Driving Seat

Iconic Classic Cars: 1961 MINI Cooper

Originating from the first generation MINI, the MINI Cooper was a creation of John Cooper, who saw the potential to design a motorsports version of the car. In its first year of production 1,644 MINI Coopers were made, with over 125,000 produced from 1961 to 1971.

The MINI Cooper was quintessentially British, reflecting the youthful culture of the 1960’s through its symbolic style and function. Redesigned in recent years, the 1961 MINI Cooper will always be an iconic representation of the era. 

In spite of its deceptively small exterior, on the inside this compact people-mover was significant in size. It utilised 80% of the car’s floorplan to transport people and luggage comfortably.

Whether you were using it to navigate across a busy city or escaping to the coast with the family, the MINI was a low-cost alternative to larger cars.

Although the design was intended to create more passenger room in a small car, the innovative mechanical structure of the MINI reshaped it as a performance car. Features such as positioning the wheels at the very corners of the car made for deft handling, and the transverse engine and front-wheel drive provided solid balance and grip. Under the bonnet the car featured a racing-tuned engine, twin SU carburettors, a closer-ratio gearbox and front disc brakes, all uncommon at the time in a small car.

Motoring in a MINI Cooper became an experience in itself as the low-cost car was a brilliantly deceptive and nimble package that Britain, and the rest of the world, truly enjoyed driving.

Did you know?

  1. In 2013, an original MINI Cooper S sold at an auction in the UK for a record breaking £31,000! Although the motor didn’t run, it still included all the original features.
  2. In 1962, Rhodesian racing driver John Love became the first non-British racing driver to win the British Saloon Car Championship driving a MINI Cooper.
  3. The MINI Cooper S was used in the 1969 cult classic ‘The Italian Job’, thrusting this Brit favourite further into the limelight.

Car Specification

Car MINI Cooper MK1
Production 1961-1967
Top speed (mph) 85
Doors 2
Length (mm) 3048
Weight (kg) 580
Engine 848cc
BHP 55
Torque (Nm) 54
0-60mph 12.1s
0-100kmh 14.1s

The best of 1961

1961 was a year of cultural highlights that would generate some great accomplishments for the rest of the decade. Although there were some monumental advancements for science, this year was also progressive for film, music and fashion.

World Events

On January 20th 1961 American’s tuned in to watch John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, where he delivered one of the most famous inaugural speeches.

And perhaps the most famous moment of the year saw the first men in space as two successful missions carried Russian Yuri Gagarin, and shortly afterwards American Alan Shepard, out of the earth’s atmosphere and into the great unknown.

Film

1961 gave us great cinematic classics in the form of West Side Story and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. While the prior divulges the tale of love torn apart by gang violence through the power of song and dance, the latter encapsulates romance and comedy with a show stopping performance by the iconic Audrey Hepburn.

Both top grossing films of 1961, West Side Story stole the show with impressive box office earnings of $43,656,822. Receiving outstanding critical acclaim, the film went on the triumph at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes Awards ceremonies that year too.

Music

As we enter the Swinging Sixties, popular music in the UK was still predominantly American with tunes such as ‘Stand by Me’ by Ben E. King and ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ by The Shirelles. For those who knew their way around the dance floor, Chubby Checker’s popular hit ‘Pony Time’ introduced the famous dance move, The Pony.

While Elvis Presley’s career was in full swing by 1961, the Beatles performed at the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool for the first time the same year. This famous nightclub would go on to host 292 appearances by the Beatles between 1961 and 1963 thus jumpstarting their career.

Fashion

At the turning point of the decade, 1961 embraced designs that were reminiscent of the 1950’s, drawing on more conservative cuts and patterns while turning to colour to add vibrancy to their wardrobe. In particular, this year saw the reshaping of the waistline and hipline for women. Shift dresses were slowly introduced allowing women to move more freely than before.

Born this Year

  • Diana, Princess of Wales
  • Fashion designer & director Tom Ford
  • Acting legends George Clooney and Iain Glen- better known as Ser Jorah Mormont for Game of Thrones fans!

Sources

MINI
Telegraph
Go Compare
Retro Waste
Performance Car Guide