A history of sporty John Cooper Works Minis

A history of sporty John Cooper Works Minis

Mini is renowned for its fantastic hot hatches, but what have been the best over the years?

Few automotive nameplates are as well-known as the Mini Cooper.

On the original Mini, Cooper was the name reserved for the performance versions, but over time Cooper has turned into the mid-range Mini – still offering decent performance, but not to the full extent power of the original Cooper variants.

But that’s where John Cooper Works steps in. John Cooper was a Formula One team owner and decided to build on the original Mini by tuning it and adding enhancements to make it a performance hit. Particularly on the rallying stage, where the humble Mini made its biggest impact.

Early starts – The New Mini

But it wasn’t until the ‘new’ Mini surfaced in 2001 that John’s name featured on the British brand’s performance models – with the tuning division for the manufacturer being established by John’s son, Michael.

Initially, John Cooper Works (or JCW as it’s known as) was an aftermarket firm which sold tuning kits to Mini owners to enhance the performance of their cars, with Mini’s own Cooper S typically being the base cars to be tuned.

These kits meant owners could push the power of their Cooper S past 200bhp – a huge amount of power for such a lightweight model. Early John Cooper Works ‘New’ Minis are rare and hard to come by, and are best recognised by a revised, and larger exhaust system.

We also saw the first GP Mini – a stripped-out, two-seat JCW version. These are the models to have, and are rising in value because of their rarity and desirability. The GP editions feature parts from the Mini Challenge – a one-make race series for hot Minis.

The takeover

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This is the time when John Cooper Works changed into the firm we know today. That’s because in 2008, Mini decided to buy the tuning division and bring the sporty JCW models in-house. This saw the start of factory-built hot hatches, to offer levels of performance above those of the Cooper S, with buyers no longer needing to go on the aftermarket. 

This saw Mini develop the models more extensively, which resulted in the second-generation new Mini being more fun and better to drive than ever.

The vast expansion

Buyers of the new Mini were quite well accustomed to the three-door hatch and convertible versions of the British brand’s models, but as the firm looked to increase its sales – this meant a larger portfolio.

First came the Clubman – an estate-like version of the hatch, which offers more practicality – before Mini expanded into crossovers with the Countryman and Paceman, and for a brief period also developed a Coupe and Roadster version, although the latter three options have sadly all now been discontinued. A five-door hatchback was also introduced.

And there was a John Cooper Works version of all these models, which all offer fantastic performance in compact packages.

To date, you can still buy JCW variants of the three-door and five-door Mini Hatch, the Convertible, Countryman and Clubman.

For buyers who also can’t perhaps afford the ‘hottest’ Mini, JCW styling packs are available across the brand’s range.

A 300bhp Mini!

Last week’s announcement of the new John Cooper Works versions of the Clubman and Countryman is pretty notable as these are the first Minis ever to break through the 300bhp barrier from the factory.

The two cars’ 2.0-litre petrol engine has been tuned to produce 302bhp, which enables the models to accelerate from 0-60mph in under five seconds, and keep going onto an electronically-limited top speed of 155mph. This makes them the quickest production Minis ever! 

What does the future hold?

The next John Cooper Works Mini around the corner is one that’s eagerly-awaited – the 2020 GP.

Inspired by a concept seen at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, the GP is expected to use the same ‘TwinPower’ engine that you find on the new Clubman and Countryman.

The new GP will be limited to just 3,000 units around the world, and will be highly sought after.

We’re not sure when the model will make its debut, but later in the year at the 2020 Frankfurt Motor Show is a possibility.

Looking for a new MINI Cooper? Get local available prices and offers from your local dealership.

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