The over-the-top factory team cars like the Lotus 27 and Lola Mk 5 were
the reason Formula Junior died off

Powered by JAP and Manx Norton motorcycle engines, Cooper's innovative mid-engined racing cars dominated the 500-cc Formula 3 scene in the 1950s. These cars provided many future stars, most notably Stirling Moss, with their first taste of "real" motor racing.
What had been a strictly pragmatic solution to the problem of accommodating the motorcycle transmission's chain final drive resulted in a superbly balanced car, and this demonstrably superior arrangement was continued on the next generation of Coopers built for the nascent Formula Junior. The first of these was the T52, one of which was driven by future Formula 1 World Champion John Surtees in his four-wheel debut.
The T52 followed Cooper's established layout, built around a tubular steel spaceframe with independent suspension at both ends. Double wishbones and coil-spring dampers were used at the front, with a single lower wishbone and transverse leaf spring at the rear. BMC's A-Series engine was the standard fitment, driving via a Jack Knight-modified Citroën ERSA four-speed gearbox.
This 1960 Cooper T52 Formula Junior was rediscovered and renovated by Neville Howes circa 1985, the chassis being restored by Peter Denty and the body by Maurice Gomme. The car was acquired by the vendor less than twelve months ago, and has not been used since. We are advised that the engine runs and the car is in good condition throughout. Nevertheless, careful re-commissioning is advised before returning it to the track.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1960 Cooper T52 Formula Junior
Years Produced:1960
Number Produced:17 factory-built (roughly 15 kits were also sold)
Original List Price:$4,500
SCM Valuation:$35,000-$42,000
Tune Up Cost:Cost per hour to race: $600
Distributor Caps:$15
Chassis Number Location:tag in cockpit
Club Info:Monoposto Racing, 7480 Thompson Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45247
Alternatives:Lotus 18, Elva 200, Brabham BT2
Investment Grade:B

This 1960 T52 Formula Junior sold for $32,123 at Bonhams’ London sale held December 6, 2004.
When Count Giovanni Lurani introduced the Formula Junior concept in Italy in 1958, the idea was to have an affordable and competitive series for training aspiring formula car drivers. The Junior race cars would use mechanical components from production touring cars (engine, gearbox, brakes, etc.) and were to be durable, simple and cheap. It appeared to be the perfect concept at the perfect time, and it caught on immediately, becoming an international class a year later.
Unfortunately, Formula Junior had the bad luck to get going right at the beginning of the most breathtaking era of mechanical evolution in the history of motorsport. In its six seasons, Formula Junior cars went from front-engined Vanwall or Maserati 250F look-alikes to technology-laden, mid-engined rockets that gave up only displacement to the Formula One cars of the day.
I remember being told that if you planned to buy a new car in England (where all the fast ones were built), you had to be sure to airfreight it back to the U.S. If you shipped the car over the ocean it would be obsolete by the time you got it.
This rapid escalation in technology basically killed the Formula Junior concept, and for 1964 it was replaced with a new Formula 3. The “affordable, competitive, entry-level” niche was eventually taken over by Formula Ford, which has more or less held on to that mantle through the present.
In vintage racing, Formula Junior cars have settled into four distinct subgroups, each with its own set of characteristics and customer base. The first group, the early front-engined cars, is so different from the others that they seldom even run with the rest of the Formula Juniors. These are tall cars, roomy inside, low-tech, and slow. They generally aren’t worth much money, but they’re pretty and they appeal to the genteel “bugs in your teeth” type of vintage drivers.
The second group comprises the early mid-engined cars with drum brakes and 15-inch wheels, like the Lotus 18 and the T52 Formula Junior pictured here. The cockpits in these cars are still pretty wide and you still actually sit up in the seat, which makes them feel more vintage but doesn’t help their aerodynamics any. They’re great fun to drive, but you aren’t going to win anything in one unless you’re racing against others of the same ilk. These cars are the quintessential Formula Juniors from the “classic era” of the series, and appeal to the nostalgic faction.
The third group arrived in 1961 when the designers discovered that reducing frontal area made the cars faster, so the cockpits got tinier, forcing drivers into a more lying-down position. Thirteen-inch wheels began to appear, particularly at the front, and the feel behind the wheel became more contemporary. In 1962, disc brakes became legal, which helped a bunch.
The Lotus 20 is the classic example from this third group, and these can be extremely quick with the right driver behind the wheel. These cars generally sell to the guys who are competitive racers and want to run in the front of the pack, but can’t afford one of the later cars from the fourth group. Value-wise, these are about the same as the second group.
The fourth group are the over-the-top factory team cars from 1963, like the Lotus 27 and Lola Mk 5. These are effectively 1,100-cc Formula 1 cars, and they’re the reason Formula Junior died off. Then as now, only the privileged few could afford to run them, and if you wanted to win they were the only option. Today these cars are worth twice what a good car from the second or third group will bring.
The T52 Formula Junior pictured here is an excellent example of the second group of Juniors. It’s simple, robust, roomy inside with a vertical seating position, and I’d expect it’s great fun to drive. I’ve had some seat time in a later T53 and I don’t think I’ve ever driven a sweeter-handling car.
The downside of Cooper Juniors is that except for a few T67s, they all carried BMC A-Series engines. The five-port Sprite head just couldn’t make the horsepower that the eight-port Ford made, so Coopers were always handicapped. The Jack Knight transaxles were wonderful and remain so as long as you don’t have to find parts for them.
I’d guess that the buyer for this car bought it thinking it was a cheap way to get into today’s European Formula Junior circus, which is a desirable way to spend time at the track. Whether he was right depends on how much work the car requires to get it race ready.
Great T52s are worth a bit north of $40k, so he’s got only about six or eight grand to work with before he’s in trouble. If the engine was in good shape and the car just needed some dusting off, I’d say it was well bought.

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