Posts Tagged ‘John Cooper’

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Mike Barney prepares Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren’s Cooper T53 Climax’, French GP Reims, 3 July 1960…

That racing drivers shouldn’t have too much imagination is shown by this shot!

#16 is Brabham’s winning chassis, #18 McLaren’s third placed car. Olivier Gendebien was second and Henry Taylor fourth in T51’s making it a Cooper 1-4!

Yer ‘fancy-schmancy’ high tech relatively, I say it again, relatively safe 2017 carbon fibre GP machine is another world away, 55 years or so to be precise. Mind you, one would hope we would progress.

Owen Maddock’s curvy spaceframe chassis is typical of the day, the spaceframe anyway if not the imperfect in an engineering sense bent tubes! At the front the water radiator and oil tank are the ‘deformable structures’ ahead of the drivers ankles and lower legs. The fuel tanks are neatly and very practically ‘bungee’ strapped to the chassis and prone to leakage as the ‘ally tanks chafe on the steel chassis tubes. The ‘deformable side structures’ are the tanks, no bag bladders in those days so the risk of fire was great, prevalent and occasionally fatal.

The 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF powered T53 ‘Lowline’ was the 1960 successor to the race-winning and built in vast numbers 1958/9 T51. That car in both F2 and F1 spec has to be one of the greatest customer racing cars ever? T53 was the design work of Jack, John Cooper and Maddock.  The Lotus 18, Chapmans first mid-engined car was the quickest bolide of 1960. Moss took wins in Rob Walker’s car at Monaco and in the season ending US GP at Riverside but it was not the most reliable, something Jack was happy to capitalise upon.

McLaren won the Argentinian GP at the seasons outset, then Jack had an amazing mid-season run winning the Dutch GP on 6 June and the Portuguese GP on 14 August. In between Zandvoort and Oporto he won the Belgian, French and British GP’s thereby setting up his and Cooper’s second world titles on the trot.

Its good to look at these cars in the ‘nuddy’ every now and again to remind oneself of just how close to the elements and how brave the drivers of yore were. Yep, the piloti are no more exposed than they had been in the past but the cornering speeds of a 1960 2.5 litre Cooper or Lotus were a good deal quicker than a 1954 2.5 litre Maser 250F, the road circuits in particular just as hazardous…

Cooper T53 Climax cutaway by Brian Hatton

Credits…

GP Library, Brian Hatton

 

 

 

 

 

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For many of us, it’s probably difficult to imagine life in the immediate post-war with the hardships placed on society by the hostilities – dependant upon our age of course. Certainly many of our parents and grand-parents had a frugal existence for at least the first 10 years after WW2 ended. A family with a car was an exception, not the rule. The point of having a car made even more difficult with fuel rationing. So to be involved in motor sport wasn’t often on too many people’s minds, but it was on 2 young enthusiasts, one of whom could tap into his dad’s vast experience. It of course, also helped they had the right connections. But things could have been a lot different if the original intent of building a ‘mud plugging’ Trials special had eventuated.

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July 1946 Prescott paddock John & Charles Cooper with the prototype Cooper Special 500 (Motor Sport)

To indulge in such motor sporting pleasures in early post-war a few quid no doubt helped. Eric Brandon, then 25, with access to his family’s Halsey’s Electrical business could help there. He was almost 3 years to the day older than his toolmaker mate, John Cooper, 22, and his experienced 52yo dad, Charles with their Surbiton Garage facilities at their disposal. But after hours! This meant mud plugging was quickly scratched from the agenda when Cooper junior was exposed to what would become ‘The 500 Club’ movement. Having only come into the thoughts of a group of  Bristol Aeroplane Co Motor Sports Club enthusiasts nearing the end of 1945 and slightly later the concept gained publicity in the pages of 3rd April 1946 The Motor.

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Go to British Pathe to see a great film showing John Cooper being a rascal around Surbiton in Cooper T2.

http://www.britishpathe.com/video/racing-car/

Seventy years ago in 1946, circuit racing was in limbo and needing to find a proper home again. There had been an event in North London’s Cockfosters estate, prior to its full development on 14th July 1945. But the likes of Goodwood, Silverstone, et al were still pipe dreams for enterprising Motor Clubs to demob from the War Ministry. Until such, Hillclimbing and Sprints, or Speed Trials as they tended to be called had to suffice. So the ‘Coopers got coopering’ and between them turned out their interpretation of a small 500cc racing car after the odd favour was forthcoming. Not least getting ones hands on a Speedway JAP engine and rear end damaged Fiat Topolinos to graft the salvaged front end/suspension from the baby Fiats together. One of which was supplied by a man, who would also build racing cars, John Heath of HWM.

The 5 week effort to build the prototype of what would be the two early JAP motorcycle-engined Cooper specials saw Eric & John each have a birthday just prior to the shared competition debut of the new Cooper special at the 27th  & 28th  July 1946 Prescott Hillclimb. However, in the run up to the event (Friday 26th) that rascal John, with Cooper Garages’ trade plate ‘307 PD’ took the prototype for a spin and caused a bit of a racket around Surbiton. Even so, it wasn’t enough to stop the Cooper special’s Prescott debut going without hiccups, nor another that would follow. Just 500cc of J A Prestwich, Charles Cooper-breathed upon ‘Speedway’ JAP engine produced enough torque to set forth a series of engine mount failures and head scratching to solve it from continuing to happen. Also at the July Prescott meeting, John fluffed a gearchange and bent a valve. They were however, young, keen and although not the first within the ‘The 500 Club’ movement to create their own cars, one of the very earliest to have a car running. Just two 500s built and ran before the Cooper. In the process meaning they were about to get noticed and soon there was plans afoot to help make motor sport easier to be a part of.

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Eric Brandon (Sutton/Lawrence)

Essentially John and Eric’s 1946 events with the Cooper special consist of 4 events. That 1st Prescott, followed by another 31st August event with further engine mounting issues as previously mentioned. Their 3rd event was the 7th September Brighton Speed Trials on Madeira Drive. Early that morning bringing on another of John’s Kingston by-pass tests! As he stated in an April 47 IOTA feature “It was a joy to be alive though the occupants of the houses probably thought otherwise, and I believe blamed the “Hellish” racket on to Jeff Taylor whose works are situated nearby and who was also racing at Brighton that day.” Jeff was in fact Geoffrey Taylor, who built Alta racing cars in the area and getting the blame that time. But no doubt the locals would soon learn who the real culprits were as they spotted Cooper racing cars on their streets and by-ways in the years to come!

Brighton showed promise with their efforts to iron out the bugs in the Cooper special when both John and Eric ran entry #29 Cooper in two classes. John in the ‘Racing Cars up to 850cc’ – that he duly won with a 35.81 second run over the 1 kilometre course. Eric running the ‘Racing Cars up to 1100cc’ for a 4th place in class. Amongst their fellow competitors were Alec Issigonis and George Dowson with their Lightweight special and Marcus Chambers running his Austin. A name or two, part of BMC and Mini folklore. ‘Issi’ came second to Cooper and Dowson won the 1100 class.

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Part of 15 September 1946 West Court entry list (S Dalton Collection)

The fourth 1946 meeting for John and Eric was the 15th September, West Court Speed Trails – run by the Hants & Berks Motor Club at Finchhampstead. That day dawned with hostile reception from Cooper senior when awoken by Eric breaking a manhole cover in the process of loading up the car below Charles Surbiton Garage flat. Despite his threats of damage to the Cooper special, West Court became a successful day for John & Eric. The full entry list reads as a who’s who of British motor sport of the day and into its future – Sydney Allard, Roy Salvadori, Daniel Richmond and Ken Wharton to name a select few.

With 13 entrants in Class 5 (Racing Cars up to 1100cc) and what appear to be 10 starters, John and Eric did themselves proud with the following times.

58 J Cooper Cooper Special 498 1st run 25.7; 2nd run 24.73

60 E Brandon Cooper Special 498 1st run 27.66; 2nd run 24.42

Giving a few other drivers and larger class cars a fright, because they too could only muster 24 point something second passes at best. After this, enthusiasm down Surbiton way was on a high.

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Upon showing this photo to Mr Cooper (as I always called him) in 1997, he recalled that it was a visit he made with the Cooper special prototype to the Cadets of Sandhurst – Royal Military Academy. He’s the one with the pipe in the middle. (S Dalton Collection)

So by the end of 1946, the 500 Club was gaining popularity. In ‘The Sporting Side’ feature of the 8th January 1947 The Motor, there’s a piece titled ‘The 500 Virus’ stating the Club already has a membership of 247 with 67 cars under construction. Garnered so successfully because of the club’s ethos to help amateur racing car builders get started.

Showing some of his astute ways, Charles Cooper knew that not everybody had the wherewithal to build a racing car. So Cooper’s made mention in early April 1947 of their intent to start production to ‘make hay’ of this 500 virus. At the time they were in the process of completing a small streamlined sports car with a Triumph motorcycle engine and Eric Brandon’s own slightly tweaked second version of the prototype Cooper special. A couple of the ever so slightly visible differences between each car being the nose/grille treatment, slightly different in shape to #1 and more sloped placement of the grille. While on #1’s there is 2 spaced dimples under the grille area and on its RHS cockpit area there’s a lever poking through the bodywork and Eric’s car doesn’t feature this. The head fairing on each of the engine covers differ too, on #1 it looks like an afterthought and on Eric’s it’s made to be there, plus dimensionally smaller. There was also a lone inch added to the wheelbase of Eric’s car to accommodate his frame a little easier. As best I can find this car made a brief appearance with #1 on the Saturday of the 2 day, 26th – 27th April 1947 Prescott practice meeting and there’s photographic evidence of them together at the 11th May 1947 Prescott meeting. Around that time there was also a bit of publicity for the Cooper-Triumph sports car in the pages of 23rd April 1947 issue of The Motor and a month later in The Autocar.

Events-wise 1947 brought forth more variety of events, seeing John and Eric criss-crossing England. But in the main that’s not what this feature is about. It’s just a reminder of the efforts those 3 men and their little ‘childs car’ – that some press christened it at the time – played 70 years ago in creating what many Cooper racing car and Mini Cooper enthusiasts enjoy to this day. We know who got the last laugh! Retrospectively, in Cooper model ‘Type-number’ code, the Cooper special prototype became T2, Brandon’s T3 and the Cooper-Triumph T4. With the T1 title entrusted to the Cooper-Austin 7 special of 1935 – John’s 12th birthday present.

This Saturday, 30th July there is a special 70th anniversary meeting being held at Prescott Hillclimb to celebrate Cooper. https://www.prescott-hillclimb.com/

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Artists impression of Eric Brandon Cooper 500 by Peter Garnier (Iota)

Credits…

Special thanks to Stephen Dalton for writing the article and use of images from his collection

The Motor, MotorSport, British Pathe, Sutton Images, Iota, Dacre Stubbs Collection/Martin Stubbs

Tailpiece: Dwarfed by the 1904 Mercedes 18/28, John Cooper sits in the 500-based, Cooper-Triumph T4 sports car at the 1947 Brighton Speed Trials (Dacre Stubbs / Martin Stubbs collection)

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(Getty)

One tends to sometimes forget that British Entrepreneur, Engineer, Team Owner John Cooper was also a driver and the birth of Cooper as a marque is a function of his need for a racer…

The great Brit is piloting his works Cooper T20 Bristol F2, the caption for the photo says in the ‘IV Daily Express International Trophy’ race at Goodwood on Whit Monday, 10 May 1952′. In fact JC was entered for that meeting/race at Silverstone on that day as #14 but did not arrive, so ‘praps this is a practice shot.

Before focusing on the construction and sales of his cars and managing the team he was a very capable driver taking many 500cc wins, a class for which the first Cooper, famously constructed of two Fiat 500’s welded together to provide an independently suspended car, was built.

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Cooper 500 Drivers L>R in this 1948 photo; John Cooper, George Saunders, Charles Cooper, the shot credits Chas as the cars designer and Stirling Moss. ‘New midget racing cars made by Charles Cooper at his Surbiton, Surrey garage’ is the caption (Popperfoto)

The front-engined Cooper Bristols Types 20 and 23 ‘launched’ the successful careers of Mike Hawthorn and Jack Brabham amongst many others, i wrote an article about them, click here for the link; https://primotipo.com/2015/02/10/stirling-moss-cumberland-park-speedway-sydney-cooper-t20-wm-holden-1956/

I started to research an article to write on John Cooper’s career and influence and came upon the obituary published by Britain’s ‘The Telegraph’ on 27 December 2000, it seems to me it covers things rather well so here it is, truncated slightly and with my photographic additions…

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JC at left, having already done a few laps, slightly quizzical supervises Ken Wharton’s test of a Cooper T23 Bristol at Goodwood in 1953. What a ripper period scene, love the casual dude in suit pants, vest, tie and fag! (Popperfoto)

‘John Cooper, who has died aged 77, was one of the great figures in the history of motor racing; his Cooper-Climax cars were the force behind Jack Brabham’s dominance of the drivers’ championship in the early 1960s, while his Mini Cooper was destined to become a symbol of the decade itself.

Cooper and his small design team at Cooper Cars first came up with a rear-engined sports car in 1955. Based around a Coventry Climax firepump engine, the “Bobtail” Cooper-Climax was without peer in its class. By narrowing the chassis and fitting slender bodywork which left suspension and wheels exposed, Cooper then created a rear-engined Formula Two car which could easily be upgraded to meet the demands of Formula One.

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Jack Brabhams Cooper T40 Bristol ‘Bobtail’ on the way to a lucky Australian Grand Prix win at Port Wakefield, South Australia in 1955 (unattributed)

By 1957, the Australian Jack Brabham had joined Coopers, and a 2-litre version of the Formula Two car was entered for the Monaco Grand Prix. Brabham pushed it home in sixth, having been third. On twisting circuits, the nimble rear-engined Cooper could challenge the comparatively flat-footed Ferraris’, Maseratis’ and Vanwalls’ which traditionally competed for places on the podium.

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Stirling Moss on his way to the first mid-engined car F1 win, Cooper T43 Climax 1.9, Argentine GP 19 January 1958 (Getty)

The next year, in the Argentine Grand Prix, Stirling Moss drove a Cooper to a first world championship victory by the rear-engined car, and at Monaco another Cooper won, this time driven by Maurice Trintignant.

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Moss, Argentina 1960, Moss giving away more than 500cc to his competitors, the Coventry Climax FPF 1.9 litres (Getty)

The persuasive Cooper then managed to talk Coventry Climax into building full-sized 2.5 litre engines for his works’ drivers – Brabham and Bruce McLaren – and under his direction Coopers promptly won both the 1959 and 1960 Formula One constructors’ titles, while Brabham took two consecutive world champion drivers’ titles. By 1962 every Formula One marque had put their engines where Cooper had his – behind the driver.

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John Cooper aboard the Cooper T49 ‘Monaco’ in March 1959 during a press release, Brands Hatch (John Ross)

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Lap 1 Portuguese GP 1960; Brabham’s Cooper T53 Climax from Gurney’s BRM P48 DNF and Surtees Lotus 18 Climax DNF. Jack won the race having had a huge accident in Oporto the year before (Autosport)

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Argentine GP 1960 post victory in the UK; McLaren 1st Cooper T51 Climax, Brabham DNF and JC (unattributed)

In the mid-1940s, Cooper had competed against Alec Issigonis, the designer of the Mini, in hill-climbs. Soon after its launch in the mid-1960s, Cooper suggested to George Harriman, head of the British Motor Corporation (the Mini’s manufacturer), that he should market a tuned-up version. Harriman doubted that he could sell more than 1,000; the final total of owners attracted by Cooper’s modifications exceeded 125,000.

Cooper was consulted regularly about improvements to the design and an entire family of Mini Cooper variants evolved, among them the Mini Cooper S. The Mini Cooper lorded it over rally racing for the rest of the 1960s, winning multiple championships and four consecutive Monte Carlo rallies between 1964 and 1967.

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It was the first economy car to become a status symbol, the height of chic. Its owners included King Hussein of Jordan and members of The Beatles. “Drive a Mini Cooper – the most fun you can have with your clothes on!” ran the advertisements. “If your tyres survive more than 2,000 miles, you’ve driven like a wimp.”

At the end of the decade the car featured prominently in the film The Italian Job (1969), in which Michael Caine and his team of bullion raiders made the most of the Mini’s virtues of small size and great speed to escape pursuit via the roofs, sewers and marble staircases of Turin. The Minis were painted red, white and blue, and the film not only helped boost sales of the Mini Cooper all over the world but, by identifying the car with a time of great British style and ingenuity, helped it also to attain immortality.

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John Cooper was always going to be involved with cars! Caption of this 27 May 1935 photo’ Dwarfed by a full-sized car, Mr CW Cooper of Surbiton drives the miniature racing car which he built for his son John. The tiny vehicle is fitted with a 1.25 horsepower two-stroke engine and can travel 52 miles an hour. The other car is an Alfa Romeo 8C Monza, does anybody know who the occupants are? (Fox Photos/Getty)

Cooper was born on July 17 1923 at Kingston, Surrey. His father Charles ran a modest garage in nearby Surbiton; among the cars he maintained for customers was the Wolseley “Viper” raced at Brooklands by Kaye Don. When John was eight, his father made him a half-scale car with a motorcycle engine. At 12, he was given a lightweight Austin 7-based special capable of 90mph; he tried it out at Brooklands but was chased off the track by enraged officials.

On leaving Surbiton County School at 15, John became an apprentice toolmaker, and after RAF service in 1944-45, he and his friend Eric Brandon (later a successful racing driver) built themselves a single-seater racing car for the new 500cc class. Two scrap Fiat 500 front-ends were welded together to provide an independently suspended chassis, on to which was mounted a 500cc motorcycle engine behind the driver’s seat to chain-drive the back axle.

Wearing sheet aluminium bodywork, this first Cooper racing car was very successful, and a second was built for Brandon in 1947. Cooper and his father then founded the Cooper Car Company to build a batch of 12 replica 500s for sale. One of their first buyers was the 18-year old Stirling Moss.

The Cooper Car Company quickly became the first, and largest, post-war specialist racing car manufacturer; Lotus, Lola and March – among others – would follow them. While John Cooper provided the firm’s enthusiasm and drive, Charles Cooper kept control of the firm’s finances.

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Cooper after victory at Rouen in 1952. Cooper MkV 500 (Heritage)

John Cooper was also a very capable racing driver in his own right. In 1952 at Grenzlandring he scored the first 500cc race to be won at an average of more than 100mph, and the next year drove his streamlined works car to victory in the Avus Speedbowl, Berlin. He also enjoyed first places at Monza and at Rouen.

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JC record breaking at Monthlery, France on 9 October 1951, car is streamlined, slightly stretched Cooper MkV JAP. 500 & 1100cc engines used (Popperfoto)

Click here for an interesting article on the Cooper Land Speed Record cars;

http://www.ugofadini.com/cooperstory.html

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JC in the chassis of the Mk V record-breaker, a variety of JAP engines used, 15 November 1952 (Central Press)

In the early 1950s, Coopers diversified into front-engined sports and single-seater racing cars. The first British world champion driver, Mike Hawthorn, first made his mark in a 1952 Cooper-Bristol Grand Prix.

A warm, even extrovert man, John Cooper relished every moment of his fame, although he was perhaps never the same after being badly injured in 1963 when his prototype four-wheel drive Mini Cooper crashed. It was many months before he was fully fit, and in 1965 – the year after his father died – he sold the Cooper Car Company to the Chipstead Motor Group.

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1966 US GP Watkins Glen; front row Brabham in BT19 Repco DNF, Bandini Ferrari312 DNF and Surtees Cooper T81 Maserati 3rd. Jim Clark took the only win for the BRM H16 engine in his Lotus 43  (Alvis Upitis)

Although he continued to co-direct the Formula One racing team until 1969, when it was disbanded, from the mid-Sixties onwards its homegrown construction was overtaken by more sophisticated and better-funded technology at Lola, Lotus, BRM and Ferrari. Characteristically, Cooper never felt any envy as his company was upstaged.

He retired to the Sussex coast, where he founded the garage business at Ferring, near Worthing, which still bears his name. Recently, he had been much cheered by the decision of Rover to develop a new generation of Mini Coopers, primarily for enthusiasts in Japan. Rover’s new owner, BMW, has embraced the project, and just before his death Cooper was delighted to see his son drive the prototype BMW Mini Cooper.

John Cooper was appointed CBE last year. He leaves a wife, a son and daughter. Another daughter predeceased him.’

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JC ‘races’ the ‘first Cooper ‘ his dad built for him in 1930 (Keystone France)

Credits…

‘The Telegraph’ John Cooper obituary 27 December 2000,  GP Library, GP Encyclopaedia

Getty Images, Keystone France, Alvis Upitis, Central Press, Popperfoto, Heritage Press, Fox Photos, Autosport, John Ross Motor Racing Archive

Tailpiece: ‘I don’t care Bruce just go faster!’ With Bruce McLaren and Phil Hill in 1964…

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European/British GP, Brands Hatch 1 July 1964; JC, Phil Hill 6th and McLaren DNF #10 is Hill’s Cooper T73 Climax. Clark won the race in a Lotus 25 Climax (G Pollard)