In the late 1940s, a family-run firm was founded in a small garage in Surrey. Little did that family know that business would go on to be one of the most significant motor manufacturers in British history.
Sixty years after the company’s triumph in the Formula 1 World Championship, Goodwood will pay homage to the Cooper Car Company with a jaw-dropping cavalcade of its best machines at this year’s Revival over the weekend of 13-15 September.
John Cooper, along with his father Charles, started work in their Surbiton garage by building 500cc Formula Three cars. With the driver placed in front of the engine for practicality reasons, the seeds had been sewn for what would become the future of single seater motor racing.
The Cooper 500 soon drew the attention of the racing fraternity, and future stars such as Stirling Moss, Peter Collins, Ken Tyrrell and Bernie Ecclestone all came knocking at the Cooper door. Cooper soon became the go-to specialist manufacturer for privateer racing teams, dominating the world of Formula 3 between 1951 and 1954. Fast forward just five years and the Cooper works team, with Jack Brabham at the wheel of a Cooper T51, won the Formula One World Championship in both 1959 and 1960, the T51 becoming the first rear-engined car to do so.
After a degree of success at the Indy 500, rival manufacturers overtook Cooper over the coming years. Following the death of Charles Cooper in 1964, the team departed the world of Formula 1 in 1969.
The most famous connection for Cooper, however, is arguably that with the Mini. John Cooper’s development of the diminutive British saloon, originally built for the road, dominated saloon car racing and rallying throughout the 1960s, and took famous victories at the 1964, 1965 and 1967 Monte Carlo Rallies. The Cooper name is still very much involved with Mini to this day, and the company John Cooper Works, originally founded by John’s son Michael in 2000, produces parts and accessories for the BMW MINI.
“I am absolutely thrilled that Goodwood has decided to honour my father and the team 60 years on from securing its first World Championship,” said Mike Cooper, John Cooper’s son and Mini Cooper Register Honorary President.
“It’s extra special that the celebration is being held at Goodwood, as the Cooper family holds the distinction of being the only fourth-generation family to compete at Goodwood. My Grandfather, Charles, raced 500 F3s, my father raced 500 F3s and Formula 2 cars, while myself and my son Charlie have both competed in the St Mary’s Trophy in 2009 and 2018 respectively.”
“It will be a truly fitting occasion to look back and celebrate the past 60 years of Cooper.”