Sir Alec Issigonis never seriously envisioned the original Mini as a performance car. It was a cheap and cheerful econobox developed as an alternative to the bubble cars that were wildly popular in post-WWII England. Race car engineer John Cooper played a significant role in revealing the Mini’s sporty side, and the BMW-owned firm is celebrating the collaboration’s 60th anniversary with a limited-edition variant of the Hatch that will be sold globally.
Aptly named Anniversary Edition, the commemorative hatchback is available in British Racing Green, Midnight Black or Rebel Green (depending on the version). Regardless of the chosen paint color, the light bezels, the door mirror caps, the door handles and the roof are painted white, while most of the other exterior trim pieces are black. The number “74” appears on the hood and on the doors; it was chosen as a reference to the original Mini, which wore the same number when it earned its first win in a major race. Red accents add a finishing touch to the look.
Open the door, and you’ll spot edition-specific door sill plates with a Cooper logo. The same design appears on the three-spoke steering wheel, and there’s a red ring on the passenger side of the dashboard that’s a tribute to the original John Cooper logo. The signatures of John, Mike and Charlie Cooper appear next to the instrument cluster.
Mini is not making any major mechanical changes to the Anniversary Edition. The package can be ordered with the standard Cooper, the hotter Cooper S or the spicy John Cooper Works model. In its most powerful configuration, the Hatch offers a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that develops 228 horsepower. For context, the original Mini Cooper was powered by a 1.0-liter four-cylinder tuned to develop about 55 horsepower. It could reach a top speed of around 80 mph, and it gained disc brakes (the standard Mini initially settled for drums on both axles).
Only 740 units of the Anniversary Edition Hatch will be built globally. Pricing information hasn’t been announced. And, while we know the model is America-bound, there’s no word yet on how many will be sent to our shores. We’ve reached out to the brand, and we’ll update this story if we learn more.
Cooper’s pre-Cooper models
Mini launched its first Cooper-tuned model in September 1961, but the collaboration started earlier. Cooper knew Issigonis well on a personal level, so he got the opportunity to drive a pre-production Mini before the model’s full unveiling. He started tuning the engine and the chassis as soon as he could get his hands on one. In 1959, mere months after the standard Mini made its debut, Cooper asked pilot Roy Salvadori to drive one of the first prototypes from England to the Italian Grand Prix in Monza. What should have been a scenic and quick-paced jaunt cross France turned into a flat-out race against Reg Parnell, who was behind the wheel of an Aston Martin DB4. To nearly everyone’s surprise, including Cooper’s, the Mini reportedly reached the Monza track about an hour before the DB4.