In the 1950s Italian cars dominated the world of Formula One.
Teams like Ferrari and Alfa Romeo produced sleek, powerful machines that left the competition standing. But from the garages of rural England unlikely new challengers began to emerge, much to the chagrin of Enzo Ferrari, who dismissed these arrivistes as ‘Garagistas.’
A memorable appearance in the movie The Italian Job sealed the car’s image as an icon of the decadeThat Petrol Emotion
Perhaps the most important of these early teams was Cooper racing, run by John Cooper together with his father Charles from their garage in Surbiton, Surrey. Cooper’s major contribution to the sport can still found in every Formula One car on the track today. It was a simple but revolutionary idea - they moved the engine from the front of the car to the back. In the process they were able to reduce the weight of the car, allowing their less powerful engines to outrun the front-engined competition.
In the 1960s with several World Championships under his belt, John Cooper turned his attention to a very different type of racing car. He saw some potential in turning the recently released Mini into a performance car. Teaming up with the Mini’s designer Alec Issigonis they developed the Mini Cooper. By the mid-60s it was dominating rally championships, winning the Monte Carlo Rally three times. A memorable appearance in the movie The Italian Job sealed the car’s image as an icon of the decade.
Following his father’s death in 1964 John Cooper sold the family firm, and slowly drifted out of Formula One. He continued to run the family’s garage business until his death in 2000. But John Cooper’s legacy can still be seen all over the world, thanks to the enormous popularity of the relaunched BMW /Mini Cooper.