THE MINI MAG. Volume 2 No.3
  March 2000

Vol.2 Home Page | Index Page

Classic Coopers.
With Stephen Dalton.

A change of power.

In this, the fourth part of Classic Coopers we find out about Cooper’s change of drivers, change of team ownership and change of engine manufacturer…

But first, as has already been mentioned way back in part 2, the Formula Junior racing category was replaced with Formula 2 & 3 at the beginning of 1964. Even so, with rule book revisions these categories remained the ‘junior’ forms of open-wheeler motor racing.

Thus discovering future grand prix drivers and world champions. In this form Cooper remained as a manufacturer for these formulae, designing 4 models for each formula between 1964 and 1967 - they being Types 71, 75, 82 & 84 (no 84’s built though) for F2 and Types 72, 76, 83 & 85 for F3. Cooper also remained committed to running a works supported team through Ken Tyrrell’s organisation. And it was through this arrangement with Tyrrell that a young Scotsman named Jackie Stewart was given the chance to test the first of the Cooper-BMC F3 open-wheelers at Goodwood. On hand that day to witness Jackie was John Cooper, Bruce McLaren and Ken Tyrrell. It was the first time he had been given a chance to drive an open-wheeler racing car of any sort and he immediately impressed. Bruce went out first and set a ‘dummy’ time for Jackie to be measured against, with just 3 laps he had equalled Bruce’s time. So a determined Bruce McLaren climbed aboard the T72 F3 car once again and took an extra 2 seconds of the time. Then an equally determined Jackie Stewart went out and beat that for good measure. Having impressed both John Cooper and Ken Tyrrell he was signed up immediately to race in the 1964 Formula 3 Championship - he won 11 of the 13 races that season in the Cooper-BMC.

With just at matter of months experience racing open-wheelers in 1964 he was already being sought out by the F1 teams of Lotus and BRM. Accepting the offer from BRM to race their cars in F1 Grand Prix for 1965. Doing so for 3 seasons before going back to join Ken Tyrrell in 1968 for what would be a beneficial arrangement for both - 3 World Drivers’ Championships for Jackie in 1969, 1971 & 1973 before he retired from the sport and Tyrrell picking up World Manfacturers’ Championship in 1971 with their own chassis and responsible for Matra-Ford winning in 1969.

Back in F1 though, it was quite literally the dawning of 1965 that saw the first race of the new Grand Prix season - January 1st and the teams had assembled ‘downunder’ for the season opening race at the East London circuit in South Africa. The Cooper team ran their 1964 T73 Grand Prix cars for Bruce McLaren and newcomer to the team, Austrian driver Jochen Rindt. The race victory going to Jim Clark in his works Lotus-Climax 33 opening his account for what would become his second World Drivers’ Championship win. The best result Cooper’s took in the race was Bruce’s 5th while Jochen retired out of the event.

It may have been the dawning of both the new year and new season but 1965 was by grand prix standards the climax for both the 1.5 litre formula and Coventry-Climax’s very successful 10 year involvement with motor sport. As 1966 would see a new 3 litre formula beginning and a new source of engine supply being required due to Coventry-Climax not wishing to become involved with the expense of developing a suitable 3 litre engine. In total the Climax powered Coopers had claimed 14 victories in F1Grand Prix during their association. With Climax powered Lotus and Brabham racing cars taking a further 24 and 2 victories respectively. Making them the most winning English racing engine builder up to that period.

Since then of course the Colin Chapman inspired, Keith Duckworth and Mike Costin developed, Ford sponsored Cosworth-Ford DFV (Double Four Valve) 3 litre V8 released in 1967 has created a winning record that has outshone all other race engines – when you include the subsequent Cosworth-Ford derivatives, to date there are some 175 victories to their credit.

Also in 1965 saw the last season that Bruce McLaren would drive for Cooper. He had arrived as a fresh faced, although quite experienced 20 year old race driver from New Zealand in 1958 and would leave aged 28 - already a veteran of the F1 brigade. Moving from Cooper, he would concentrate on the team he had already set up with Teddy Mayer to take on the likes of the North American Can-Am sports car racing series and indeed Formula 1.

After the 1965 South African GP there was an almost 5 month Grand Prix sabbatical for the teams before the season’s second race took place at Monaco on May 30th. Something that is totally implausible to today’s F1 brigade. This meant those months were spent with new cars being built, while drivers kept themselves busy racing in other national and international events around the globe until the Grand Prix action resumed. Something else that is implausible today. As has already been mentioned the likes of Bruce McLaren and Phil Hill, amongst several other drivers came ‘downunder’ to New Zealand and Australia for the Tasman Cup series during this F1 layoff.

Another major happening at Cooper’s during this sabbatical was that John Cooper was having negotiations with Jonathan Sieff in regard to the sale of the Cooper Car Co. Ltd. As it transpired a deal was struck with Sieff, heir to England’s Marks & Spencer department stores and chairman of the Chipstead Motor Group, taking over ownership of the Cooper racing operation. Details of the sale being made public on April 27th 1965.With John Cooper’s services being retained under the new management agreement, as technical director. Although the running of the race team would become the domain of former Cooper works driver Roy Salvadori. Something John was quite happy to relinquish, as he had been so heavily involved running the Cooper operation for 20 years now, with many of them spent globetrotting the world in pursuit of the race team. The chance to take a position that required less of his time looked very desirable And as is the case with many takeovers, there would be logistics that would both benefit and divide the Cooper operation.

Meanwhile from Monaco onwards the Grand Prix season had begun in earnest with 6 races over a 9 week period. This hectic schedule followed by a 6 week break before the remaining 3 of the 10 race season were conducted over a further 6 weeks.

Also from Monaco onwards saw both Bruce and Jochen in new Cooper-Climax T77s, but the season held little success for the team. The best result being Bruce placing 3rd in Belgium on June 13th. The other races either finishing with minor placings, retirement, accident or non-qualification. It being Jochen who failed to qualify at Monaco due to a lack of power. Investigation showed full throttle travel could not be attained, due to Jochen’s mechanic doing a silly modification to make his own life easier when removing and refitting a tank within the engine confines. He had removed a lug that had originally been welded to the chassis frame longeron. This just happened to ferry water and the lug held the outer throttle cable. The mechanic would secure said lug back to its position by taping it. Well as you can probably imagine the water becoming hot would melt the tape and hence throttle travel was restricted. Cooper’s mechanic Mike Barney was the one who found the problem and while he was telling new team manager Roy Salvadori of the problem, Jochen Rindt’s assistant heard the conversation and immediately dismissed the mechanic responsible.

Within the Chipstead Motor Group, which was renamed the Cooper Group after the takeover to take advantage of the prestige and familiarity the Cooper name held, part of their business involved the UK Maserati concession.

So some smooth talking discussions were initiated with the factory in Italy regarding the possible supply of a suitable power plant for the new 3 litre grand prix formula that would begin in 1966. The discussions indeed bore fruit with a redevelopment programme of Maserati’s then 2.5 litre V12 race engine that had last seen the light of day back in 1957 when used in Maserati’s short lived V12 engine 250F (previous 250F were 6 cylinder). By late 1965 the Cooper-Maserati had became reality. The prototype chassis was designated T80, although to be honest this spaceframe chassis was originally to be fitted with the new 1.5 litre flat-16 engine Coventry-Climax had been working on. Time constraints with development of the flat 16 meant that only the 1965 season would see its use at best. But as it turned out even this was optimistic and Climax’s Walter Hassan decided to abandon the project as suitable horsepower figures weren’t achieved as time continued to run out. Further to this Jim Clark was doing very nicely in the 1965 championship with his, by now 4 valve per cylinder version of the Climax V8 anyway. The irony being had the new 3 litre championship not been starting in 1966 development would have been continued.

The actual 1966 race version of the Cooper-Maserati was of full monocoque construction, having been designed by Cooper’s new designers - Tony Robinson and Derrick White. The new model became known as the T81 and chassis-wise was substantially larger dimensionally than its 1.5 litre predecessors. It also featured a detachable nose cone which could be removed or attached at will depending on the circumstance. If extra cooling was required or they were being raced at a tight circuit like Monaco this feature was ideal.

Cooper’s were not the only team effected by the Coventry-Climax decision not to develop a suitable engine for the new class. The other 2 main Climax powered teams - Brabham and Lotus resolved their situation by taking two very different paths. For his team Jack Brabham took the step and brought Australia’s Repco components company to the fore. With Frank Hallam leading his small team of engineers at the Repco-Brabham Engine Co. headquarters at Maidstone in Melbourne’s western suburbs. They developed under a very limited budget and the essentially short time frame of just 51 weeks, what turned out to be a very successful multiple championship winning V8 engine - taking Jack Brabham’s BT19 to the 1966 World Championship Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ double. Then a repeat performance for Brabham’s New Zealand driver Denny Hulme in 1967 with the BT20. A true test of Australian engineering and ingenuity. Meanwhile Colin Chapman’s Team Lotus initially had to settle for a modified 1.5 litre FWMV Climax V8 that had been increased to a 2 litre displacement by Coventry-Climax, going into their Lotus 33. This while they still waited for BRM to finish the development of their complicated 3 litre H16 engine - earmarked for Lotus also. Complicated because it featured 16 cylinders, which were arranged as two flat 8s placed one above the other - hence the H designation. But realistically Lotus were only to use the BRM engine once they got it as a stop gap measure for a little over 12 months racing. Because on June 4th 1967 at the Dutch Grand Prix Jim Clark and Graham Hill would successfully debut the new Lotus 49 with the new Cosworth-Ford DFV - Clark winning the race and beginning a succession of victories for the DFV. The delay of most teams finding a suitable 3 litre engine for their chassis worked to good advantage for Cooper. The T81 was available early in the season with a small group of privateer drivers or teams placing orders for a Cooper-Maserati - Guy Ligier, Jo Bonnier and Rob Walker, who ran one for Jo Siffert throughout 1966 & 1967. All with results that were nothing startling, but they were at least out there in a Cooper having a go.

As has already been mentioned 1966 was Jack Brabham’s year taking his third World Drivers’ Championship. For 1966 the new Cooper directors made the decision to move their operation from Surbition to nearby Byfleet. The building already belonging to the Chipstead/Cooper Group. And they needed a new driver after the departure of Bruce McLaren, Jochen stayed on but the spare seat wasn’t permanently filled straight away. American Richie Ginther drove the spare Cooper-Maserati for the first 2 Grand Prix of the 1966 season at the May 22nd Monaco event and the following race in Belgium on June 13th. He was able to drive in these 2 races for Cooper while he waited for his Honda team to finish their 3 litre V12 engined RA273 grand prix car. And it was at the Belgium race that Jochen would make the new Cooper-Maserati shine, showing the potential of the car’s capabilities by placing second at this race. Becoming the meat in the Scuderia Ferrari sandwich of John Surtees and Lorenzo Bandini.

It was after Richie’s 2 race stint that another New Zealander, Chris Amon had a one-off drive for Cooper at the July 3rd French Grand Prix. This time on loan from McLaren. And at this same race Cooper would field a third works car for 1964 World Champion John Surtees.

He had departed the Italian team he had started the season with on bad terms and would then spend he rest of the season driving the works Cooper-Maserati. Much to the benefit of the Cooper Car Co it should be noted. Certainly also worth noting is the winner from the French event - Jack Brabham who won becoming the first time a driver had won a grand prix in his own chassis.

Although results for Cooper from the next 7 races (including France) of the championship would show several retirements, some favourable results would be had by John and Jochen. The sixth round race held at Germany’s famous Nurburgring on August 7th saw the pairing place 2nd and 3rd respectively behind Jack Brabham’s Repco-Brabham BT19. Then 2 races later at the October 2nd United States race at Watkins Glen they repeated the same result for their team, although reversing their respective placings. This time behind Jim Clark, who had taken the BRM H16 powered Lotus to the engine’s one and only victory. Not even BRM themselves won with this unit.

With the Cooper-Maserati gaining some success, the next race and for that matter the last of the 1966 season was down Mexico way on October 23rd. Mexico City to be precise, the home for the 1968 Olympic Games and well known for its high altitude of some 18,000 ft above sea level. Which no doubt required some fettling of each race car’s tuning to try and make the most of the limited oxygen supply available. Three Coopers had been taken to Mexico, 1 each for John and Jochen and another for a local driver named Moises Salana. As the race unfolded it was a Cooper-Maserati that took the chequered flag ahead of the 2 Repco-Brabhams of Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme. The John Surtees win represented the first time a Cooper-Maserati had won a race and the first Cooper World Championship Grand Prix victory since Bruce McLaren’s T60 win at Monaco during the 1962 season. This result also gave Surtees enough points to claim second in the Drivers’ Championship and Jochen Rindt claimed a fine championship third. The Cooper-Maserati effort for the season had accrued 30 points to take third in the Manufacturers’ Championship behind Repco-Brabham and Ferrari.

The beckoning of 1967 saw the teams heading for South Africa’s Kyalami circuit, once again very early in the new year. Though this time it was a January 2nd race rather than on New Year’s Day. The Cooper team took 2 cars - including their winning Mexico T81 to South Africa. Jochen Rindt remained with Cooper, but John Surtees would not be driving his winning car again. As he had late in 1966 signed on the dotted line to drive for Honda’s Grand Prix team. So once again a spare seat required filling and Roy Salvadori found young Mexican driver Pedro Rodriguez to do so, initially as a one-off drive. He did so in fine fashion - taking the victory. Followed home by John Love in his ex-Bruce McLaren 1965 Australian Grand Prix winning Tasman Cooper-Climax T79 with John Surtees taking third in his new Honda. It was the second win in as many races for Cooper-Maserati chassis # F1-6-66. Which probably meant it was possessed by the devil! Or perhaps to be more accurate - devils! Named Surtees and Rodriguez one would assume.

Although the Cooper team did not know it at the time the South African victory would be the very last win in Formula 1 Grand Prix for a Cooper race car. Bringing the career winning total for the marque to 16 – having competed in a total of 129 championship races.

For Pedro who had now proven himself, he was offered the drive for the rest of the season. Although it was then a 4 month Grand Prix layoff before the Monaco race took place on May 7th. During which the 12 cylinder Maserati engine had become ever the more complex with its latest revisions – more valves, more spark plugs (there were now 36 of both) and as it would soon show, more headaches!

Even with the advent of a new car for Jochen to drive, featuring several variations on the Cooper-Maserati theme. Some of which included - lightweight aluminium monocoque, rather than duralumin, Hewland transaxle, rather than ZF and solid disc centred magnesium wheels, rather than the familiar Cooper rose petal design that had been evolving with each Cooper model since 1956. To say the least the T81B as it was known, did not meet expectations. And the same with the T86 designated magnesium-elektron monocoque version that Jochen used from the July 15th British Grand Prix held at Silverstone.

The results of Cooper’s 1967 F1 Grand Prix season show that from 11 races contested only 3 rounds had each works entry finish. Those being Belguim’s Spa-Francorchamps race of June 18th with Jochen taking 4th and Pedro 9th. Italy’s Monza race of September 10th with Jochen 4th and new replacement - Belgian driver Jacky Ickx 6th. He being the second of the 2 drivers who filled in for Pedro, while he was recovering from injuries received in a Formula 2 race several weeks earlier. Ickx did a 2 race stint (Italian & US) with the team. And just to help clarify the situation it was Englishmen Richard Attwood who initially took over Pedro’s drive at Canada’s Mosport Park on August 27th. Then at the season’s final race in Pedro’s home country Mexico - he was back racing. As it turned out the lone Cooper entry. He took 6th at this race held on October 22nd. The reason why it was a lone entry was because Roy Salvadori had given Jochen Rindt his marching orders after he deliberately detonated his Maserati engine at the Watkins Glen United States race 3 weeks earlier. He would find himself picked up by Brabham and eventually find his way to Team Lotus. Posthumously winning the 1970 World Drivers’ Championship with them, having been killed during practice at Monza for that year’s Italian Grand Prix.

There was one other race throughout the season that 2 cars had finished, but there were 3 works Cooper entries and one didn’t finish. That race was the already mentioned British Grand Prix, where Pedro finished 5th, Jochen retired the new T86 and in a one-off works GP drive Englishmen Alan Rees finished 9th.

It wasn’t a good result for the team in 1967 - even with the South African win. Although Cooper-Maserati still managed to claim another third in the Manufacturers’ Championship with 28 points. Repco-Brabham won with 67 and Lotus-Ford second on 44.The points tally certainly helped by the private Cooper-Maserati drivers race results. The writing was on the wall for the Maserati engine, but it was the new Cosworth-Ford DFV that had begun doing all the damage.

The advent of the new Cosworth DFV engine fitted to the new Lotus 49s from Zandvoort in Holland on June 4th spelled the beginning of an extremely lengthy reign for this engine. Colin Chapman had an exclusive use deal for the rest of the season. But come 1968, if the not inconsiderable sum of 7500 (by 1968 standards) could be raised, a Cosworth could be yours. Matching it to a good chassis would then potentially give anyone a chance at winning in Formula One. And that’s exactly what started happening. But for the Cooper team it wasn’t quite that simple - they had a moral obligation to uphold.

But you’ll have to wait until next month’s “The Mini Mag” to find out, when we cover 1968 and more, Cooper’s last full season in Formula 1.

Stephen Dalton.