Legend Racecar Driver John Cooper Starts the Cooper Car Company
The motor industry lost an icon, John Cooper, aged 77 in 2000. He was a legendary racecar driver and manufacturer of the iconic Mini Cooper. Born in 1923, he was the son of Charles Cooper, an instrumental figure in the design of the early racecars. John left school at age 15, and took up an apprenticeship role at one of his father’s workshops. He later went on to work for a toolmaker making aircraft instruments for the Royal Navy during the World War II.
The Cooper Car Company
After the war, the Coopers came together to form the Cooper Car Company in 1948. The company specialized in the design and manufacture cars for the Formula 2 and Formula 3 circuits, where John Cooper cut his teeth as a racecar driver. The company gained recognition after Sir Stirling Moss won the Argentine Grand Prix in 1958 in a rear engine lightweight Cooper-Climax racing car.
The Cooper-Climax ran the entire circuit without making a pit stop and this put the Cooper Car Company on the map. Cooper Car Company became the first British racing manufacturer to win the prestigious Formula 1 Constructors Championship two years in a row with Jack Brabham at the wheel the Cooper-Climax in 1959 and 1960.
The Mini Cooper
The Cooper Car Company diversified from motor racing and began manufacturing roadsters for drivers who wanted the thrill of the racing on ordinary roads. The Mini Cooper, first sold as the MINI, has become the modern face of the Cooper Car Company, and it became legendary after being in the movie, The Italian Job, starring Jason Statham.
At the time of his death in the year 2000, the Cooper name was licensed to BMW, who made the higher-performance version of the Mini Coopers with John Cooper and his son Mike Cooper serving as the advisers to Rover and BMW’s new MINI design teams. John received the Order of the British Empire for his contribution to the British motorsport.