1968 Austin Mini Cooper Rally

****Photos provided by the seller****

Highlights


• Built to compete in the London-Istanbul rally
• Numerous competition wins and no recorded DNFs
• Full competition-specification build
• Numerous performance enhancements
• Full unleaded fuel conversion

The Background


The classic Mini enjoys the sort of cult status and worldwide appeal that most cars and manufacturers can only dream of.

Designed by the legendary Sir Alec Issigonis, the Austin/Morris Mini was born out of the need for small, economical transportation for the masses in the wake of the Suez oil crisis, with petrol being rationed and sales of ‘standard’ sized cars in the UK slumping due to their less-than-ideal fuel economy. 

Having successfully revolutionised everyday transportation for the masses, the diminutive Mini always lacked one thing - performance. However, many engineers were convinced the small footprint, low centre-of-gravity and famous ‘go-kart’ steering would make the Mini ideal for competition, with perhaps the best-known of these engineers being John Cooper of the Cooper Car Company. 

Debuting in September 1961, the 848cc engine seen in the Morris Mini was given a longer stroke to increase capacity to 997cc (later 998cc) with a power increase from 34 to 55bhp. A race-tuned engine, twin SU carburettors, close-ratio gearbox and front disc brakes all came together to make the Cooper a true ‘pocket rocket’ and 1000 units were commissioned by management, with the intention of homologating the car for Group 2 rallying.

In the end, both the Cooper and Cooper S were monumentally successful in rallying and circuit motorsport, with their power-to-weight ratio, nimble handling and tiny footprint making them a real adversary for cars far larger and more powerful, and the Mini Cooper became a bona-fide motorsport legend. 

The History


This particular 1968-registered, 998cc Austin Mini Cooper was obtained by the current owner and vendor in early 2021.

Having given the car a minor ‘reawakening’ having been in long-term dry storage, the vendor fitted the car with a new battery, electric fuel pump, spark plugs and carried out an oil change, with the motor firing into life straight away. 

A sure-fire head-turner at any car shows or events it attends, the really interesting part of this car’s history lies with the previous owner, who purchased the car in 1999. 
Initially subject to a full restoration, this Cooper was converted to full competition-specification by the prior owner, with a full tear-down and rebuilt commencing to standard specification, with the aim of competing in the London-Istanbul rally. Not only did the car compete, but also came first-in-class!

Subsequently, the car has been extensively upgraded and modified, including an engine re-bore, upgraded pistons and crankshafts, new gearbox seals and bearings, unleaded fuel conversion, Cooper S brake conversion and more. 

The car has since competed in numerous UK and European rallies with the previous owner, and never recorded a DNF / failure to finish, with the car also being driven home afterwards.

Since coming into the care of our vendor, the car has been used sparingly for a few shows, with the vendor stating that they “would not hesitate to drive the car anywhere” which is testament to both the longevity of these Minis, and to the prior owner’s mechanical skills.

The Paperwork


One of the most noteworthy documents included with the car is the British Motor Industry Heritage Certificate. Whilst these are now relatively common with cars of this era, this certificate confirms that the Cooper we have here remains in its factory colours, which is rare for a Cooper of this age.

In addition to this, the V5 is present showing 5 former keepers, there are numerous notes from the car’s prior owner, several period invoices for parts and work carried out, old MOT certificates, and - perhaps most interestingly - numerous photographs of the car competing in various rallies around the UK and Europe.

The Interior


If you’re expecting comfort and plush amenities, you’re on the wrong listing. However, if you’re here for no-holds-barred four-wheel thrills, then you’re very much in the right place.

The stripped-out and competition-proven interior of this Cooper presents in good condition, though there are numerous signs of its competition usage, with wear visible to the bucket seat, dashboard and floors, with a light patina on any metalwork components and high-traffic areas such as the shifter and door cards.

The FIA-spec Safety Devices roll cage remains in the car, whilst the headliner is in decent shape for its age. What we need to remember, however, is that this is a Mini that was built for a purpose and performance, rather than to win a concours show. 

The Exterior


Presented in its factory colours of Snowberry White with a Black roof, this Mini Cooper strikes a menacing silhouette with its competition graphics and front spotlight, yet remains impressively restrained compared to some competition-specification minis which lose the tidy lines of the early narrow-bodied Coopers. 

Once again, this is a competition, not a concours car. The paintwork is generally good throughout but there is the usual marks and wear you’d expect from a car that has a proven competition history and provenance.

There are areas of surface corrosion, paint cracking and chipping, whilst the chrome details and grilles all have a wonderful, genuine patina. In this instance, however, these signs of wear only add to the history of the car and its story, with each scar having been hard-earned whilst pushing to beat its competitors and best times. 

We think the vendor sums it up perfectly - the car has a wonderful patina and history, and whilst the next owner would have plenty of scope for an aesthetic restoration, the current owner feels that they “cannot do any more” due to the quality and history of the patina.

The Mechanicals


With the vendor stating that they wouldn’t hesitate to drive the car anywhere, we think that speaks volumes about the reliability and engineering of this competition-spec Cooper. 

The engine itself looks to be in good order, if a little tired aesthetically. There is some evidence of what is perhaps an older leak around the rocker cover, but otherwise as far as we can see the engine bay is nice and dry throughout, and the vendor does not report any known issues with the car mechanically, though they do note the tyres are perished and will require replacement soon.

Looking underneath, there is plenty of (what appears to be) surface corrosion and ‘bloom’ in addition to the noted corrosion on the body shell. However, the vendor states there is no significant rot or structural concerns that they are aware of.

Whilst the car does not have a current MOT certificate - due to being exempt on account of its age - the most recent in 2017 showed no issues, and there hasn’t been any advisories or failures since 2006 from what we can see. 

The Appeal


Competition-inspired Minis are a dime-a-dozen, but this here is a car that was built with actual competition and rallying in mind, and has a proven competition history both before and after the numerous performance upgrades were fitted.

Whilst there is plenty of scope for further aesthetic restoration and upgrades, this Cooper wears a wonderful hard-worn patina as it sits which many may choose to keep, whilst mechanically everything is excellent as far as we have been told. A wonderful Sunday racer, ‘pub car’ or potential for further competition.

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Vehicle specification
  • Year 1968
  • Make Austin
  • Model Mini Cooper
  • Colour Snowberry White
  • Odometer 70,063 Miles
  • Engine size 998
  • Location Buckinghamshire
  • Country United Kingdom
Bidding history
16 bids
  • si•••• £13,750 08/10/21
  • Fr•••• £13,500 08/10/21
  • si•••• £12,750 08/10/21
  • Fr•••• £12,500 06/10/21
  • Pe•••• £10,750 05/10/21
  • Fr•••• £10,150 05/10/21
  • Pe•••• £8,950 05/10/21
  • al•••• £8,020 05/10/21
  • al•••• £7,910 05/10/21
  • Pe•••• £7,800 03/10/21

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