For many of us at Bonhams this is one of the most mouth-wateringly attractive competition cars to have become available from the Rosso Bianco Collection it is a Coventry Climax FPF 4-cylinder engined leafspring-suspension Cooper Monaco of the kind which featured so strongly for many years within the most competitive class of Historic sports car racing, not only here in the UK but also throughout Europe and in the USA.
This well-known car has been preserved, almost entirely unused, within its last previous ownership, having been on museum display for no fewer than 22 long years. It was purchased from prominent British classic car dealer and racer Chris Drake early in 1984, and within the documentation file accompanying this Lot is a hand-written copy letter from him the previous November stating that As mentioned it has a five-speed Cooper gearbox and a 2.7-litre FPF engine rebuilt by Climax Engine Services. The whole car has been restored from the chassis upwards.
Normally with this category of Cooper an understandably sceptical modern audience might be inclined to interpret that last sentence as evidence that this might be another air car built effectively new from really precious little. However, the car was in fact restored by leading British Cooper specialist Sid Hoole, and he recalls his regret at ever having sold it, because it had come to him as an unusually original, almost complete though probably engineless car from fellow Cooper enthusiast/restorer/dealer John Harper to whome it had come from the USA.
Mr Hoole recalls: That was a lovely old car when it came to me, so far as I recall virtually everything was there and I put it up on trestles in the garage workshop beside my old cottage in Keysoe and worked my way right through the entire thing. I drove it a couple of times in testing but never did race it as far as I recall, before it went to Rob Grant who ran it a few times before it was sold to the museum in Germany. At the time it was one of the least messed about, most complete and nicest little Monacos I had ever had, and when John Harper first mentioned it to me I remember him saying Ive got the ideal Cooper for you and it really was just that .
Surviving Cooper Car Company factory records indicate that chassis CM/7/59 was constructed originally in September 1959, to the order of Texan oilman and partner of Jim Hall in the legendary Chaparral Cars operation J.R. Hap Sharp. Born on January 1, 1927, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he would maintain that his nickname came from his birthday Hap being short for Happy New Year! He settled in Midland, Texas, running Sharp Oil, and his racing activities developed in boats, winning the US National Outboard Racing Championship.
He had little interest in cars until he rented an MG TC while on vacation in California in 1949, and eight years later bought a Chevrolet Corvette which was lightly race-tuned. After a friend named Dave Morgan encouraged him to attend a racing driver course at Hourglass Field, San Diego, the bug bit, and Hap Sharp began racing in earnest.
In 1959 he hired a full-time mechanic and began racing the Cooper Monacos initially with a 2-litre Climax FPF engine installed. In the US West Coast professional Fall series precursor of CanAm racing the British contingent arrived with Formula 1-type 2½-litre FPF engines in their Coopers, against which the American 2-litres stood no chance. Consequently Hap Sharp fitted a 2½-litre Maserati 4-cylinder racing engine in his Monaco and he won against strong opposition at both Nassau in the Bahamas Speed Week, and at Road America. The press christened his modified Cooper Monaco Old Dirty which he did not appreciate one bit, since beneath its skin his car was always beautifully race-prepared.
On visits to England the burly adopted Texan became a familiar and popular figure within the Cooper factory in Hollyfield Road, Surbiton, as one mechanic there recalled: Hed always drop us a few bob, telling us to remember to repay him next time he sent an urgent telex needing bits for his cars in America He looked after us, and we looked after him.
In fact Hap Sharp went on to race Coopers in Formula 1 at the United States Grand Prix, before the Chaparrals became serious contenders internationally, and he drove the winged 2F Coupé in such events as the Targa Florio, around the Sicilian mountains.
The Cooper Monaco was supplied originally to him in the USA less engine which he acquired separately. After its American period and its restoration to raceable order by Sid Hoole we understand that the car was campaigned briefly in 1983 by British enthusiast Rob Grant before being sold via Chris Drake to Peter Kaus in Germany, while there is a brief note in the documentation file suggesting it was also driven in competition by John Harper.
Mr Grant received Historic Sports Car Club identity papers for the car form number 282 dated February 2, 1984 which are included in the documentation file. This document declares that the chassis was then the original to chassis number, front suspension coil-and-wishbone, rear suspension wishbone and transverse leafspring, the magnesium Cooper wheels 4¾-inch wide front rims and 6-inch wide rears, and the engine installed at that time was then listed as 2,000cc (not 2.7-litres). Transmission was Cooper-ERSA Citroen-based 4-speed by Jack Knight Engineering. Current engine displacement and gearbox configuration are to confirmed in time for the viewing at Goodwood.
Overall we are delighted to be able to offer here for the first time in more than twenty years this extremely attractive, immensely useable and very highly regarded example of Coopers most competitive, most popular and most coveted rearf-engined sports-racing car of its era the Cooper Monaco-Climax Monaco.