Pour yourself a cup of tea and grab a crumpet, because this cult hero is one of Britain’s most iconic products: the Mini Cooper.
From its go-kart-like handling to its role in The Italian Job, it arguably has the best charm-to-size ratio in existence, yet it won’t cost you as much to buy as you might think.
But first let’s recap the Mini’s inception. Born of the fuel crisis of the late 1950s at the British Motor Corporation (BMC), it was envisioned as a compact, practical and economical car. As such, its four-cylinder engine was mounted transversely (rather revolutionary at the time), freeing up interior space.
Then in 1961, motorsport legend John Cooper turned Austin’s 34bhp 0.9-litre engine into a 55bhp 1.0-litre unit and added beefier brakes and sharper steering, making it faster both on straights and in corners.
An even faster Cooper S, featuring a 70bhp 1.1-litre engine, arrived in 1963, then a 75bhp 1.3-litre in 1964. The Cooper S would go on to rack up no fewer than three Monte Carlo Rally wins, in 1964, 1965 and 1967.
Having appeared on the Mk1 and Mk2 Austin and Morris Minis, the Cooper was discontinued in 1965, but the Cooper S carried on. It made it to the Mk3 Mini, although only for a single year, retiring in 1971.
Then began a hiatus that lasted until 1990, when Rover brought the name back for its version of the Mini. Initially attached to the RSP (Rover Special Products) limited edition, the Rover Mini Cooper stuck around until the Mini’s final day. And we mean that literally, because the last Mini to roll off the production line on 4 October 2000 was a red Cooper Sport.
Driving any classic Mini is an event, especially one of the Cooper variety. Whether an early Austin/ Morris or a later Rover example, the kerb weight never exceeded 700kg. All Coopers therefore feel light, agile and nippy, despite their modest power outputs.