By Conor Twomey
2005 MINI Cooper S Convertible by TCC Team (9/6/2004)
You have to put the top down. It says so right here.
Have a guess what the very first tuned “sport compact” was. Honda Civic, you say? Good guess, but no. Nissan 240Z? Nice try but try again.
There were a number of Cooper models you could buy but the full-on John Cooper ‘Works’ was by far the best. The full racing package included a re-bored 1275-cc engine, free-flow cylinder head, brake boosters with optional disc brakes, twin gas tanks, and rear-mounted battery for better weight distribution and balance. Power jumped to 91 hp — not a lot by today’s standards but enough to give the 1250-lb Mini four consecutive
Mini Coopers, recognizable by their distinctive white roof and wheels, also became known for their supercar-slaying agility on the road and were driven by many celebrities including The Beatles, Peter Sellers, Graham Hill, and even Enzo Ferrari himself. Naturally, these celebrity drivers wanted their Cooper to be different from everyone else’s which is how companies like Radford and Wood & Pickett came to offer aftermarket electric windows and leather seats. Even when the Cooper model was dropped from British Leyland’s lineup in the Seventies, the John Cooper tuning kits continued selling well, prompting Rover (as BL later became known) to reinstate the model in 1990. Small wonder, then, BWM turned to John Cooper Works to be its factory-backed tuner when it took over of the new MINI project in the mid-nineties.
Do it yourself
Modifying your new MINI is pretty straightforward if you stick to JCW parts. By adding a new cylinder head and exhaust system (and possibly an aftermarket induction kit like K&N’s Typhoon system), you should be able to boost the standard Cooper’s power from 113 hp to 130 hp without difficulty. All the parts are installed and backed by your local MINI dealer making it a risk-free endeavour but considering the cost you might be better off just buying the faster and sharper 168-hp Cooper S in the first place. The supercharged Cooper S is one of the most tunable cars on the market today, which makes it a great choice for anyone looking for compact kicks. The John Cooper Works ‘S’ kit upgrades the Eaton supercharger, recalibrates the engine electronics, swaps out the cylinder head and exhaust system and adds a free-flow induction kit, boosting power to around 210 hp which quite a lot for a small, light car like the MINI Cooper S. Zero to 60 mph drops to just 6.6 seconds and top speed is somewhere beyond 140 mph.
We drove a full JCW MINI Cooper S in
There are plenty of other parts available if you’re not interested in the JCW stuff. Turner Motorsports in
Tuning your car is about standing out from the crowd, too, and it’s here the MINI struggles. Its design is so detailed to begin with that poorly–chosen changes can upset the looks and cheapen the car. An interesting alternative could be to find yourself an original Mini Cooper, which Rover continued to make in right-hand-drive right up until 2001, and tune it out on the cheap. The Cooper factory (www.johncooper.co.uk) actually sells original used cars, complete with the 90 hp ‘S’ tuning kits, meaning you could be screaming around in a classic, low-mileage MINI for less than the price of a stock new-model Cooper. More Web trawling will find even cheaper left-hand-drive European Minis or you could talk to import specialists Wallace Environmental Test Lab on Wirtcrest about getting a car imported. If all that’s too much hassle then, again, there’s always Minimania in
Or simply get yourself a new Cooper S and start tuning. It might be forty years since its predecessor invented the tuned compact concept, but it’s still amongst the very best there is.