point on he obtained world Championships with the cars including the Types 25. , 49 and 72.
Engine & transmission details from the net
“The standard F1 T51 was the first Cooper powered by the 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine which Cooper and Lotus had commissioned Coventry Climax to build specifically for their rear-engined machines. The pioneering nature of this configuration created problems of its own, since there were so few rear-engined production cars from which a gearbox could be sourced. This shortage eventually created a niche in the market which paved the way for Hewland‘s prominence, but in the meantime many different solutions were tried, with varying degrees of success. The works Coopers were fitted with modified Citroen gearboxes, while Rob Walker’s team ran bespoke units from Italian specialist Valerio Colotti, although these proved much more fragile.
In all, eight different engines were used in the back of T51s in championship races, with 2.2- and 1.5-litre Climax engines in addition to the standard 2.5: Scuderia Centro Sud and others used 2.5 and 1.5-litre engines from Maserati; the British Racing Partnership team used F2 powerplants from Borgward; Scuderia Eugenio Castellotti used their own Ferrari-derived 2.5-litre units; and one car used a Ferrari 2-litre engine lifted from a 625LM.”
Technical specification for T51
Coventry Climax 4cylinder in line
Bore and stroke 94 x 89.9mm capacity 2495cc [at 6,750 rpm; 98.2 bhp per litre] twin ohc
Two valves per cylinder
2x twin choke Weber carburetters
Maximum power 240 bhp at 6750 rpm
Cooper five speed gearbox in unit with final drive
Multi-tubular frame; [suspension front /rear] –independent unequal length wishbones and coil springs at front and rear .Armstrong coaxial telescopic dampers.
Girling hydraulic disc brakes.
Front track 3ft-10.5in
Rear track 4ft-0in
The editors have seen figures that suggest the smallest capacity Coventry Climax engines retailed for £2,350 in 1958.this seems rather expensive? Possibly a misprint .We judge this against cost of Lotus Elite.
John Cooper informs us that the Coventry Climax engine .All aluminium, 4 cylinder chain driven ohc of 1020cc with magneto ignition produced 35 bhp at 3.500 rpm and weighed 365 lbs.
He gives the dimensions as:-
Overall length with starter 47in.
Both Chapman and Cooper used proprietary engines with great success. Both adopted the Coventry Climax engines for racing and indeed Chapman placing them in the production sports car the Elite.
The contribution of the Climax engine cannot be underrated .They offered the small specialist marques a quality affordable engine that perfectly complemented their chassis. The power to weight ratio enabling them to compete at the highest level.
It’s for this reason that the A&R is producing a dedicated article on Coventry Climax engines, those primarily used by Lotus.
Subscribers are directed to Taylor for an easy quick reference of Coventry Climax engines and their brief specifications as used by Lotus.
Formula 3 and Tasman
It’s believed that Coopers constructed racing cars for both Tasman and F3, sadly space does not allow us to expand. The appendix lists those specific vechicles.
Lotus like Cooper raced in these two categories. For Lotus it was the Types 31, 32, 35, 41 and 55 [F3] and the Types 32B and 39 in Tasman.
Figure 11.Editors photograph of what we believe to be a Cooper FI car .Here seen at Llandow circuit, Glamorgan, South Wales dating from mid-late 1960’s.
Cooper Maserati Specification
“with these connections with the Modena firm it was no surprise when the Cooper factory came to an agreement to use the V12 Maserati engines in their new cars for the 1966 F1 for 3 litres .this engine started life in 1957 as a 2.5 litre unit for F1……Maserati developed the 3 –litre unit into a racing engine for Cooper, who installed it in a new aluminium monocoque chassis. This car was offered for sale to private owners but was not a great success even though Maserati did a lot of development work on the engine producing a special 3-valve per cylinder version .Cooper developed the chassis producing a lower and lighter version, but the project came to an end by 1968 as the car was no longer competitive”
He provides this technical specification:-
Bore /Stroke 70.4 x 64mm
Valves inclined overhead with two ohc’s per bank
Induction Lucas fuel injection
Gearbox 5 ZF
Front S independent by wishbone, rocker arm and coil spring
Rear S independent by wishbone, link and radius rods with coil springs
Chassis aluminium monocoque
Max.speed 175 mph
John Cooper suggests one Cooper Maserati was privately sold for £16,000.
The editors have discovered cutaway drawings of this model and all our subscribers are urged to study these.
Space does not allow an extended commentary but it’s worth noting and by using the net it can be seen that briefly in the early 1960’s many marques adopted V12 engines. Subscribers are directed to look at the Lotus 43 and its use of the enormously complex BRM H16 engine for example
Figure 12.Cooper single seater seen at Crystal Palace sprint
|Specification||Type 65 Junior||Formula 1||Monaco|
|Bore /Stroke||85×48.4mm||67.8×51.6 mm||96x95mm|
|CC||1,098 cc||1,496 cc||2,750cc|
|Valve Gear||OHV||OHV||Twin OHC|
|Carburettors||1xWeber||Lucas Fuel Inj||2xWeber|
|Max.Power||98 bhp||200 bhp||250 bhp|
|Front Brakes||Lock’ Disc||Girling Disc||Girling Disc|
|Rear Brakes||Lock’ Disc||Girling Disc||Girling Disc|
|Front Susp’||W’Bone& CS||W’Bone & CS||W’Bone & CS|
|Rear Susp’||W’Bone& CS||W’Bone & CS||W’Bone & CS|
|Kerb weight||882 lbs||1,040 lbs||1,250 lbs|
|Specification||Lotus Type 23B||Lotus 25||Lotus 19|
|Bore /Stroke||82.55×72.74 mm||67.8×51.6 mm||96x95mm|
|CC||1,558 cc||1,496 cc||2,750cc|
|Valve Gear||Twin OHC||4 OHC||Twin OHC|
|Comp Ratio||Not stated||12:01||11:01|
|Carburettors||2x Weber||Lucas Fuel Inj||2xWeber|
|Max.Power||140 bhp||200 bhp||250 bhp|
|Trans/Gears||5||5||5 or 6 speed|
|Front Brakes||Disc 9.5″||Girling Disc||Disc 10.5″|
|Rear Brakes||Disc 9.5″||Girling Disc||Disc 9.5″|
|Front Susp’||W’Bone& CS||W’Bone & CS||W’Bone & CS|
|Rear Susp’||W’Bone& CS||W’B,Radius,CS||W’Bone & CS|
|Kerb weight||Not stated||1,000 lbs||1,230 lbs|
|Front Brakes||Disc 9.5″|
|Rear Brakes||Disc 9.5″|
|Front Susp’||W’Bone& CS|
|Rear Susp’||Ind’Chapman strut|
|Chassis||Glass fibre integral|
|Kerb weight||1,344 lbs|
“The Cooper used for the Indianapolis debut was mainly a FI Cooper. Adaption followed the usual American modifications for the famous Indianapolis 500 mile race .This was the first time a British car had been built especially for the American classic .the main modification were the weight balance arrangements and the specially developed tyres.
Roberts provides the following technical specification for 1961 model.
|No.cylinders/capacity||4 in line , 2,462 cc|
|Bore and stroke||x mm|
|Max.bhp||251 at 6,250 rpm|
|Steering||Rack and pinion|
|Wheels||centre lock Dunlop|
|Tyres||Special Dunlop front 5.50 x 16 rear 7.00 x 16|
|Frame & body||frame of multi-tubular 1.5in dia engine /transmission canted to l.h.s.|
|Kerb weight||1,360 lb with 30 gall. of fuel|
Again we have to acknowledge that Coopers led. They provided a formula and evidence of the potential. The evidence of their achievement and indeed the specification would have given Chapman confidence to follow. Indeed this was the case and Lotus Indianapolis cars included the Types 29,34,38,56 and 64. Lotus were at Indianapolis as late as 1985 with their Type 96T.
Cooper Formula Juniors
The editors have read that the Cooper’s saw good business in the Junior formula and produced the T52 [possibly 17 cars made], the T56, T59 and T65 [possibly 14 cars sold .see our technical specification for this model]
Twite wrote this about the T65:-
“the Cooper FJ cars followed closely the design of the F1car and tended to be stronger and heavier than their contemporaries, the multi-tubular chassis has large diameter tubes as the main members with the minimum of bracing tubes .somewhat surprisingly the Cooper exhibited at the 1963 Racing Car show created something of a sensation which is most unusual as Cooper tend to develop one design over a long period .this particular car was fitted with special Moulton Hydrolastic suspension units on all four wheels ,instead of the normal coil springs and telescopic dampers. These units are developed from those fitted to the Morris 1100 and although somewhat smaller operate on the same principle of a rubber cone filled with water which is squeezed through a valve when the suspension is compressed. The cones are joined by pipes on each side of the car in the same way as the Morris 1100 which has the advantage of resisting fore and aft pitching ………..Lockheed disc brakes are fitted all round , being mounted outboard all round and steering is by rack and pinion.
Coopers are almost alone in using the BMC “A” series engine in the rear of their car while everyone else uses the Ford 100E unit. This is understandable when one remembers the association between Coopers and BMC in the production of the Mini –Cooper range……… [See tabulation for engine and other technical specification]
The editors have read further technical information that suggests c 1960 the juniors were built of 1.5in dia. Steel tube of both 18 and 16 gauge.
They used a special BMC series A engine enlarged along with Citroen derived gearbox.
Coopers saw the commercial opportunity of Formula Junior. Chapman was a little slower and perhaps had other issues and priorities. However Lotus did produce the following Types to rival Cooper- 18, 20 and 27 for example. Subscribers might like to use net to examine respective success rates. The A&R has produced a dedicated article on the FJ’s.
Cooper’s produced the T90 for the series.
Lotus like Coopers did not have great success with the Formula A /F5000 but they did produce the Types 68 and 70.
John Cooper Racing School
John Cooper devotes some detail in his autobiography to the Racing School and this deserves some attention. It was an inspired entrepreneurial idea that was democratic affordable, helped promote the post war achievements of Britain in motor racing and almost certainly helped sell Cooper racing cars. It’s worth relating from “Grand Prix Carpet Bagger” at some length.
Part of the inspiration for the scheme came from Ron Searles [see our dedicated article on T39 –Cooper Bobtail]
C 1956 a magazine advertisement was placed from which 2000 replies were received. Cooper set up at Brands Hatch. They used detuned Cooper –Climax 1250ccand Bobtails.
They ran the training two days a week –Tuesday and Thursday and charged £5 to join and £1 lap.
The scheme was phenomenally successful to the extent that rival schools were established. John Cooper suggests in total through the life of the scheme 8000 trainees attended and of these 100 were women. This was better than 1% and a good figure for the time. The BBC attended and covered events.
The personnel involved included:-
- Ron Searles
- Ian Burgess
- Dickie Samuleson
- Andrew Ferguson
- Ginger Devlin
In a light hearted vein John explains the crash repairs and how they eventually to achieve an almost same day turn around!!
From the net:-
“Page 44, December 1960 View Original Pages
LAST winter the Cooper Driving School selected six drivers from their many candidates to take part in races during the 1960 season in Formula Junior. At the time it was anticipated that the best two drivers, Bill Lacey from Ireland and Don Rickman the motorcyclist, would be given a Formula Junior Cooper on permanent loan for the whole season, but as things turned out this was not possible. Activity at the works with Formula 1 and Formula 2 cars, and the demand for Juniors by the Sales department, rather left the School short of material. However, the School Junior was used many tunes during the past season for these six successful pupils to have a go at a proper race. In addition, when the idea of loaning cars to pupils originated Formula Junior in this country was barely beginning. And Coopers had no idea that it was going to develop into such cut-throat racing amongst experienced drivers, so that when they saw the trend of things as the 1960 season progressed they were a bit reluctant to send their pupils out into the free-for-all of Formula Junior. However, there were sufficient races at Club meetings at Silverstone and Goodwood, both for Formula Junior and Formula Libre, for the six successful ones to have a go. It will be recalled that Lacey was the most promising driver and -he was entered by the School for Brands Hatch on Boxing Day, where he finished seventh, and then in the spring he had another drive at a Silverstone Club meeting, but unfortunately retired. It should have been Don Rickman’s turn next, but his motorcycle scrambles activity prevented him from taking up the offer, so the next on the list had a drive, this being Tony Skelton, and he finished fifth in his first race. Then Freddie Jacks had a drive at Goodwood and finished fifth and back at another Silverstone Club meeting Skelton scored a second place and Miss Elizabeth Jones finished eighth. Before this second Silverstone meeting the School hired the Club Circuit for a day and Lacey, Jacks, Skelton, Rickman and Miss Jones had the opportunity to put in unlimited practice, using the School car. The sixth pupil to be selected was Keith Ballisat, but as he had contracted a regular drive with Ken Tyrell’s team; he did not avail himself of the School activities. At a further Silverstone Club meeting Lacey scored a fifth and Jacks scored a third, while at the end of the season the school entered Rickman for the B.R.D.C. race on the full Silverstone circuit, and set him off on his first race in the midst of the Open Formula Junior free-for-all. Being his first motor race and his first visit to Silverstone on the full circuit, he did remarkably well to finish in eighth place. Although the season was not as active for the School pupils as had been hoped, at least the promise of driving a works-entered Junior had been fulfilled, and it is hoped that 1961 will see a lot more racing for the successful pupils. \ Already two more names have been selected, these being Richard Ailson and Jean-Claude Franck, and they should get a Start in a race early in the new season. Meanwhile. The School continues to sort out the many applications for membership”
The Cooper T39 “Bobtail”
In order to make this article of reasonable size and to give adequate attention to detail the editors have provided a highly illustrated separate dedicated article on the T39 as its felt this mid-engine sports racing car was seminal and influential .It also provides one of the greatest contrasts with Chapmans design arriving in 1955.
In summary the T39 was solidly built with a relatively simple cassis clothed in a very attractive aerodynamic body. The T39 was conceived as a central seat configuration with mid mounted engine. These cars are believed to have retailed at £1,300.
Of this car it has been said:-
“Cooper engineered the vehicle that was fated to create a successful transition from the minor league of single seater racing to F1”
The editors have a considerable respect for the Cooper T39.For this reason we will publish a dedicated article. In terms of chronology and Chapman catch up, the T39 dates from c 1955 at the same time Lotus were using the Mk.VIII and IX. Both Cooper and Lotus competed at Le Mans
Chapmans response to the T39 was the Lotus Eleven and later the Types 15 and 17.
The Lotus 23 of 1963 provides an interesting comparison [see A&R dedicated article]
The Record Breakers
Space does not permit a full coverage of Coopers record breaking achievements. Subscribers are directed to Owen who provides detailed tabulations.
These records were primarily taken with the F500 and T39 cars.
Space does not permit an extended coverage but suffice to say that Lotus at perhaps a lesser extent took speed records with the Eleven.
The Cooper Monaco
“the Cooper Monaco has been sold in various forms by the Cooper Car Company for many years and is a true sports/racing car complying with the current Appendix “C” regulations for sport/racing cars .in reality it is a wider version of the Cooper F1 car having a similar multi-tubular chassis frame of large diameter tubes but the car is widened to accommodate the two regulation seats .the front suspension is by upper and lower wishbones with co-axial coil spring /damper units and the rear suspension also uses double wishbones with coil spring /damper units .Girling disc brakes are fitted all round and steering is by rack and pinion ………..
A variety of engines have been fitted in the rear of the Cooper Monaco…………has seen little success in long distance races mainly because the Cooper factory has concentrated on its F1 programme and has seldom run a sports car itself………….in short distance races the car has had a great deal of success and there has been many battles between it and the Lotus 19. ……….a Ford V8 engined version called the “King Cobra “has been evolved by Caroll Shelby.”
As noted above Costin and Phipps provide some of the best analysis available along with diagrams which include the Monaco. Annotating a drawing they observe:-
“A multi-tubular sports car chassis –the Cooper Monaco; this consists of four tubes of relatively large diameter linked by a series of unbraced bulkheads the top right hand member also acts as a water pipe.”
Figure 13.From Carblue prints: 1964 Cooper Type 63Monaco cf Lotus Type 19.
This gain is an interesting machine in its own right. Very probably a direct follow up of the T39.The Lotus 19 of 1960 was direct competitor. The Cooper Monaco would be developed in America and several V8 engines installed. Notably the King Cobra. This possibly started the evolution through to the Lola GT and evetually the Ford GT 40. Of course along the way Lotus introduced the Types 30 and 40 which were not particularly successful [see A&R dedicated articles]
Mini Cooper S, 1963
The Cooper Minis deserve a whole article sadly space does not permit all the coverage we might like. Subscribers are directed to works listed in our bibliography and in particular Harvey “The Mighty Minis” as due detail is given to the fact that Coopers were using Austin engines in their Juniors and saw a potential for a development / extension.
From the net:-
As the company’s fortunes in Formula One declined, however, the John Cooper-conceived Mini Cooper – introduced in 1961 as a development of the Alec Issigonis-designed British Motor Corporation Mini with a more powerful engine, new brakes, and a distinctive livery – continued to dominate in saloon car and rally races throughout the 1960s, winning many championships and the 1964, 1965, and 1967 Monte Carlo rallies.
Several different Cooper-marked versions of the Mini and various Cooper conversion kits have been, and continue to be, marketed by various companies. The current BMW MINI, in production since 2001, has Cooper and Cooper S models and a number of John Cooper Work’s tuner packages.”
“£2,000 will not buy a sports car that makes shorter work of cross –country journeys on difficult roads. It is enormous fun to drive and just about the most practical toy that £750 will buy. All in, the Mini Cooper S is a car of delightful Jekyll and Hyde character, with astonishing performance concealed within its unpretentious Mini-Minor Skin.”
Motor magazine, September 1964 on the £755 Morris Mini cooper 1275S.
John Cooper in his autobiography explains the development of the Mini Cooper and how he came to realise the enormous potential it held. He relates this version retailed for about £100 more than the standard model that averaged between £500-600. He outlines that the Mini cooper was shown at the 1961 Motor Show and believes 130,000 examples were produced to c 1977.
The 1960’s were certainly swinging not only in popular culture but also in automobile manufacture .The youth market was extremely significant to sales .This is evidenced in America as marques addressed new markets. Major manufactures embraced Motor sport to capture youth interest and garner publicity.
Cooper touched a nerve with the Mini and this entered culture throughout the 1960’s. Cooper were off the mark by 1961 but Ford entered the fray in 1962 when they invited Chapman and Lotus to rework the Cortina.
Lotus went onto work magic on other production models like the Type 81 Sunbeam Lotus and Type 104, Lotus Carlton.
However in broadest sense Chapman and Lotus exceeded Cooper in their production of sports cars for sale to the public. These included the Elite, Elan, Europa, Éclat, Excel, Esprit and of course the current generation Elise family.
Archive and Resource
The A&R does not hold a vast amount of material on Cooper. We do possesses:-
- Brumm T51 Jack Brabham 1959 car .1/43rd scale
- Dinky Cooper-Bristol [see above]
- Merit Cooper 500 Norton [see below]
- Magazine Articles and scrapbook
- “Motor” Presentation “Grand Prix Cars of 1960 .No.1 Cooper Climax
Figure 14.The A&R has an example of the Merit plastic model of the Cooper 500 [image frommthe net]
We believe scale models are important for designers and engineers. In the case of racing cars often not many were built. They will tend to be in museums and or not available for examination. Models provide an important function .They do not take up vast valuable permanent space yet they can be accessed for examination, study whilst exploring the relationship between form and function.
Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.
These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.
In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-
- Using data presented and from Appendix apportion Cooper models against Lotus equivalents
- Using A&R articles and other research examine the economic geography of motor racing in London area, plotting locations on a map
- Suggest why the concentration has lessened since the 1970’s
- Debate the value of diversification including engineering in a local economy
- How can motor racing heritage be exploited in tourism context
- Examine the connectivity between Norton racing motor cycles , engines and F3 post war, and Vanwall [see A&R connection with Chapman]
- Estimate how Speedway in London helped post war motor sport
- Benchmark Cooper with Lister and Lotus – compare and contrast
Education, Entertainment, Exhibitions and Economics
- London the Epicenter of Post-War motor sport
- The North-South divide [Lotus and Cooper in London]
- Poles Apart –Lotus and Coopers
- Mid-Century Mid-Engine Revolution
- Coopers and Lotus World Champions
- Mini’s,Mokes,Mini Skirts, Pop and Pop up headlamps: Coopers and Lotus in Swinging Sixties London
- Jewels in the Crownwheel :Coopers and Lotus
- Ceremony and Componentry :Racing in London
- Their Changing the Guard –Lotus and Coopers
- Coopers and Cortinas:Made in London
- The Blacksmith of Suburbia –actually Surbiton
- Lotus and Coopers –F1 super heroes
- Circuit of London :London by Lotus or Mini
- The London Job
Both these marques put Britain in the vanguard of post war motor sport.
London based they contributed to making London the epicentre of motor racing.
Both informed the 1960’s and became iconic bringing prestige, recognition and tourism to Britain.
Both were born in post war austerity. Both improvised and innovated. Both enacted the dictum that “necessity is the mother of invention”
Cooper produced the F500 and with Owen Maddox, [who perhaps deserves more credit]. The Cooper father and son with a dedicated work force established a pattern still present in F1 today.
“despite their rivalry there was clearly an affinity between them, after all they were both pioneers –in design and in the fact they were small new constructors battling against long established companies………..
Cooper and Chapman were among the few who were showing themselves capable of giving this type of constructor some competition with little more than a backyard operation………..
John Cooper states his opinion of Chapman in no uncertain terms:-I personally think that Colin Chapman was one of the finest racing car designers of all time No question about it.His creative ideas were out of this world. Some of his first cars, such as the early single seaters were a bit silly in some ways…………..but then he produced the first monocoque…………..
He was undoubtedly the greatest GP designer, certainly in my time. I got on with him very well although I know many people did not, and my father never really trusted him”
Hodges provides a nice succinct round up of Coopers when he commented:-
“Cooper cars had an influence on racing car evolution that was out of all proportion to the size of the company, or to the original aspirations of Charles and John Cooper……..they led the change from the “classic” front engine layout to the mid engined design that became universal within a few years of Coopers first GP victory……..later Cooper GP cars failed to keep to keep pace with the increasing sophistication of racing car design …in 1968 the Cooper racing effort faded away. But a decade earlier Cooper cars had laid down the basic lines of today’s racing cars”
Our conclusion which takes the form of summary comparison /significance of Cooper/Lotus is broken down into 5 parts.
- Both Lotus and Coopers have provided Britain and International motorsport with legacy and indebtedness. Lotus continue in production today and the name of Cooper is retained and provides marketing advantage to the BMW Mini. Both marques directly informed the layout and construction of the current generation of FI cars. Both marques influenced contemporary taste through the 1960’s and shaped fashion. To an extend this continues to the present day with Lotus cutting edge design and Mini Cooper reinvention.
- The Coopers, father and son along with their design engineers were more intellectual than the epitaph “bloody blacksmiths”. Its possibly modesty and understatement prevented them boasting. John Cooper adopted the term carpetbagger in his autobiography. This is often applied in a derogatory manner but carpetbaggers also performed a progressive influence and investment. The Cooper design for all its crudity won two world championships in succession. [Jack Brabham’s moto was “Before you win you have to finish”] and Cooper enabled him to achieve this.
- Both Lotus and Coopers democratized motor racing. They did this in contrasting categories but succeeded in making the sport more affordable and hence take –up /levels of participation. This was good for the individuals, the sport and engineering innovation .The combined performance, recognition and publicity did much for Britain’s reputation, morale, recovery and the British economy and engineering industry. These two marques had slightly differing approaches, both sold affordable kit cars, both supported formula racing in which they respectively dominated. Both marques made participation possible by using proprietary engines. Cooper galvanized Race Driver training, both supported privateer racing to various degrees; both supported formula Junior and Lotus contributed to Formula Ford. Lotus continues to support one marque racing. Not let’s forget the modified production cars were also a means into competition driving and both marques excelled in this area.
- Both these British marques were London based. They enjoyed all the associated benefits of the capital and its specialist engineering industries plus the centrality to transport with international transport links etc. In addition London was the centre of the press , most motoring magazines, publishers ,BBC and many motoring clubs not least RAC and AA along with international governing bodies dictating motor racing regulation
- In the final analysis we consider that Lotus is slightly more significant than Cooper because Chapman came to maturity after Cooper went into decline [in part there were sad personal reasons and losses for this] .Chapman and Lotus won more world Championships [drivers and constructors] and they have and continue to make extraordinary iconic cars. However as this article demonstrates in the early days they were pretty evenly matched. Coopers entry to F500 was significant and it’s perhaps this that gave them the edge in mid engine design. Chapman was forced to follow. Chapman liked to claim major innovations but it must be noted Coopers led with competition cars offered in kits with the potential for proprietary engines and the improvements to the Mini possibly provided a commercial model for Chapman to follow. Based on this Cooper hold a more pivitorial role than perhaps has been credited. Both are evenly matched in the public psyche as a result of their inclusion in film and TV.
John Cooper in his autobiography summarized his conduct as “Action with Purpose”.
This might well apply to Chapman. London, the world’s automobile enthusiasts, and motor racing have a great debt to these two marques who with much in common yet so opposed did so much to determine and define the shape and form of the modern automobile.
It’s to be hoped that these achievements are not overlooked. They deserve to be celebrated .Their innovation and inspiration still contains the seeds of technological advance and revolutionary design so needed in modern Britain.
Subscribers may like to complete the benchmarking exercise contained in our Chapman F1 peers series.
The following information is believed to be adapted from Nye, “Cooper Cars”. [It has been taken from the net] It’s hoped this information can be used to research model types and cross reference with Lotus.
This index has been put together from a variety of sources to whom we are grateful.
Cooper Car Club
British Sports Cars.Watkins.Batsford.1974
The Worlds Racing Cars.Armstrong.Macdonald.1959.
Cooper-Bristol. Profile Publications.
Grand Prix Motor Racing.Aurum.1997.
Famous Racing Cars.Nye.Guild.1989
Classic Racing Cars.Posthhumus.Hamlyn.1977
British Racing Green.Venables.Ian Allan.2008
Racing And Sports Cars.Marriott.Burke.1962.[ note dated but contains some very specific information on Coopers and photographs of Surbiton works not available elsewhere]
Racing Cars. Masterpieces of Engineering.Tipler.Silverdale.2000
Racing Cars.Nye.Ward Lock.1980.
Famous Racing Cars. Temple Press.1962.
The Motor Presents Cooper Climax. Temple Press 1960
The Racing Coopers.Owen.Motoraces/Cassell.1964
The Mighty Minis.Harvey.Oxford.1986.
Racing Cars.Harvey and Bamber.Hamlyn.1985.
British Automobile Legends.Zumbrunn & Heseltine.Merrell.
*Items in italics non A&R library books.