1967 Monte Carlo Morris Mini-Cooper 1275 “S”

   Charles and John Cooper were already turning the motor racing world on it's head and the Cooper Car Company name was becoming a byword for success. Being acquainted with the Mini's designer, Alec Issigonis, John Cooper knew a fair bit about the Mini's design and recognised the advantages it would bring in competition. Issigonis wasn't that keen on the idea but was persuaded to collaborate with Cooper to produce a sporty little car that would give the man on the street something to get excited about, not least because it would be affordable!

   The 1959 Mini had already started to get a popular following, which was to be greatly enhanced by Mick Jagger and George Harrison owning Minis, not to mention Steve McQueen and Gerald Harper; even Enzo Ferrari had a Mini (and apparently it was one of his favourite cars to drive). When the Mini-Cooper debuted in 1961 it was immediately a desirable car and when John Love used a Mini Cooper to capture the 1962 British Saloon Car Championship the die was cast for proper racing Minis. Indeed BMC had already commissioned 1000 Mini-Cooper cars so as to meet the Group 2 rally homologation rules. Actually 80,000 Mini-Coopers were sold and that doesn't include those made under licence in Italy, by Innocenti, and Spain, by Authi (Automoviles de Turismo Hispano-Ingleses).

   The big hitting little car was to become the automotive embodyment of the David and Goliath story, not only in that it was small and many of the other cars on the starting grid were twice it's size but also in it's small engine capacity and it's unusal layout. The Mini-Cooper was in many ways an odity on the racing circuits but it was quickly proving it's worth. Cooper had turned F1 back to front (or more accurately front to back), and with the Mini they were spinning saloon cars sideways!

Mini-Cooper development

   The increase in engine power, from 34hp to 55bhp, from the humble Morris Mini-Minor was affected by increasing the capacity from 848cc to 997cc (51.7 cu' in' to 60.8 cu' in'), and adding twin SU carburettors. Ally this to a closer-ratio gearbox and the better stopping power from front disc brakes and you had a small light car that could beat anyone away from the blocks, brake later and handle better as well.

   As is normal with men though, more power was never enough power; so in 1963 the Mini-Cooper “S” was released. The engine in this car was not only increased to 1071cc but had the internals strengthened to allow for even more tuning. Larger front disc brakes, with servo-assistance, were also added. 4,030 Cooper S cars were sold up to August 1964. Two further “S” models were made specifically for circuit racing. The larger engined 1,275cc Mini-Cooper “S” proved very popular with racing teams and the general public, remaining in production until 1971 when the Cooper name was dropped from the range.

   Whether as the standard road going Mini, a Mini-Cooper or a full-on racing-tuned competition car the Mini turned heads and wrote headlines. It was a huge success for BMC and a genuine surprise time and again in a 1960s. It is now an icon of the decade with which it is so closely associated.

The Monte Carlo Rally

   The Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo was originally a very different event to that which it is now. It was started in 1911 as a way to demonstrate the innovation, improvement and reliability of the cars that year. Competitors used to set off from all over Europe to arrive in the Principality of Monaco and “rally”; which is to say simply to meet up. Prince Albert the1st was the driving force at first but the rally is now organised by Automobile Club de Monaco (who also organise the F1 Monaco Grand Prix and the Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique), and is a competition against the clock in the recognised competition rally method.

The Mini at the Monte-Carlo Rally

   Just six months after their market launch six works Minis, and six more privately entered Minis arrived in the South of France to do battle in the 1960 Monte Carlo Rally. They weren't particularly competative with the fastest Mini, of those that lasted the course, was the P.Riley/R.Jones Mini (reg no. 618 AOG carrying race # 110), who finished 23rd overall having started from Oslo. Donald Morley/Erle Morley managed 33rd (TMO 561 race # 263) and Tommy Wisdom & Jack Hay were 55th overall, (619 AOG # 299).

   The Minis were even less successful in 1961 but the credibility and publicity BMC craved started to emerge from the 1962 Monte Carlo Rally. Rauno Aaltonen entered a Mini-Cooper and very nearly killed himself in it. He put on a spectacular display until he rolled the car, when it came to rest on it's roof it caught fire. For a few seconds the fans held their breath but Aaltonen and his navigator quickly emerged from the car, assisted to safety by marshalls and fans. Aaltonen later recalled

“I was stuck in the burning car”.... “I could see pastel colors, you know, and I was hearing classical music. Then I could hear my co-driver calling me to climb out, but the seatbelts were already melted, so I had to wiggle out.”

    Pat Moss-Carlsson & Ann Wisdom-Riley finished 26th overall in their Mini that year and took the “Coupe des Dames” as the fastest ladies in the race.

   Timo Mäkinen entered Monto Carlo the first time as a works Mini Cooper driver in 1962 and an Irishman by the name of Patrick Hopkirk became well known for getting his Sunbeam Rapier to the finish in third place overall.

    One year later Paddy Hopkirk was at the wheel of a Mini-Cooper for “the Monte” but it was Rauno Aaltonen & Tony Ambrose grabbed the headlines with a class win and third overall. Hopkirk and Jack Scott were 6th overall. The Mini was starting to really threathen the big names and things looked promising for the 1964 season.

   The little red Minis really proved their ability in the winter rallys of early 1964 with Paddy Hopkirk and Henry Liddon taking their Mini Cooper S to victory in the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. Mini Cooper '33 EJB' wearing race number 33 became a reveared car, the original car is preserved and several recreations have been built by eager Mini owners.

   In 1965 the Mini Cooper S won “the Monte” again, this time in the hands of Timo Mäkinen and Paul Easter.

   The 1966 event became notorious when the top four finishers were disqualified for using none standard headlight bulbs. 6 other cars were disqualified for the same reason and conspiracy theories were soon flying around along with accusations of foul play.

   The "The Monte Carlo Fiasco” was actually due to the interpretation of the rules as the standard headlights of the works Minis had the correct bulbs but the additional lights mounted on the grills had single filament iodine vapour bulbs for more intense light. After 8 hours of inspection the scrutineers decided the auxiliary lights should have had the double-filament dipping bulbs too; you can see immediately why several teams threatened to boycott the Monte-Carlo rally in future.

   The order had been the three Mini-Coopers of Timo Mäkinen, Rauno Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk with the Ford Cortina of Roger Clark 4th but their exclusion from the results elevated the Citroën of Toivonen into the winning position.

1967 Monte Carlo rally

   Despite the confrontations of the previous year the works Mini team was back at the Monte for 1967 and determined to win. Aaltonen, Hopkirk and Mäkinen remained on the driving staff and were joined this year by Simo Lampinen and Tony Fall.

   Aaltonen had an eventful rally and looking back he recalls, “Ahh, it was fantastic! The spectators in Monte Carlo were there with their hearts”. The Mini should have been at a disadvantage against the bigger and more powerful cars in the event but somehow Rauno Aaltonen/Henry Liddon conquered the conditions to win the rally by 12 seconds.

   Aaltonen told one of the reasons for the win was the luck he and Liddon had on the famous Col de Turini special stage, the stage being run twice, once in each direction. Aaltonen's story starts with a snow storm :-

“You could see the snowflakes floating down. In theory, it could be beautiful. For us, it was hell. The spikes in our tires don’t work in the snow and we couldn’t see the road – everything was white.”

This resulted in the inevitable grip problems, despite the spiked tyres :-

“First gear. Wheelspin. 8,000 rpm, hardly moving. Second gear. Wheelspin. We couldn’t get any grip”.

   When Aeltonen and Liddon got to the top of the climb they were “two and a half minutes down” and did what all good rally crews do in those circumstances; throw caution to the wind! Coming down the mountain faster than recommended the #177 BMC Mini-Cooper crew came to a patch of ice on a section of road with large concrete blocks design to stop cars from plummeting over the side of the mountain. Aaltone says :-

“You never give up. So I aimed between the concrete blocks. I knew it wasn’t a sheer drop, maybe 45 degrees and with trees.”

   In an act of huge courage, or utter stupidity, Aaltonen went for it; with the predictable result of becoming airborne off the side of the mountain :-

“It looked like we were in a fairytale. These boulders looked like giants.”, “we landed on soft snow between trees and huge boulders. This was purely good luck, as one cannot steer the car while air-born. As we already left the road, there was no point in stopping, as the Mini would instantly sink deep.”

   Pushing on regardless and with no idea where they were going Aaltonen and Liddon came across a road :-

“Once we had found a road and noticed it was the special stage, we understood how lucky we had been. Nobody could purposely find that kind of route between the trees and boulders – yet, in fact, it shortened the route.”

   The crew had shortened the stage by five seconds with their impromptu, and very lucky, detour

“That was not skill, it was good luck” Aaltonen says and “I told my co-driver to shut-up his mouth and don’t tell anything.”

   The story remained a secret for over 20 years and as Aaltonen and Liddon won by 12 seconds deducting the 5seconds gained doesn't change the result. Should they have been excluded for leaving the course and rejoining it at a different place, well, that's not for us to say. Perhaps we should look at this as a little bit of fate; if Karma had wanted Aaltonen to loose the race then why did the Mini miss every rock, bolder, bush and tree as it careened down the mountainside?

   In the end all the BMC works Minis made it to the end of the 1967 Monte-Carlo Rally, #177 Mini Cooper S of Rauno Aaltonen & Henry Liddon winning from the 2nd placed #39 Lancia Fulvia HF of Ove Andersson & John Davenport with Vic Elford & David Stone 3rd in the #219 Porsche 911S. Paddy Hopkirk & Ron Crellin #205 finished 6th overall, Tony Fall & Raymond Joss #32 were 10th, Simo Lampinen & Mike Wood #178 were 15th, and Timo Mäkinen & Paul Easter #144 finished 41st.

   Other Mini-Coopers that completed the arduous rally were David Friswell & Christopher Nash #29 Mini-Cooper S 74th, and José-Maria Juncadella & Enrique Ruiz-Gimenez #149 Mini-Cooper S arrived in 87th place.


   In the 1960s style, fashion and freedom were the watch words of the day. The Mini had all that and the Cooper S gave it speed too. No body thought the compact dimensions of this diminutive car would lend itself to motorsports but on the circuits and rally stages no other car coulf give so much fun and competitiveness for such and affordable price.

   The 1967 Monte-Carlo winning Mini is now so revered it has even been the inspiration for a fashion house “Tartan Red .com” who sell a Red Rugby style shirt with the "LBL 6D" number plate on the front and the # "177" printed on a Yellow rally door square on the back with a replica "Monte Carlo Rally" plate above it.

1/24th scale kit.
Built by Roy Poulter.

   This model built and donated by our friend Roy Poulter of the Sutton Coldfield Model makers society. It has a few little added details, like the roof rack straps, but is otherwise straight from the box.

   Tamiya produced the definitive Mini kit in 1983 and for decades it has been the standard all other are measured by. 

   The 1st Tamiya kit of the Mini in 1/24th scale was the 1983 release of the road going Morris Mini Cooper 1275 S, kit # 24039. 2nd Morris Mini Cooper 1275S Rally '67 Monte Carlo Rally Winner, Tamiya kit # 24048 based on the 1983 release, updated for the rally racing version (New parts inc' racing seat roll cage, race decals etc.). In 1993 the 3rd “Morris Mini Cooper Racing” kit, # 24130, was released. This had other parts for Club races more appropriate for circuit racing models than the rally parts set. The final Tamiya Mini kit offered the chance to build an Austin Mini Cooper 1275S MkI. Tamiya kit # 24235 was released in 2001 making a fourth Mini version all based on the first kit.

   Revell-(Fujimi) released a 998 MK1 mini kit (#07092) in 2012, they followed that with the 2013 release of “Original Mini Cooper” kit # 85-4035. This in turn was followed by a remodelled kit with some new parts and decals to create the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally Winning Cooper, “33 EJB” #37 of Paddy Hopkirk & Henry Liddon. The real car is currently at the Gaydon Museum of the British Motor Industry. Both the Revell and Fujimi releases are identical and both have been criticised for not taking the opportunity to be completely accurate. These accusations are rather harsh as the dedicated model maker can detail and correct any kit to make it accurate to their interpretations of plans and photographs.