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The MINI car brand has been around for more than six decades, which attests to its continued popularity. Nearly everyone has at least heard of these tiny cars, even if they haven’t had a chance to drive one. Additionally, who can help smiling when they see one on the road?

The Cooper is the heart and soul of the MINI brand, but have you ever wondered how this well-loved car came by its name? You might be surprised by the meaning behind the name and how it became attached to such a unique little vehicle!

A brief history of an iconic tiny car

In post-WWII England, the economy was still recovering from the ravages of the war when the Suez Crisis hit in 1957. It sent gas prices soaring and caused many people to reconsider their large gas guzzlers. What was needed was a small, affordable, fuel-efficient vehicle that could transport four adults.

According to the MINI website, up stepped Sir Leonard Lord of the Morris Company to accept the challenge and turn it over to Alec Issigonis, his top engineer at the time. Of course, cramming four adults into a compact, fuel-efficient car required some interesting design changes. To make more room inside, Issigonis shoved the wheels out to the corners and turned the engine sideways. This tiny, uniquely-designed car stunned the public when it debuted in 1959. 

Where the MINI Cooper got its name

Cooper S rear model badging on a red-orange 2019 Mini Cooper S
Cooper S rear badging on a Mini Cooper S | BMW OF NORTH AMERICA, LLC.

The changes Issigonis made for purely practical reasons had an unexpected side effect. This new go-cart-style vehicle was really fun to drive! The wide stance provided excellent stability even in the tightest turns, while the transverse engine improved traction by keeping the weight more evenly distributed over the front tires.

It was a quick, nimble, and exhilarating ride. More importantly, everyone from the local milkman to royalty could afford to take a MINI for a drive. Car Covers reports that even the founder of the luxury sports car brand Ferrari, the legendary Enzo Ferrari himself, owned and loved the MINI.

In 1961, British racing legend John Cooper of the Cooper Car Company got in on the MINI fun. A few tweaks later, the Classic MINI Cooper 997 was born. Those tweaks included a more powerful engine and bigger brakes to go with it. By 1962, a MINI Cooper won its first motorsport prize at the Netherlands Tulip Rally with Patricia Moss at the wheel. 

From 1964 to 1967, the tiny Cooper outraced much larger and more powerful cars and racked up wins on the international racing circuit. That included three victories between 1964 and 1967 at the prestigious Monte Carlo rally. 

The MINI Cooper of today

The MINI Cooper arrived on the scene at just the right time, according to Car Covers. The 1960s were an era of “fun, freedom, and adventure,” and both the MINI Cooper and the ever-popular Volkswagen Beetle fit the bill perfectly. The MINI name might stand for an ingeniously designed and affordable compact car, but it also represents a surprising amount of enjoyment and adventure in a small package.

The fun aspect of owning and driving a MINI Cooper continues to this day. Choose between two-door, four-door, and convertible models. The MINI Cooper is also available in not-so-mini variants such as the Countryman and Clubman. You can even select an EV model. Whichever model you choose, the vast array of customization options on the MINI Build Your Own Car site will help you create the perfect vehicle to match your personality. And what could be more fun than that?

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