MINI John Cooper Works then and now

MINI John Cooper Works
Racy MINI John Cooper Works cars past and present. Photos by Benjamin Yong.

It doesn’t matter if you became a fan of MINI during its original inception in the 1960s, or when BMW revived the nameplate in the early 2000s. If you like MINI, you’ve probably heard someone utter the name John Cooper Works (JCW) at some point.

Most recently, BMW introduced the 2015 MINI JCW Hardtop, a complete redesign of the quick little two-door hatchback that is a factory souped-up Cooper even more sporty than the S model. The latest version is the first to be built on a shared front-wheel drive global platform with BMW Group.

2015 MINI John Cooper Works Vancouver International Auto Show

“This is undoubtedly an exciting time at MINI as we relaunch the John Cooper Works sub-brand as a true model in itself, and with the most powerful engine we’ve ever had in a production model,” said MINI of the Americas vice president David Duncan.

The 228 horsepower four-cylinder motor is turbocharged using the company’s TwinPower technology, and the car is fitted with a sports exhaust and suspension that is tuned for both the road and the track, hearkening back to JCW’s firm roots in the racing world.

Now a tuning arm of MINI owned by BMW, John Cooper, after which JCW is named, was a car maker, racing team owner and racecar driver who helped create the original hot hatch over 50 years ago. Long before go-fast parts were available straight from the manufacturer, Cooper was modifying his own creations putting in quicker engines, better brakes and more efficient transmissions.

John Cooper Works badge

At the same time that MINI was reinventing itself for the modern era, Cooper’s son Michael founded JCW that produced speciality parts for the new iteration, reminiscent of the custom additions his father was fond of. Specific JCW-badged models were not yet offered at the beginning. Rather, customers could purchase various warranty-friendly kits consisting of upgrades like a turbo/supercharger, performance air filter, exhaust and sparkplugs, remapped ECU and specialty emblems.

Eventually, in addition to optional parts ordered from a catalogue, the automaker unveiled a factory MINI John Cooper Works vehicle outfitted with all the usual trick parts, and a few new ones that included an electronic limited slip differential, Dynamic Traction Control and Brembo brake calipers. Even an all-wheel drive five-door, the JCW Countryman, made its debut. There’s never been a better time to be a Cooper enthusiast.

Posted by Benjamin Yong

Benjamin Yong is a freelance journalist and communications professional living in Richmond, B.C. He is often found writing about cars and the auto industry, amongst other things, or driving around in his work-in-progress 1990 Mazda MX-5. Twitter: @b_yong Instagram: @popuplights