THE MINI MAG. Volume 2 No.7
  July 2000

Vol.2 Home Page | Index Page

Collectively Coopers.
With Stephen Dalton.
Mini Fashion Statements.

Last issue I mentioned how the Mini created an industry all of it’s own in the 1960’s - of accessory makers who obliged in making items and sometimes gimmicks that made the humble Min occasionally more user friendly, often quicker and sometimes even downright odd or individual. Not a lot has changed because all these years since, the Mini enthusiasts around the globe strive for just the same.

Names that became household to Mini enthusiasts during the early days, particularly in the UK, providing accessories to enhance a Minis virtues include - Cosmic, Minilite, Speedwell, SPQR, Paddy Hopkirk Ltd, Downton and Les Leston (amongst many others). Here in Australia the famed Mini racers of the period got in the act too - Brian Foley and Peter Manton. Both doing their bit to accessorise and quicken many a young Mini hoon. Whoops I mean enthusiast. Nowadays those young Mini hoons are slightly older… Mini hoons. BMC, both here and in the UK provided factory support to the accessory business when they joined in on this increasing market with their Special Tuning branding.

A scenario that has been much refined and built upon over the last couple of decades with other manufacturers, such as here in Australia - Holden’s Commodore sprouting HDT & HSV identification.

Now it could be said that the Mini was not the only car on the roads in the 1960’s and the accessory businesses didn’t only cater for Mini enthusiasts. They did occasionally cater for other cars as well. But flicking through their catalogues of the period, you would hardly think so. Fairly and squarely the Mini owner was the aim for their marketing. No wonder we are perpetually broke!

products that served the same purpose, be it steering column lowering brackets, seat bracket extensions, tachometers, steering wheels or road wheels. Essentially it was the design that made the sale. Classic of all these designs aimed at the Mini and often copied was the Minilite road wheel. Timeless really, although it truly owes its existence to the Cooper Car Company’s ‘rose petal’ magnesium race car wheels.

And yes as with the Minilite you could buy 10" ‘rose petals’ for the Mini. Ultra rare and ultra brittle these days though. Another item often copied was the Paddy Hopkirk accelerator pedal quite possibly the ultimate ‘go-fast’ accessory for heel & toe driving. Even Peter Manton had his almost identical pedal. One pedal though that I can probably surmise didn’t have too many copies made of it was SPQR’s organ pedal type accelerator

Performance-wise there was many companies that grew from making Minis (and it’s predecessor’s) A-Series engine go faster - Downton, Speedwell, Janspeed and Taurus. One of Speedwell’s co-director’s being 1962 & 68 F1 World Drivers’Champion, Graham Hill (father of Damon - 1994 F1 World Champ).

Many of these companies produced kits with port & polished cylinder heads, Twin 1.5" S.U or Weber DCOE Carburettors, free flowing exhaust systems and much more. Kits being able to give the humble 850 a tweak or 2, right through to the 1275 Cooper S that could put the fear of god into many a driver of larger cars.

For those whose budgets carried the necessary zeros, the word accessory was probably a little to demeaning so there was the coachbuilders who they would take their Mini and have the ultimate of the accessory world added. Sumptuous interiors, more akin to what was probably the client’s other car, a Rolls-Royce or Bentley - electric windows & arm-chair style seats. Also as part of the creative spirit many coachbuilders upheld, there would be specially modified body features and colours never before seen on any BMC production line. As far as coachbuilders who made a name for themselves with the Mini there was Harold Radford and Wood & Pickett .

Of course now there is much the same ability to accessorise your Mini - with a myriad of Mini specialists supplying items to many a Mini enthusiasts desire. You need only flick through the pages of MiniWorld or Mini Magazine magazines to witness that.

Also on the other hand now, there are restorers aiming for the authentic look for their Minis. Whereby 35 years ago, the then Cooper S owner cast aside a set of steel Cooper S drilled rims in favour of a set of Minilites or Cosmic road wheels, the restorer is in a lot of cases on the scrounge for those long cast off S rims to give their Cooper S that right look.

Fashion… its a personal thing.

Stephen Dalton.