Earlier this week, BMW launched the fastest Mini ever. Which inspired literally one of the Top Gear office to go a-hunting for its ancestral father - the first fast Mini: the Cooper S.
It was conceived by pal of Alec Issignois (he who designed the original Mini), John Cooper. He owned the Cooper Car Company - builders of F1 and rally cars - and saw a wellspring of competition success in the diminutive compact. Trouble was, Alec wasn't keen, which meant JC had to appeal to the upper echelons of BMC's management to get it built. They saw the PR potential and gave the project a solemn nod.
Once Cooper got his hands on it, he ripped out the 848cc engine and started introducing some tuning parts. First to go was the original crank - he replaced it with a stroker, which brought capacity up to 997cc. Then he binned the old carburetor and nailed on a pair of SUs. This little lot dragged power up from a piffling 34bhp to 55bhp. It also got a close-ratio gearbox and a set of disc brakes up front, which was pretty advanced for a small car - discs brakes were ordinarily reserved for expensive luxury land yachts.
1000 were built and launched in 1961 to meet the homologation rules of Group 2 rallying. But even though its competition success confounded the rest of the grid - and the BMC board - Cooper's rolling test bed proved that he could wring more power out of the little A-series engine.
Development on an even faster Cooper S started soon after and was ready for launch in 1963. It got a 1071cc engine and beefed up innards, then went on to destroy the Monte Carlo rally. In 1962 Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom won the Ladies' Award, Rauno Aaltonen won it in '63, then in 1964 Paddy Hopkirk won it, with a fourth place posted by Timo Mäkinen in an identical car. Mäkinen went on to win it again in 1965, and it earned another gold medal in 1967 driven by Rauno.
Not a bad competition history, then...
Its success as a rallyist and relative rarity - 19,000 were built, many crashed, most dissolved - has kept values of early cars high. Which explains why this one costs £10,000 more than a 2012 Mini Cooper S. It's also been thoroughly restored, has only had two owners and the history folder goes right back to the original Retail Order Form dated July 18, 1964.
Anyone TopGear.commers fancy the first(ish) fast actually-Mini Mini?