Cars

For Maximum Speed, Start with a Classic Mini Cooper

Classic cars trade modern safety for lightness and compactness. That’s why a 2.0-liter Caterham Seven can out-race a Bugatti Veyron. It’s also what makes the classic Mini Cooper so appealing. The originals weren’t particularly quick: the classic Mini pickup’s biggest engine was a 38-hp 1.0-liter. But they were extremely light, even for the day. Although the latest Mini Coopers are still comparatively small, the classic ones were downright minuscule. That’s why companies like California-based Gildred Racing build classic Mini Coopers into fantastically-quick racers.

Gildred Racing’s classic Mini Coopers

Overall, Gildred’s classic Mini Coopers fall into the ‘restomod’ category with cars like the Roush Ford Bronco, ECD’s Range Rover, and Legacy Classic’s Dodge Power Wagon. However, while Gildred’s ‘Super Coopers’ do follow the basic formula of ‘better interior, modern engine, modern brakes’, some of the shop’s cars go just a little bit further.

Although the original Mini Cooper was built until the mid-1990s, Gildred Racing usually starts with a ‘60s or ‘70s model. But customers can bring their own cars in for conversion. Owner Tyler Gildred, speaking with The Smoking Tire’s Matt Farah, said that the shop then tears the Mini down to the bare metal. The build process then differs based on what kind of Super Cooper you’ve ordered.

The Super Cooper Classic and Sport

The Classic and Sport models get a 5-speed manual and a choice between three engines. The standard is the D-series four-cylinder from a Honda Civic, which is over 20 lbs lighter than the original Mini engine, despite being bigger.

Gildred Racing Super Cooper Sport engine bay
Gildred Racing Super Cooper Sport engine bay | Gildred Racing

The other options are a more powerful Honda engine, the B-series, or a 1.0-liter turbocharged Ford EcoBoost three-cylinder. The standard D-series makes 130 hp, while the EcoBoost offers 175 hp and the B-series up to 200. With almost 100 hp more than the original car, even the D16 can propel the classic Mini Cooper to 60 mph in under 6 seconds.

However, even the Classic and Sport models can be upgraded further. Farah and Zack Klapman from The Smoking Tire drove a Mini with the 240-hp engine and all-wheel drive system from a Honda CR-V. Admittedly, that particular car was originally built elsewhere, although Gildred did refine and tune it further. Nevertheless, the Mini was almost comically quick. But it also isn’t the fastest Super Cooper.

Super Cooper Type S

Gildred Racing Super Cooper Type S
Gildred Racing Super Cooper Type S | Gildred Racing

That would be the Super Cooper Type S, which is based on the classic 1974 Mini Cooper S. The Type S also gets Honda engines, albeit ones designed for Acura; instead of a 5-speed, the Type S gets a 6-speed. The standard Acura K20/K24 four-cylinder makes 250-350 hp, almost 10 times the original horsepower. Also, it’s mounted in the rear of the car. And, instead of front-wheel drive, the Super Cooper Type S is converted to rear-wheel drive.

Gildred Racing Super Cooper Type S rear engine access
Gildred Racing Super Cooper Type S rear engine access | Gildred Racing

But if 350 hp in a sub-2000-lb car just doesn’t seem quick enough, there’s also the option of a 3.5-liter V6. Originally, it was a 3.2-liter V6, making 260 hp. But with a stroker kit, a supercharger, and 100-octane gas, Tyler Gildred was able to get the V6 to put out 550 hp.

The result is a classic car with the power-to-weight ratio of a Bugatti Veyron. Gildred claims the Super Cooper Type S finishes a quarter-mile going 140 mph, which, according to the Du Pont Registry, is as fast as the Dodge Demon and even some Lamborghinis.

Luckily, the Type S costs significantly less than a Lamborghini.

Gildred Racing classic Mini Cooper pricing

The price of a Gildred Racing classic Mini Cooper varies based on the trim. With a customer-provided donor car, the Classic build starts at $29k, and the Sport at $30k. If Gildred Racing has to source the donor, the price jumps to $55k and $60k, respectively. Gildred Racing doesn’t accept customer donor cars for Type S builds, which start at $85k.

Caterham Seven 360
Caterham Seven 360 | Hillbank Motor Corporation

So, these cars aren’t exactly cheap. However, that’s actually only slightly more expensive than a Caterham Seven. And a Super Cooper will in many ways be more of a normal car than a Seven. For one, the Mini has a roof. For another, Gildred Racing offers many ways to further customize its cars.

Every Super Cooper gets coil-over suspension and 4-wheel disc brakes, although the Sport’s and Type S’ brakes are upgraded further. In addition, the Type S gets a limited-slip rear differential as standard, although the Sport can get it as an option.

Gildred Racing 1967 Mini Cooper Super Cooper Classic interior
Gildred Racing 1967 Mini Cooper Super Cooper Classic interior | Gildred Racing

The Sport and Classic come standard with factory-style leather bucket seats, although customers can also get BMW power leather seats, or bolstered Recaro LX sport seats front and rear. The latter can also now be ordered with heating and ventilation. The cars can also be ordered with wood interior accents, and modern engines mean you can even get A/C.

A daily-drivable classic that can embarrass supercars at a fraction of the price? Sign me up.

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