Cop­pers in Coop­ers

Australian Muscle Car - - Aussie-Built Mini -

In­cred­i­bly, of the 7905 Cooper S cars built in Syd­ney be­tween 1965 and 1971, over one thou­sand were sold to the NSW Po­lice Force, ac­cord­ing to a Ley­land Aus­tralia press re­lease dated 29 July 1971. That is one in eight Cooper S cars built! While it is not cor­rect to sug­gest the Cooper S owes its ex­is­tence in Aus­tralia to our Po­lice forces, it is un­likely that its suc­ces­sor, the Club­man GT, would have been built with­out ex­ist­ing lu­cra­tive Po­lice con­tracts. The Cooper S first saw ser­vice as a pur­suit car in the Aus­tralian Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory, in late 1965. The Vic­to­rian Po­lice tri­alled two Cooper S as pa­trol cars in 1966 but didn’t pro­ceed with fur­ther or­ders. The NSW Po­lice pur­chased the first of its un­marked Cooper S ‘Spe­cial Traffic Pa­trol’ (STP) cars in June 1966 and con­tin­ued right up un­til the Club­man GT cars were re­placed by Holden To­rana LJ GTRs in 1972. In 1966 there were 1,590,097 reg­is­tered mo­tor ve­hi­cles in NSW and the road toll was 1143 fa­tal­i­ties. By com­par­i­son, in 2015 the road toll had re­duced to 348 de­spite there be­ing 5,247,199 reg­is­tered ve­hi­cles. In other words, the road toll was 10 times higher 50 years ago, with one death per 1391 cars com­pared to one per 15,078 cars in 2015.

In the days be­fore ran­dom breath test­ing, radar speed traps and un­re­stricted speed lim­its be­yond town cen­tres, the po­lice needed to curb a mount­ing road toll and us­ing un­marked STP cars was the first step. In 1966 there was no faster car on the road than the Cooper S.

The me­chan­i­cal specification of the later STP Cooper S dif­fered sig­nif­i­cantly from the stan­dard. To op­er­ate at con­stant high speeds, en­gines were re­built to com­pe­ti­tion spec, with a ported and pol­ished cylin­der head, hot­ter camshaft, freeflow ex­haust, blueprinted dis­trib­u­tor, Lynx Ram-Flo air-clean­ers for the big­ger SU 1½” HS4 car­bu­ret­tors and com­pe­ti­tion brake pads. The front seat frames were low­ered to ac­com­mo­date burly of­fi­cers, rear seat­belts were added, as were re­vers­ing lights, two-speed wipers, a hand­brake warn­ing light and a Smith tachome­ter mounted on the right side, in front of the driver.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the sur­vival rate of gen­uine ex-po­lice Cooper S cars is low. Many were writ­ten off in the line of duty. A num­ber that were sold through the trade were de-speced and re-en­gined to Mini K specification and sold on. High in­sur­ance costs were a fac­tor in these con­ver­sions, plus sell­ing Cooper S en­gines and brakes was easy and more prof­itable. Few wanted an ex-po­lice Cooper S.

Be­low: The NSW Po­lice Academy in Goul­burn hon­oured a sur­viv­ing Mini Cooper S HWP Car and re­tired of­fi­cers re­cently, high­light­ing that the Cooper S was the first HWP car used by the Force for speed de­tec­tion.

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