This Revival marks an extraordinary freeze-frame moment in time for the Cooper Car Company. Imagine for a second that it’s 60-years ago…
There’s the paddock shelter with the latest Norton-powered 500cc F3 cars, including the Mk9 that Ivor Bueb has just won with at Goodwood. There’s the trailer it arrived on, knocked up by the chap with the welding shop next door to Cooper Cars in Surbiton (and running on the same mag wheels and racing tyres as the race car, useful in case a spare is needed). There’s the Ford 10cwt van Cooper uses to pull the trailer. On the paddock table sits a bottle of Ribena that Bueb is endorsing (‘it fights off nervous strain’). And next to the pitwall holding the pitboard with its three stopwatches is Mr Cooper himself…
Well, it’s all exactly like that… except that in 2015 it’s Mike Cooper of course and for Ivor Bueb read David Woodhouse, one of the world’s top car designers who owns and races the exact same ex-Bueb car that won at Goodwood in 1955.
The Cooper Car Co these days is busy serving the needs of owners of all heritage Coopers, but for Revival weekend the Cooper Car Co exists again as the team, fielding two cars in the Earl of March Trophy for 1950s 500cc F3 cars.
And with freshly restored van and trailer and all manner of in-period details – bottle of Ribena included – the illusion is more real than ever. Mike Cooper even has with him his dad’s hand-written old record book which lists every Cooper ever sold…
‘Here’s one sold to Briggs Cunningham, another to Bernie Ecclestone – he wanted a discount. And here’s the F2 car that Steve McQueen bought in 1962. I remember him buying it because he came and stayed with us for the weekend and he slept in my bedroom. I was eight and had to sleep in mum and dad’s room. When Aunty Peggy heard Steve was with us she came over for breakfast – still in her curlers.’
Mike adds: ‘It’s all unbelievable at Revival this year. The attention to detail in re-creating the racing team here 60 years on is absolutely brilliant. We did something similar last year but with the van and trailer just as they were in the 1950s it’s all better than ever.’
Architects of the rebirth are the Cooper Car Co’s Revival drivers, designer ace David (he’s design director at Lincoln in the US) and George Shackleton, chairman of the Cooper Car Club, along with his dad Robin.
The Earl of March Trophy, and the little motorcycle-engined F3 cars that race in it, seem to hold a special fascination for car designers. One of the drivers David Woodhouse is up against in the race at 10am on Sunday is Aston Martin’s design director Marek Reichman (read more about him and his car here).
‘Marek thinks he’s quicker than me but only in his dreams,’ David tells GRR. ‘But this will be my first race for two-years so am a bit rusty.’
What’s the appeal of the cars? ‘They are so minimalist: 550lb, 500cc and very delicate but they are fantastically agile and just awesome to drive. Modern cars have something to learn from their ingenuity.’
Mike adds: ‘What was so wonderful about my dad was not just the F1, F2 and F3 but all the Cooper Monacos, Cooper MGs, Cooper Jags and of course the Mini Coopers. I am always so proud when I come to Revival and see them all racing. There are over 35 Coopers racing here this year.
‘I have been to Revival every year for every day and I love it. Everybody knows it is the best motor racing event in the world. It’s been a lovely sunny day today (Friday) but I am looking forward to tomorrow when it might rain.
‘Which will mean the Mini Coopers will be right at the front…’
Photography by Pete Summers