THE MINI MAG. Volume 2 No.9
  September 2000

Vol.2 Home Page | Index Page

Collectively Coopers.
With Stephen Dalton.
Howdy Partner.

It’s a competitive market out there… no sooner has the salesman sold the new car, that the service and spare parts divisions have to oblige themselves to keep the customer happy with their backup support to keep everyone happy. Everyone - being manufacturer, dealership and customer. And probably in that order if the truth be known. At the end of the day though it all comes down to marketing. Something that has been going on for many years and will continue to go on for as long as someone has something to sell.

Perhaps a misnomer, due to the fact that BMC Australia and it’s embarrassing number of name changes, no longer exist - were into marketing. As this tale is about to explore BMC Australia’s BMC Parts & Accessories Division utilized their little known in-house magazine simply called "Partner" to spread the word to their dealer spare parts network. All in an effort to sell more wiper blades and Mini sunshields! Now perhaps that comment is a little flippant but the reality is it pretty much sums up the reason for BMC Australia publishing Partner. My discovery of Partner’s existence was something that I stumbled upon several years ago while visiting a Melbourne second hand motoring book shop. Before that I had never even heard fellow BMC literature collectors make mention of it. Ever since I have hardly been overwhelmed with copies turning up, 10 copies currently make up my collection of Partner magazine. The earliest being issue 6 from October 1960 through to the latest issue I have managed to find - issue 22 October /November 1965 (that happens to also be the first issue I found). At a guess I would say the first issue was published sometime in 1958 or 1959, and continuing sparingly so, as some issues I have carry dates with varying duration of months before the next issue was published. As far as the last issue… well perhaps Nairn Hindhaugh can give us some clues.

Studying the contents of issue 6, published some 6 months before the Mini’s Australian release as the Morris 850, wasn’t about to drop any hints to its imminent arrival. It pushes that "Christmas is coming" line to remind dealer spare part managers and employees to ready themselves for their busiest period of the year - Christmas. When "…all sections, from sales and service to spare parts and accessories will be working at full capacity".

In the following issue, number 7 of December 1960 it proudly displayed in all their lurching and leaning glory a pair of BMC Australia factory entered Morris Major’s competing at Australia’s inaugural long distance sedan race meeting. The "Armstrong 500 Trial" held at Phillip Island on November 20th, 1960. BMC entered 6 cars in total, 3 Major’s and 3 Austin Lancer’s with a couple of drivers who would make a name for themselves when BMC decided to take motor racing even more seriously over the next few years, particularly with a little weapon they would introduce called the Mini Cooper S. Brian Foley driving one of the Lancer’s and Peter Manton who took out second in his class with his Major. Also there was another future Australian Mini icon, 1966 Bathurst winner (to where the original Phillip Island long distance event had moved in 1963) Bob Holden, he had been trundling around in an opposition manufacturer’s car - a Peugoet 403 that day.

Moving on to issue 10 (June-July 1961) sees the first mention of the Morris 850 - aka the Mini (from the issues I have). Explaining clutch adjustment, removal of the SU fuel pump and the parts listing of the gearbox and clutch for BMC’s first front wheel drive - the listing also came complete with an exploded view diagram of the new fangled contraption (fwd gearbox & clutch) BMC dealer staff were just coming to terms with. There was also details regarding the prevention of corrosion and sticking for the 850’s SU carburetor piston rod.

Jumping forward to issue 18 (April-May 1964) the Morris Mini Van is the main focus after its then recent arrival in Australian Mini production. Also in this issue is a full page advert to push the message to dealer staff to move along sales of BMC approved Morris 850 & Mini Van heaters. This being a typical scenario, when through the pages of Partner a particular item was to be promoted - seat belts were a common item promoted this way. They hardly being standard feature of many vehicles of this particular generation, while airbags were still dream years away.

In the latest issue I have in my collection #22 of October-November 1965 heralds the arrival of a motoring icon for then and generations to come. Proclaiming on this issue’s cover "the Giant killer arrives the! BMC Morris Cooper S". Perhaps at the time it could have been a bold statement to conduct in Australia’s fickle environment, even though the Cooper S had been winning many accolades across the globe. But it soon proved a suitable statement with BMC Australia capitalising on this statement with the Cooper S and many enthusiast drivers revelling in devouring many a larger car on both road and track. It’s greatest victory in Australian motor racing coming just 12 months later at the 1966 Bathurst race - with Bob Holden and Rauno Aaltonen doing the driving.

From cover to cover - just 16 pages all up, the issue is dominated by the Cooper S local arrival. With 2 pages devoted to specification details titled "Recipe for a Cooper S" and 2 further pages for accessories to adorn your new Cooper S. Also, although not specifically Cooper S, there’s a tale on how the local BMC engineers adapted wind-up glass to the humble Mini’s doors. In the editorial some prophetic words were written by an unnamed author. The first paragraph reading as follows. "Quite frankly, BMC does not expect to sell the Morris Cooper S by the 10,000. This highly developed and finely made sports saloon is much too special for that. But, on the other hand, BMC is confident that the ‘S’ will be in keen demand by rally, race and competition men from Queensland round to WA. And because of its remarkable performance, the ‘S’ will be a hot topic all over". With the advent of 35 years hindsight since those words were published, one could almost relate those same words to 2000. With there still being a demand from enthusiasts for a Cooper S to rally, race or probably restore. And the first sentence, beginning with "Quite frankly…" could almost be classified as understatement territory. As indeed BMC did not sell 10,000 Morris Cooper S, but demand over the 6 year production period of Cooper S in Australia almost reached 75 percent of that number with 7405 examples exiting the BMC factory in Australia. Making production second only in volume to the mother country. A fine effort I consider, particularly as other manufacturers had come on stream with sporting models with humble beginnings during this period - the Ford Falcon GT and Holden Torana GTR XU1 being probably the most prolific.

Yes folks the Morris Cooper S is indeed a giant killer.

Stephen Dalton.

PS - If you have any issues of Partner that you no longer require, I would gratefully come to some arrangement with you. I can be contacted via this tome’s editorial guru - John Heselwood. Whom I imagine was in 1965, as a lad and upon the release of the Cooper S seen pestering the salesman at Jack Casey Car Sales in his home town of Maryborough.