Over the course of time, cars have evolved dramatically since the very first was built back in the 1880’s. The automotive world is more diverse than ever and new cars with hybrid and electric motors are becoming more desirable in a climate conscious society. 60 years ago, cars weren’t being purchased because of how many miles per gallon they could achieve. People looked for a cheap little car that could carry their families and their luggage hassle free and one car took on that role perfectly. The Mini.
Released in the August of 1959 the Mini revolutionised the car industry by being very small but relatively spacious inside. Designer Alec Issigonis opted to mount the engine sideways with the gearbox underneath, allowing for more room in the cabin and boot. With a small 848cc engine and short wheelbase the Mini was no slouch and was a nippy alternative to the big saloon cars that were being produced at the time. It wasn’t until 1961 when John Cooper, owner of Cooper Car Company approached the British Motor Corporation to build a performance version of the Mini. In the September of 1961 the Mini Cooper was launched with a 997cc engine producing a mind boggling 55bhp. The car was an instant hit, as was the Cooper S model which took part in Monte Carlo Rally where it won three times, beating the likes of Porsche, Ford and Saab. The Cooper was discontinued in 1971 but was relaunched in 1990 by Rover and John Cooper.
Rover produced the Mini Cooper RSP, a limited-edition car that came in only three colours, green, black and red. The car also has special features like a sunroof, bonnet stickers signed by John Cooper himself and a red leather steering wheel. The return of the Cooper was meant to be a one-off, however, the car was so successful Rover continued to make the Cooper until the turn of the century.
With a 1275cc engine and short wheelbase the RSP is unequivocally agile and corners better than most modern vehicles of similar type. Although the engine only produces 60bhp it provides plenty of punch. The four-speed gearbox is a bit archaic and means to get any pace out of the motor you have to aim for the redline often. However, this is no bother because underneath the body sits the RC40 exhaust that produces a nostalgic throaty warble that adds even more character to the driving experience. The Mini doesn’t have the most comforting ride and you often find yourself bouncing down the road rather than cruising.
Inside the car is quintessential Mini Cooper. The steering wheel and pedals are off centre so it’s a bit like driving a bus while tap dancing. Room in the back is somewhat scarce but there’s plenty of space for a medium sized toddler. The boot is surprisingly roomy, so in the event of needing a getaway car to transport $4 million through an Italian traffic jam, look no further. Everything is very basic and simple and the only thing that looked out of place was the Kenwood stereo and speaker system. For a car that is 30 years old however, the RSP has all you need to be an acceptable daily driver, just as long as you can handle the bumpy ride.
The Mini Cooper RSP is a brilliant little motor that perfectly captures the essence of the original 1961 model and I have no doubt that if you got in one tomorrow you would love it. The feedback through the steering and the ride and the noise is all magnificent. It might not be the best car in the world, but it is certainly one of the best cars ever made.