To most people the name "Cooper" brings forth memories of Minis past and present, for it was John Cooper who proposed changing the basic econobox into a sporting sedan that could be used for both street and competition. The Mini Cooper S became a huge success in races and rallies and soon was everyone's favorite. It was obvious that when the modern, BMW-built Mini was launched a faster Cooper version was sure to follow.
My first exposure to the Cooper name was quite different. John Cooper, a successful pioneer of low-cost rear-engine race cars, had been building single-seaters for England's 500 c.c. formula and one of these had fallen into the hands of Canadian motorcycle racer Don Haddow. His plan was to modify the car for hillclimbing, using a motorcycle engine. Fitting a very potent Vincent Black Shadow into the Cooper's lightweight frame, Haddow named it the "Jordan Special" after its builder Herb Jordan. Haddow was successful in the British Empire Motor Club's Hockley Valley hillclimb in 1959, then sold the car to Dan Shaw, who won the event in 1960. I might immodestly add that I was a class winner that same year in a modified VW.
It wasn't long before John Cooper moved into the designing and building of mid-engine sports racers which could be fitted with a variety of engines. Although Canadian Ludwig Heimrath was better known for driving Porsches the young German immigrant also drove a Cooper with a Ford engine in 1964. Americans were also well aware of the Cooper success in racing. Ken Miles was winning in a Cooper-Porsche and by the 1960s Hap Sharpe was buying a Cooper. Another customer was a young Texas up-start by the name of Jim Hall who bought himself a Cooper Monaco sports racer. Clearly a Cooper chassis was the way to go.
CM 3-64 was one of the last Cooper Monacos built, visually similar to the Shelby King Cobras. Originally sold as a rolling chassis, it was fitted with a 327-cubic-inch V8 with Hillborn injectors, BMCD transaxle, Eaton halfshafts, Stewart Warner instruments and Ford linkage. Through the years and various owners it has appeared in vintage races and now has been rebuilt to race-ready condition. Russo & Steele is offering the car at its Monterey auction, August 16-18. As pretty as any race car I've ever seen, it deserves a buyer who appreciates the significance of that Cooper name.
NOTE: I've received an e-mail from Rupert Lloyd Thomas, who is compiling a history of Ontario hillclimbs, in which he corrects some errors that I'd made in this blog: The Jordan Special was not a Cooper, it was entirely self-built by Herb Jordan, (although the design had Cooper-like elements, notably the Fiat suspension). The 500 c.c. motorcycle engine was also home-built, while the Vincent engine came later. The car was owned throughout its competition career by builder Herb Jordan, not by Don Haddow; Danny Shaw drove the car when Don Haddow was injured in a skiing accident. Rupert adds: "This was one of the great Canadian racing cars and should be recognised as such. The real mystery is what has happened to the car since. It was believed sold to a Don Clark after the 1962 season and then disappeared."