Most everyone knows what a classic Mini looks like. It's up there with the Volkswagen Beetle and Ford Model T in terms of recognition, because all three cars were important milestones in mass-market vehicle design. The Mini was sold worldwide under various names between 1959 and 2000 and cemented its place in history with over 5.3 million copies. Only about 10,000 were originally imported to the United States through 1967. This is probably one of them.
Pretty much everybody who owns an old Mini wants one graced by John Cooper's touch. And if they can't get a real one, they want a reasonable facsimile. I think this is a real US-spec 1966 Austin Cooper S. Mini Coopers were originally developed to homologate the Mini for Group 2 rally racing and were quite rare and desirable. The Cooper engine increased displacement from 848 to 997 cc and from 34 to 55 horsepower. It featured twin carburetors, an upgraded transmission and front disc brakes. The Cooper S was the super-Cooper with a larger, more powerful engine and bigger brakes. The 1966 Cooper S came with a 1275 cc engine and in American spec, produced about 78 horsepower.
I photographed this Mini near a car show in Danville, but it's apparently local to the area. I see it driving around from time to time. I know nothing of its history and the license plates are not much help. The front plate is decorative and the rear plate is likely also fake since it doesn't follow the number sequence for British plates, and it's a left-hand-drive car anyway. The only "NDG1413" I can find is the model number of a Toshiba light switch. The California plate "FUNSTFF" is an old one probably from the '80s and online smog test records show it's been on a number of different vehicles. I'm guessing this car has only worn it since 2011 at the earliest.
Condition of this Mini is really good, finished in trademark red with white roof and steel wheels with center caps. I like that the owner hasn't stuck Minilite wheels and rally stripes on it. It's a good look for a Mini but everyone does it. I don't see many stock ones out there. And it's not like it's a garage queen. There are enough stickers from clubs and driving events to prove that this Cooper is properly enjoyed.
California Streets is a blog that celebrates the history of the automobile in California. We feature old, interesting and often rare cars and trucks found parked on public streets and roads around the state of California.
I'm a delivery driver by trade, but I'm also a freelance artist and hobby photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area with a healthy interest in cars. I love finding and documenting fascinating old vehicles wherever I go.