It might be stylish, compact, and somewhat pricey, but the Mini Cooper is also a spritely, sporty car. That’s been the case almost since the original Morris Mini/Austin Seven first rolled out of the factory. But the hatchback’s legacy really kicked off once the original Cooper S proved its mettle on the rally stage. And this week on Bring a Trailer, a modern homage to that icon is up for grabs at a bargain price: a 2004 Mini Cooper S MC40.
The 2004 Mini Cooper S MC40 honored a rally legend with supercharged speed
|2004 ‘R53’ Mini Cooper S MC40|
|Engine||1.6-liter supercharged four-cylinder|
|Curb weight||2767 lbs|
|0-60 mph time||6.9 seconds (Car and Driver)|
Quick history lesson: although the Mini launched in 1959, it wasn’t a Cooper until 1961. That was when veteran British racer John Cooper modified one to compete in the Monte Carlo Rally. Unfortunately, it didn’t win. But the later Mini Cooper S rectified that mistake by winning the 1964, 1965, and 1967 races.
40 years later, Mini decided to honor that first win as well as the driver who earned it, Patrick ‘Paddy’ Hopkirk. And it did so with a special-edition version of the 2004 Mini Cooper S: the MC40, or ‘Monte Carlo 40.’
Unlike the JCW or JCW GP, the MC40 doesn’t give the 2004 Mini Cooper S extra power or performance features. But it does have a few visual and interior upgrades over the standard Cooper S. Inside, it has real carbon-fiber interior trim, red-and-black leather upholstery, and a numbered plaque, Car and Driver explains. Outside, the MC40 has rally lights, unique 17” wheels, and some extra chrome trim. Also, its removable magnetic door plaques, white markings, and Chili Red paint mimic Hopkirk’s 1964 rally car.
Unfortunately, the MC40 arrived one year before the Mini Cooper S got a slight power boost. And the 2022 Cooper S is even more powerful, not to mention quicker to 60 mph. However, the R53-gen model remains special. That’s partly because it’s the only supercharged modern Mini. But it’s also because it’s still a blast to drive, with sharp steering, a solid chassis, and that responsive supercharged engine.
Plus, you can take these R53 Cooper S hot hatches off-road with a bit of tweaking. And the MC40 already comes with rally lights, so making like Paddy is that much easier.
Now’s your chance to score a 1-of-1000 Mini Cooper S MC40
Mini only made 1000 Cooper S MC40s, so finding one today is rather difficult. But there’s one up for grabs right now on Bring a Trailer that has just under 92,000 miles on the clock.
In addition to the features mentioned earlier, the 2004 Mini Cooper S MC40 also has a functional hood scoop, xenon headlights with washers, aluminum pedals, and stability control. Plus, all 2004 Cooper S cars have standard traction control, keyless entry, and flat-tire monitors. And apart from a Borla performance exhaust, this 2004 MC40 is stock.
It’s also in good shape, apart from some sagging headliner sections. Furthermore, this 2004 Mini Cooper S MC40 has some extensive service records and recent maintenance. The seller just replaced the timing chain tensioner, steering rack, power steering fluid reservoir, tie rod ends, and control arm bushings last month. And the previous owner changed the oil and replaced the drive belts back in October 2021.
This special-edition Mini is a hot hatch bargain—but will it be reliable?
As of this writing, this 2004 Mini Cooper S MC40 is listed at $4500 with three days left in the auction. That’s quite a drop from its original $27,449 MSRP; that’s roughly $41,800 in today’s dollars. But that’s not just cheap for an MC40—they’ve command 2-3 times that much in past BaT auctions—it’s cheap for an R53. The cheapest one on Autotrader with similar miles costs $3000 more at the time of writing.
Since this is a used Mini Cooper, prospective bidders should get a pre-purchase inspection. However, although 2006 is one of the best years for first-gen US Coopers, the 2004 Mini Cooper S is more reliable than the first two years.
By 2004, Mini had rectified the ECU glitches and A/C-induced transmission lurching that plagued earlier cars. And while oil and coolant expansion tank leaks, as well as head gasket failure, aren’t unusual with R53s, this MC40 doesn’t appear to have any of those issues. Though since it’s a BMW product, you might want to budget for non-plastic cooling system upgrades.
Still, as affordable hot hatches go, this 2004 Mini Cooper S MC40 looks ready to rock the rally.
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