The Cooper name has long been synonymous with Minis, dating back to 1961 when BMC marketed the first Mini-Cooper. John Cooper himself was an established racer and engineer; his father, Charles Cooper, ran a garage in Surbiton that specialised in race car maintenance, and John left school at 15 to become an apprentice toolmaker. After a stint in the RAF in WW2, he and his father set up a business building small, affordable single-seat race car for privateers. The rear-engined design was revolutionary, and by the 1950s legendary names like Stirling Moss, Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren were driving Coopers in Formula One.
Fast-forward to 1960 and we find John Cooper approaching Mini designer Alec Issigonis with the idea of a performance Mini – he knew the A-series engine’s potential from his work with Formula Juniors, although Issigonis was unsure as his vision for the Mini was for everyman utility, not performance. Cooper went over his head to BMC Chairman George Harriman, who could see the advantages, and the Mini-Cooper was launched in September 1961. It had twin SU carbs, a revised head and exhaust system, close-ratio gearbox and front disc brakes. The model was an instant classic, the Cooper nameplate taking countless rally wins (most notably at Monte Carlo) and becoming an icon of swinging London.
The legacy is sufficiently strong that the badge resides on high-performance new-wave MINIs to this day. And for the classic Mini, the swan-song is the car you’re seeing here: a 2000-model with proper Cooper DNA. The very last ever MkVII Mini rolled off the production line in October 2000 (and was driven off the line by Lulu, heading for the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon) – and the car we have here was one of the last of that long, long legacy, being first registered in that very same month.
The MkVII Mini, launched in 1996, was the final iteration of the iconic model, most notable for its full-width dash, driver airbag, front-mount radiator and twin-point fuel injection. The highest spec level from the showroom was the Cooper. It was possible to spec a dealer upgrade to ‘S Works’ spec, and that’s precisely what’s happened here.
But let’s begin at the beginning. This Mini Cooper was first registered to its supplying dealer in October 2000, before being sold to its first owner (although technically second keeper) a month or so later. The current owner bought it in January 2006, when it had just 5,590 miles on the clock. So he’s officially the third owner, but really only the second since the dealership was the first name on the paperwork.
When he bought it, he specified two important jobs to be carried out: first of all, that the roof and mirrors be repainted to match the rest of the Tahiti Blue bodywork, as he wasn’t keen on the contrast. Secondly, he requested the fitment of the 90bhp John Cooper Works tuning kit (A massive percentage increase over the stock 62bhp), to take it up to full-fat Cooper S Works spec. The latter was a £1,625 upgrade, the details of which are outlined below in the ‘Mechanicals’ section. Suffice it to say, it’s turned the enjoyment factor of this car up to eleven.
Having owned the car for fourteen years, the seller has enjoyed all manner of diverse and colourful adventures with the Mini. There have been some trials and tribulations too, most notably in 2019 when the car was vandalised while parked on the street, the perpetrator severely denting the roof. But thanks to a friendly insurance company and an excellent body shop, the Mini has emerged better than ever – with a new roof skin grafted in and a full respray in Bentley Peacock Blue, it looks better than ever.
So why sell now, after so many years of fun and enjoyment? The answer, quite simply, is ULEZ. With the zone expansion coming in 2021, and the Mini not being ULEZ-compliant, it’s no longer a viable day-to-day option in the city. As you can imagine, then, this is a reluctant sale of a beloved automotive companion.
Much as you’d expect, a devoted owner will accrue a fair wedge of paperwork over the course of fourteen years, and that’s very much the case here. The file of documentation is brimming with detail, starting with the original owner’s manuals, dealer literature and service book, and extending to all of the servicing invoices and MOTs over the years. The aforementioned body repairs are meticulously documented, with photographic evidence of the damage that was done to the roof and bodywork along with clear documentation of how it was all expertly repaired.
The money has been spent in all the right places over the years. The most recent invoice, from early November of this year, shows a handful of jobs being carried out to ease the car through its MOT, including assorted gaiters and bulbs as well as welding a plate to the rear crossmember for solidity. A sizeable invoice from 2018 (over £2,200) details the replacement of the front subframe, and there’s another big one from 2018 (over £1,500) for a new exhaust system, shock absorbers, ball-joints and so on – and another (almost £500) for a new clutch cylinder and slave cylinder. The seller is keen to point out that the rear subframe could ideally do with replacing as well. As evidenced by the paperwork, this car has been maintained in no-expense-spared fashion – after all, until ULEZ this was meant to be a forever car, and it’s been cherished as such.
The interior of a MkVII Mini is a particularly joyful place, taking elements of the 1960s classics and fusing them with a stylish 1990s twist. Inside this car we find all of the original appointments, including the full-width dash and correct airbag-equipped steering wheel. The leather-trimmed seats are all in beautiful condition, and recline back and forth as they should to allow access to the essentially unmarked rear. The carpets are all in good condition, as is the headlining, and all of the correct switchgear is in place and operational, with all the dash lights working save for one bulb. The dials all work as they should (aside from the clock, which has stopped working), the tacho showing the correct 42k miles, and this model features a variety of tasteful aluminium accents including the door handles and window winders, pedals, gear knob and bezels. Next to the driver’s seat you’ll spot the official numbered Cooper plaque signifying the nature of the ‘S Work’ spec upgrades.
Inside the boot it’s all dry and solid, with a good quality spare wheel, decent battery, and the original jack and locking wheel nut key.
There’s a great deal of variety in the classic Mini market when it comes to quality of bodywork, but believe us when we say that this is among the tidiest we’ve seen. Originally Tahiti Blue, the owner saw a chance for reinvention when the car was unfortunately vandalised in 2019; the paperwork shows that the roof panel was replaced, as was the bonnet and one door mirror, before the whole shell was prepped for paint and expertly refinished in a Bentley shade of Peacock Blue, complete with pearlescent glimmer. This work amounted to over £4,000 and the body now gleams like a new pin.
This generation of Cooper was available with wider sports pack arches, which house 13” alloy wheels. These are all in superb condition, save for a few minor marks and minimal kerbing on the front driver’s side wheel, and wear Yokohama A539s (a tyre renowned for its performance in the wet) with excellent tread.
All of the original trim and brightwork is in place, with the striking quartet of spotlights in situ, and there are no bumps, scuffs or scrapes to report; having received its aesthetic makeover, the Mini has been kept garaged and used minimally. It presents beautifully; indeed, almost every passer-by during our shoot remarked upon what an attractive little machine it is.
The underside is equally free from drama; while some Minis can hide all sorts of terrors beneath, it’s clear that this one has spent much of its life inside and used infrequently when the weather’s inclement – as the photos demonstrate, everything down there appears very solid indeed.
The cherry on the cake is that this car wears its desirable upgrades on its sleeve: as part of the comprehensive Cooper S Works engine package, the Mini received a set of red Cooper badges along with the numbered chassis plate.
The engine is the big story with this car, as when the current owner bought it when it was just six years old, the upgrades to Cooper S Works spec were at the top of his list before taking delivery. This package includes a Stage 3 cylinder head, double valve springs, gas-flowed and ported inlet manifold, uprated fuel pressure regulator, Works-spec injectors, uprated NGK spark plugs, 4-branch Janspeed exhaust manifold, high-lift roller rockers, and a modified air filter housing. The upshot of all this is a solid 90bhp, which makes the Mini a very entertaining driver’s car indeed. The engine is in superb working order too, having always been meticulously maintained and serviced – it starts on the first turn of the key, and pulls through the gears with the eagerness you’d expect.
The gearbox shifts sweetly, and the clutch slave and master cylinders were replaced in 2018. All is well with the suspension, the car having received new rear shocks in 2018, and the brakes are nice and strong with recent pads. One thing Mini buyers are always keen to be reassured about is the condition of the front subframe, and it’s pleasing to note that this car received a new subframe in December 2018, along with all the associated bushes, gaiters, arms and cone springs to get the front end functioning just as a Mini should.
A classic Mini is such a happy thing, it’s the sort of car that will paint a broad Cheshire cat smile across your face on every journey, even if you’re just popping to the shops for a pint of milk. And if you’re planning to buy such a thing, it’s always a good idea to look out for one which has been truly loved, as you know it will have always been looked after. This particular car, one of the very last Minis built, was specified to the current owner’s exacting standards and has been cherished as a companion for many years. The paperwork clearly demonstrates how the oily bits have always been properly cared for, and the heartbreak of the time when an unknown vandal ran over the roof was transformed from a negative into a massive positive as the owner was able to reinvent his pride-and-joy as a pearlescent Bentley-hued masterpiece. It speaks volumes that we got chatting to countless passers-by as we were photographing this car – everyone loves a Mini. And with this fabulous example’s spicy engine upgrades and stunning aesthetics, there really is a lot to love.
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