Powered mainly by JAP and Manx Norton motorcycle engines, the Cooper Car Company's innovative rear-engined racing cars dominated the 500cc Formula 3 scene in the 1950s, providing many future stars, most notably Stirling Moss, with their first taste of 'real' motor racing. At the same time that production of the 500cc racers was getting under way, company founder Charles Cooper's son John decided to build a sports car for road use. Following an abortive attempt using a Triumph twin-cylinder motorcycle engine, a prototype was assembled during the winter of 1948/49 to accommodate a four-cylinder Vauxhall Ten power unit. This was installed ahead of the driver in a chassis similar to that of designed for the 1,000cc JAP v-twin engine, complete with the racers' FIAT-type independent suspension at both ends and cast aluminium wheels with integral brake drums.
Despite the Coopers' tuning efforts, the Vauxhall engine was deemed insufficiently powerful and so a deal was concluded with MG for the supply of 1,250cc XPAG engines as found in the TC-type Midget. Production of the Cooper-MG designated Type T14 got under way in 1950, though most customers purchased their cars in kit for home assembly, thereby saving on purchase tax.
Although intended for road use, the Cooper-MG was raced extensively by enthusiastic owners and also by the works, the car's first win coming at Goodwood in the final members' meeting of the 1950 season, fittingly with John Cooper himself at the wheel. Production of the MG-engined Cooper sports car, latterly in Type T21 form, had ended by 1953. In his typically excellent history of the marque, 'Cooper Cars', Doug Nye states that 'proper records of how many of these cars were produced have not survived, but several were completed with alternative engines...' Some authorities estimate that as few as 24 Cooper-MGs were made.
This unique motor car is the work of Mr Victor Percy Drew of Coulsdon, Surrey, who was an employee of MG agency, University Motors at the time of its construction. He bought the rolling chassis from the Cooper factory at Surbiton, Surrey and fitted an MG XPAG engine and gearbox, sourced from his place of work, and an ENV differential. Copied from the Ferrari 166 barchetta, as reported in Autosport in 1952 (August 15th edition), the aluminium body panelling is all Drew's own work. The only modification made during his ownership was a change of windscreen to that fitted to the MGA.
The car was registered by Mr Drew on the 1st June 1952 and carried the number 'MYH 314'. It was first registered as a 'Tonnelier' the French word for a cooper (barrel maker). The vendor has been told that the car could not be registered at that time as a 'Cooper-MG' for tax reasons. Mr Drew ran the Cooper for 21 years before selling it on 17th May 1973 to the current vendor, who lived close to him and had seen it on the local roads. He wanted a competitive car for hill climbs and the Cooper-MG's excellent power-to-weight ratio made it an ideal choice. 'MYH 314' became his everyday transport and was also used for touring, rallying, racing and hill climbing. In the mid-1980s, marriage and a change in the vendor's financial circumstances meant that the Cooper-MG had to go into storage. It remained there until last year when he was asked by the MGCC's XPAG club to display the car.
The body is fundamentally sound, with no prominent dents and good shut lines, though paintwork is poor and there is some surface corrosion on the chassis rails. In need of rebuilding, the engine is installed in the chassis, the cylinder head being loosely affixed to the block. Ancillaries such as an exhaust manifold and two sets of inlet manifolds with twin SU carburettors (larger and smaller) are included in the sale together with a box of engine and other mechanical parts. Importantly, the car retains its ENV differential, seats (presently removed) and dashboard with a full set of instruments.
Highly original and unmolested, having had only two owners from new, 'MYH 314' is eligible for many classes of historic racing, rallying, hill climbs and sprints including the MGCC's series for pre-1960s sports cars in which it should be very competitive in the right hands. An exciting opportunity to acquire a rare early Cooper road car.