Wednesday November 6, 2019
Many of you have been following https://www.facebook.com/italianjobmini/ and will be very familiar with Tanya Field’s Cooper S Mk III, which goes by the nom-de-Mini of “Paddy”.
It would be fair to suggest that he illustrates an aspect of the Cooper story that while not forgotten, is sometimes neglected in comparison with its forebears.
Back in October 1969, the Mini Mk. III represented a sea-change in the story of the model.
The separate Austin and Morris marque identifies were replaced by a separate “Mini” badge, the Riley Elf and Wolseley Hornet were succeeded by the Clubman, the Cooper by the 1275GT.
However, production of the Cooper S commenced as late as March 1970; one reason is believed to be a dispute between John Cooper and BLMC.
Sir Donald Stokes, the Chairman of British Leyland, was keen to end the licensing agreements with concerns such as Healey and Cooper.
The indispensable website AROnline contains this telling quote from a 2001 interview with Stokes – ‘people wonder why I scrapped the Cooper. We were giving more money to Mr. Cooper than we were making in profit’.
The latest Cooper S gained the bodyshell of the Mk. III 850/1000, complete with the concealed hinges and the winding windows.
Flamboyance was not a part of the Mk.III’s image and to look at Paddy and his ilk is to be reminded how low-key they appear in comparison with the first and second-generation Cooper S.
There was no two-tone paint finish or distinctive frontal treatment – as Jon Pressnell notes in his book Original Mini Cooper and Cooper S that for the first time a Cooper used a standard Mini grille.
As with the early Clubman, Estate Mk. III and 1275GT, the S retained Hydrolastic suspension, as opposed to the dry cones of the 850/1000.
From a distance, the Mk. III S appears virtually identical to the 1000.
You would have to look closely to notice the special badges, the ventilated wheels and the speedometer.
There appears to have been no major advertising campaign either, as BL was now focusing on the 1275GT; your friendly local dealer could even sell you a tuning kit, to elevate its performance to S standards.
Meanwhile, the Cooper brochure was a modified version of the Mk. II’s sales campaign.
The latest S was a Mini that appealed to those drivers who favoured a Q-Car and indeed Liverpool Police used a fleet of late-model Coopers.
It should also be remembered that 49 years ago, the Cooper S Mk. III had no direct British competitors; the Sunbeam Stiletto, and the Ford Escort GT Mk.
I both appealed to a slightly different market while its in-house competitors adopted slightly more flamboyant approach.
You can imagine an owner regarding the likes of the 1275GT and the ADO16 1300GT with mild disdain, muttering the words ‘over the top’, as they both tried to be first away from the lights.
Production of the Mk. III S ceased in June of 1971 after just 1,572 units.
Innocenti and Authi would continue to build their own versions of the Cooper but the name would not re-appear on a British Mini until 1990.
As for Paddy, the best way to describe him is ‘once experienced – never forgotten’.
With Thanks To – Tanya Field
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