17/08/2018Former Cooper Car Company honoured with blue plaque
The unveiling of the blue plaque attracted a number of vintage Cooper cars in support including a 1955 Cooper T39 Bobtail and a Formula One racing car from 1959
The Cooper Car company has been commemorated with a blue plaque at its former site in Surbiton - the manufacturer's home during its golden years of the 1950s and 60s.
Long before the Cooper make became known as Michael Caine's getaway car of choice, the name was first associated with innovative and successful racing cars. The company won two consecutive Formula One World Championships in 1959 and 1960 and continued to play a key part in the development of the modern Formula One car.
At the factory on Hollyfield Road, Charles Cooper, alongside his son John, created a company whose legacy as a leader in British motoring design guaranteed it a place in history.
At its peak, Cooper was the world's largest production racing car manufacturer.
Mike Cooper, son of John Cooper, said:
'The Cooper family are very proud that the Cooper Car Company's old works in Sububiton has received a blue plaque.
'The amazing racing cars that were designed and manufactured there by my father, John Cooper, went on to conquer the world of motor sport.
'At its heart it was very much a family firm, I remember my dad telling me the story of how during a really cold spell the mechanics at the works asked my graddad if the workshop could have central heating. My granddad with my father promptly went downstairs to the workshop and, with two length of tubing, picked up the coke burning stove which was placed along one wall and placed it in the centre of the workshop. My granddad said: 'there you go, central heating.'
The birth of an icon
It was the swinging 60s that saw the launch of the Mini-Cooper, one of the most iconic British cars to this day. This collaboration between the Cooper Car Company and the mass market British Motor Corporation (BMC) saw this sporty, higher powered version of the Mini made at large BMC factories.
However, the early rally driving Mini-Coopers were prototyped in Surbiton in the late 1950s, and racing Mini-Coopers went on to win the Monte Carlo rally three times.
The Mini-Cooper was launched in 1961 and quickly became 'the first economy car to be an object of universal desire'. It was a firm favourite among celebrities such as George Harrison, Mick Jagger and the great Italian driver and brand founder Enzo Ferrari.
The famous getaway scene in The Italian Job (1969), which saw several Mini-Cooper cars speeding through the streets of Turin in Italy, further cemented the vehicle as a symbol of 1960s British popular culture.
About the factory
The building which now bears a blue plaque is a rare surviving purpose-built, architect-designed, 1950s motor workshop.
It features a curved frontage, which is renowned amongst motor racing and Cooper aficionados. It's said to mirror the curved design of the racing cars as an intentional homage. This is possible since the architect was Richard Maddock, father of Cooper chief designer (and renowned jazz sousaphone player) Owen 'The Beard' Maddock.
Find out more about the Cooper Car Company on our blue plaques page.
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