Few cars in competition have fueled the imagination like the giant-killing Mini Cooper, the combination of diminutive size, outstanding roadholding and punchy power often running rings around the opposition. Following the original 997 cc Mini Cooper’s launch in July 1961, Pat Moss gave due warning of the car’s potential by winning the 1961 Tulip Rally on only the car’s second outing, and the following year John Love won the British Saloon Car Championship; it was successes like these that prompted BMC to build a much more radical car, an homologation special to take on the world’s best competition.
Launched in March 1963, the 1,071 cc Mini Cooper S was the ultimate Mini, at its heart a much higher specification engine than the plain Cooper’s unit, and slightly larger but much more efficient front disc brakes. The increased potential of the S was quickly demonstrated by Rauno Aaltonen’s outright win on the 1963 Alpine Rally, followed by Paddy Hopkirk’s 1st place overall on the Monte Carlo, 3rd on the Tour de France and 4th on the RAC.
A few months later, in January 1964, the 997 cc Cooper was replaced by the 996 cc model, and by March 1964 its big brother became available with two new engines, the 1,071 cc Cooper S being discontinued in August the same year. The limited production 970 cc S was aimed purely at the 1,000 cc class in races and rallies, an area in which it was to excel. It is the larger 1,275 cc model, however, that is best remembered, and with it Timo Makinen won the 1964 Tulip Rally as soon as the 1,275 had been homologated.
The successes continued, including Timo Makinen’s victory in atrocious weather on the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally and numerous other wins that year culminating in outright honors for Aaltonen on the RAC. It was in January 1966, however, that the works Mini Cooper Ss caused a furor when all three cars entered finished an impressive 1st, 2nd and 3rd only to be disqualified on the highly spurious grounds of an irrelevant dipped-headlight infringement unsurprisingly to the benefit of the French, and an embarrassed Citroen team.
The car that should have been 3rd was GRX 5D, driven by Hopkirk and navigated by Henry Liddon – the other two were Makinen’s GRX 555D in 1st place and Aaltonen’s GRX 55D in 2nd – and subsequently GRX 5D was extensively campaigned, results including 9th overall and 1st in class for Makinen on the 1966 Tulip, 1st overall for Hopkirk on the Circuit of Ireland and a highly impressive 2nd overall on the arduous 1967 84 hour Marathon de la Route for Fall/Vernaeve/Hedges, GRX 5D being beaten only by a Porsche!
Following one accident too many when the car was rolled, it was reshelled during 1967 as a Mk II model which had been introduced in October the previous year; subsequently it also took part in the Shell 400 Rally in Canada, notably making GRX 5D the only BMC works rally car to ever compete in North America.
Thereafter the car passed into private hands, later undergoing restoration to correct 1966 Group 2, 100 bhp+ specification – including Aaltonen’s special cigarette lighter! – prior to entry on the 1982 RAC Golden Classic 50 Rally. GRX 5D was then regularly used in historic events – results including a win on the Welsh Association’s Silver Jubilee Rally in the late 1980’s – before its sale at auction by Coys in February 1989 for a record price of over $86,000.
Finished in the correct works colors of red with a white roof, and accurately restored down to the smallest detail, GRX 5D is in excellent condition. This is a rare, genuine and important Mini Cooper S, and one that remains fully competitive for historic competition. It comes with FIA papers.