・Fully documented thorough restoration in 2003-4 with further work 2008
・Engine rebuild and new clutch 2018
・Minimal use since and ready to be enjoyed
The Mini needs no introduction but, with over forty years in production and a variety of different versions to choose from, it’s worth looking at the specifics of the Mark I Cooper. Initially Alec Issigonis was reluctant to see his family car design used for competition purposes but his friend John Cooper saw the potential of the Mini and, after successfully petitioning the management of the British Motor Company, he collaborated with Issigonis to produce the Mini Cooper. Sold under both Austin and Morris BMC brands, the Mini Cooper started with a run of 1,000 units to meet the homologation rules of Group 2 rallying. Debuting in 1961, the car featured an engine with a longer stroke which increased the capacity from 848cc to 997cc, twin SU carburettors, a closer ratio gearbox and front disc brakes.
It was immediately successful in competition and further developments followed to increase its competitiveness, with the 1275cc Cooper S going on to multiple Monte Carlo rally wins, among many other accolades.
This example has, remarkably, been in the same family since 1963. It was bought in 1963 by the first owner, however, was sold to the family of the present owner a few months later, and was used as Issigonis intended, as a family car. At some stage in the late sixties, in a move that would surely have gained the approval of John Cooper, the front end was replaced by a flip-up fibreglass arrangement and a racier Fish heated carburettor (designed by US hot-rodder, Bob Fish) was fitted. This apparently resulted in the family being subjected to some spirited drives! It’s unknown when, but at some point in this Cooper’s 58 year life it’s original 997cc engine was replaced with a 998cc Cooper engine - despite this it remains as real a Mini Cooper as any, with the original 997 engine number still documented in the V5 document, it would pose an opportunity to a new owner to trace down the whereabouts of this icon’s original heart. It continued in regular use up until 1976 when it was laid up in dry storage and the car eventually passed to the daughter in 2001. She decided to return the car to its original spec and commissioned a thorough 12-month restoration with Mini Classics in Worksop in 2003 to take the car back to standard, including refitting the original twin SU carburettors, restoring a metal front end, a full respray and interior re-trim.
Following the restoration, the car was then used very occasionally, adding around an estimated 600 further miles between 2003 and 2008 by which time a refresh was needed and some further restoration work carried out at the Mini Hospital in Northampton. Very light use continued until 2018 when the engine was rebuilt and the clutch replaced. Although obviously MOT-exempt, it has been for its test every year and last year some additional welding was required to get through. Now, with such little use, the owner has decided that the time has come to let the car go to someone who can enjoy it more, with the proceeds going to fund a house refurbishment.
The car is accompanied by a large file of invoices and photographs which detail all aspects of the restoration process and invoices for the more recent work including the engine rebuild. A full history of MOTs is present with the current ticket set to expire on 30 November. There is a full set of keys and a set of spares.
As part of the restoration in 2003-4, the upholstery needed to be completely replaced. Due to the determination to stick exactly to the original specification, this proved the most time-consuming and costly part of the work but the restorer was able to locate the sole remaining supplier with the appropriate stock and the ambition was realised. With very little use, the seats are in as-new condition while the rest of the trim is very original, if in need of a little tidying here and there to deal with the effects of ageing; for example, the dashboard fabric is a little wrinkled around the speedo and the trim around the (non-original, added for safety) inertia reel seatbelts needing a little attention. The boot is very clean and has a new positive-earth battery underneath the floor.
The only non-standard item is the steering wheel which has been retained as a link to the owner’s late father but the original wheel is also included in the sale and can be re-fitted. Other issues? Well, there is a 10p- sized hole in the carpet under the passenger seat caused by the recent welding work and the water temperature gauge, although having been replaced, is not currently working. The odometer was thought to have been fixed in the 2001 restoration but it appears is not working and it’s unknown when it stopped, so the mileage cannot be verified. Otherwise it’s all good with secure and unmarked headlining and the windows and locks all fully operational.
Finished in the original colour scheme of Old English White under a black roof, the restored bodywork presents well and the chrome work, which has not been re-finished, is all in great condition. There are a few blemishes to note: there’s a tiny rust patch under the rear window, there is a very small and hard to photograph dent in the offside front wing where something looks to have been dropped on it, and the nearside door pillar has some slight cracking of the paint. When washed, some rust colour washes out from the hinges but it’s easily wiped away. The wheels are believed to be original and wear brand new tyres on the front. The rear tyres, although they did pass the MOT, are now over ten years old and will need replacing at some point soon. Overall, though, it looks great and wouldn’t require too much work to put it among the very best.
The engine bay is very tidy and, with an engine that’s yet to complete more than 200 miles since its rebuild, there’s probably still some running-in to do. It starts the first time, pulls well and changes gear smoothly with the gearbox still feeling tight. When on the move there are no untoward noises from the drivetrain or suspension and the disk brakes provide better stopping power than those who’ve driven a drum-braked Mini will expect. Although no longer fitted, the Fish heated carburettor which was temporarily on the car is included in the sale.
Opportunities to buy a Mini Cooper 998cc don’t come along too often and particularly not in this condition. True, the front end has been reconfigured a couple of times, but that’s not beyond the scope of the kind of restoration that would be necessary on an unloved barn find. Instead, here we have a family heirloom that has been treasured for decades and which is begging to be taken on by someone who will continue the love and attention that has clearly been lavished on it to date.
With a small amount of work this could be a concours example vying for silverware and it would be a shame not to deal with some of the cosmetic tidying. But there’s also an entertaining driver’s car to be enjoyed here and so there’s the opportunity to appreciate a variety of facets of the joys of classic ownership. If you want the chance to write the next chapter in this car’s history then you’d better get bidding in earnest as we think there’ll be more competition than in 60’s rallying!
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