In its rare black and white colour scheme, Ian Chilcot’s neatly mod­ded SPi Cooper is an 18-year-and-count­ing project.

Mini Magazine - - Contents - Words Mar­tyn Collins Pho­tog­ra­phy Matt Richard­son

White and black, it’s a Clas­sic Mini Cooper colour com­bi­na­tion and one that I’m par­tic­u­larly fond of. Why? Well, it’s the one I had on my first Clas­sic Mini – a 1000cc Cooper replica. All too rare on later Coop­ers such as Ian Chilcot’s neatly-mod­ded 1994 sin­gle-point in­jec­tion car that we have here, I still have many fond mem­o­ries of a visit to the orig­i­nal John Cooper Garage at Fer­ring, with mate and Mini Mag­a­zine con­trib­u­tor James Hol­land, in his white and black

J-plate Cooper. It was my first ex­pe­ri­ence of a ’90s Cooper and I have to ad­mit I was a bit en­vi­ous that ‘Tolly’, as he called this Mini, was his and he was just a year older than me!

This Mini was Ian’s first car af­ter learn­ing to drive and own­ing a Citroën in 1997. “I had al­ways been in­ter­ested in cars, plus their styling and per­for­mance. My dad had shown me clas­sic cars at shows and I guess I just wanted some­thing fun,” ex­plains Ian. He con­sid­ered go­ing down the VW route and quite liked the idea of own­ing a late ’80s or early-’90s hot hatch. But the more he looked around, the more he kept on think­ing about a clas­sic or cer­tainly a clas­si­cally-styled car. “Be­ing a stu­dent, most clas­sics and hot hatches were out of my price range, plus I didn’t have the time or ex­per­tise for a restora­tion project,” he ex­plains.


It was friend Jake Win­wood, who had re­cently sold his highly-tuned Mini De­signer, that got him think­ing about a Mini. Ian wasn’t in a rush, so made sure he looked at sev­eral, mainly mid-’90s Coop­ers - a mix of MPi and SPi cars.

“I had al­ways been in­ter­ested in cars... I just wanted some­thing fun”

“Sadly most had quite a bit of cor­ro­sion show­ing, but I found this car ad­ver­tised in a lo­cal news­pa­per. When I saw it, I recog­nised it as one that I reg­u­larly used to see when I was at school, it had been a lo­cal car for sev­eral years,” says Ian. The un­usual colour scheme ap­pealed, plus it was in good con­di­tion with only 24,000 miles on the clock and some nice ex­tras in­clud­ing a wood rim-signed John Cooper Moto-Lita steer­ing wheel, win­dow winders, levers and sill plates. It also had some ex­tras that he didn’t like, but Ian could see that th­ese were an easy fix, so he bought it in April 2001 at the age of 20.

Ian likes stan­dard look­ing cars, so some of the ex­tras fit­ted, but the stain­less bull bars and chrome arches were first to come off, af­ter just three months and were sold. Ian made up for this by fit­ting chunkier 165/60 tyres and a K&N fil­ter el­e­ment. “I soon found the sealed beam head­lights were use­less on mod­ern roads and re­placed them with a Wi­pac halogen set. I then used the Mini for my daily com­mute,” Ian ex­plains.

He even­tu­ally traced the first owner of the car and found that it was bought at a Rover deal­er­ship in St Johns Wood, with the orig­i­nal owner adding the John Cooper parts. “It was a spe­cial or­der colour of Di­a­mond White and is thought to be one of the last in this colour scheme,” Ian adds.

Ian soon found that the Mini drew a lot of at­ten­tion from peo­ple wher­ever he parked it, plus other Mini driv­ers would wave and I would get a reg­u­lar thumbs up at traf­fic lights. “There was one par­tic­u­lar Mini I used to see on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, an all-white MPi Sport­pack car,

we used to wave when we passed. Any­way, I was wash­ing the car one day and the same car stopped and we chat­ted. He was Andy Varnarva (pre­vi­ous Mini

Mag­a­zine fea­ture star), his car was mint and he owned an­other two!”

Ian de­cided he wanted to get more out of his Mini, so he looked for a Mini club to join. “I was pass­ing a pub one evening and saw sev­eral Mi­nis in the car park, so feel­ing brave I went in­side to find out more.” It turned out to be a lo­cal meet­ing of the Mini Cooper Reg­is­ter and Andy was also a mem­ber. They all thought his car was worth more than he had paid for it and that us­ing it in the win­ter use would not be a good idea. With that in mind, a Peu­geot was bought as a daily and he could garage the mini dur­ing the win­ter months.

Through his mem­ber­ship, he at­tended sev­eral shows in this Mini, in­clud­ing the Lon­don to Brighton Run, Mini In The Park and the Na­tional Mini Cooper Day. Even go­ing as far as to nav­i­gate for Cliff

“I saw sev­eral Mi­nis in the pub car park, so feel­ing brave I went in­side”

Porter in his 1971 MkIII S, in the HRCR Club­man Cham­pi­onship. “That was great fun and we won sev­eral prizes in our first year,” says Ian.


In 2004 Ian de­cided that he wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence more and go a road trip abroad. So, along with mate Jake, they booked up to do the Mini Cooper Reg­is­ter’s Mi­nis to Monte (M2M) event. How­ever, when he saw the en­try list and the route, he thought the Cooper might be a lit­tle un­der­pow­ered and the ex­haust may an­noy him on a long run. “So, I sold the Playmini ex­haust and in­vested in a Stage 3 cylin­der head, 1.5:1 rock­ers, a Man­i­flow LCB and RC40 cen­tre exit ex­haust,” Ian says.

The run was ex­cel­lent and Ian made some new friends and drove some great fast moun­tain roads, in­clud­ing the fa­mous Col De Turini. How­ever, when Ian and Jake pushed this Mini, they dis­cov­ered that the brakes were aw­ful, sec­ond gear crunched and the car had a ten­dency to get hot! Ian ex­plains: “It was so bad that one evening the me­chan­ics took the ra­di­a­tor out to fix the is­sue. They also took some brake discs off a French Mini en­thu­si­ast’s car and fit­ted them to mine as mine as they had be­come so warped.”

Fol­low­ing that first M2M event, Ian had the en­gine re­built by the late Pat

Healy to 1293cc with a Swif­tune SW5i cam. He also fixed the brak­ing sys­tem, up­rated the ra­di­a­tor and had the gear­box re­built. “It re­ally flew and I did sev­eral other M2Ms, quite of­ten run­ning with Si­mon Drew of the Mini Works and mem­bers of the Scot­tish Re­gion of the MCR, they had ’slid­ing win­dow’ cars and I wanted one.” Sadly, with prices on their way up, Ian re­alised he had missed the boat on MkI Mini Cooper S own­er­ship. Good thing that af­ter all the good mem­o­ries us­ing it, Ian didn’t want to sell. It was one of th­ese trips, that a photo of this car was taken on the move and this has been used in the Mini Cooper Reg­is­ter mem­ber­ship ad­vert ever since!

De­spite the fame, this didn’t stop Ian mod­i­fy­ing it for fur­ther trips abroad. “I had the sub­frames re­placed, then had the sus­pen­sion ad­justed, fit­ting a Hi-Lo kit, rear wheel spac­ers, ad­justable neg­a­tive cam­ber rear arms and heavy-duty ad­justable tie bars. The rear had a neg­a­tive cam­ber fit­ted along with the front too, plus the caster an­gle ad­justed. This made the car ‘want’ to turn in,” re­veals Ian. A SCCR gear­box fit­ted

with a cross-pin dif­fer­en­tial and light­ened fly­wheel fol­lowed, which Ian reck­ons is great for hair­pin bends on moun­tain roads. Then, af­ter the me­chan­i­cals, he fit­ted more sup­port­ive seats: “I went with Cor­beau GTS re­clin­ers, as fit­ted by John Cooper Garages, as I didn’t like fixed-back bucket seats, they didn’t suit the stan­dard look of my car.” Luke har­nesses were also added for moun­tain roads, but Ian kept the stan­dard belts as they are more prac­ti­cal for less en­thu­si­as­tic drives. The wooden steer­ing wheel was also re­placed with an iden­ti­cal leather one, that is less harsh in colder weather. That Brantz trip com­puter was also fit­ted to the dash, mak­ing nav­i­gat­ing easy when us­ing Tulip di­a­grams.


In 2009 Ian knew that this Mini’s body­work was start­ing to suf­fer from so much use. There were rust holes in the A-pan­els and in a cer­tain light, he tells me you could see ar­eas he had re­paired and re­sprayed due to cor­ro­sion. “I de­cided af­ter the 2010 M2M I would have the body re­stored. So I sourced items I knew I would need and de­cided I wanted to make my car a replica of my dad’s Cooper Si as it was of­ten mis­taken for one,” smiles Ian. So the ‘Si’ boot badge and new sig­na­ture bon­net stripes were sourced, with Ian hav­ing the rear quar­ter de­cals made, as they were never fit­ted to white cars. Be­tween 2011 and 2013, friend Paul Wooton of PCR Car Re­pair re­placed any area that had cor­ro­sion, but sadly the more that was re­moved, the more cor­ro­sion was found. “Paul even­tu­ally re­placed the front panel, wings, scut­tle, A-pan­els, doors, in­ner and outer sills, front floor sec­tions, rear valance, lower rear panel, boot floor and boot lid. Paul is very thor­ough and treats a car like it’s his,” says Ian. The car was fully re­painted and went back on the road in 2013.

In 2014, wife Lau­rel joined Ian for her first M2M event, she had a great time, but Ian felt there was some­thing amiss with the Mini: “It lacked power up the Cols and de­vel­oped a tap­ping sound. We tried to limp it back through France, but about 250 miles from Calais, the en­gine gave up.” Thank­fully, Euro­pean Break­down cover came to the res­cue with a hire car, but they had to leave the Mini in France, with ar­riv­ing back a month later.

Long­time Fam­ily friend and me­chanic, An­drew Lewis, took the en­gine out to in­ves­ti­gate and found that a pushrod had been forced through a worn cam fol­lower, drop­ping down on to a cam lobe and jam­ming the en­gine! “The en­gine and gear­box was full of metal swarf, so it needed a to­tal re­build. So we de­cided to re­bore to a 1330cc, lighten and bal­ance the crank and fit the newer pro­filed Swif­tune SW5i cam.”

Ian tells me the en­gine now pulls strongly through­out the rev range and is sur­pris­ingly com­fort­able on the mo­tor­way. Since then, apart from lo­cal shows, the last Mini Cooper Reg­is­ter event it went on, was the MCR Off Peak Run around the Peak Dis­trict in 2017.

So, af­ter 18 years of own­er­ship, is there any­more left to do this spe­cial Cooper, I ask Ian? “I’ve been lucky enough to keep hold on to it all this time. Al­though it’s not used as of­ten now, it’s worth more money and I don’t think I could repli­cate it. Hope­fully once my chil­dren have grown up they will share my in­ter­est too,” he ex­plains. We hope so too, and that this Cooper gives you many more years of driv­ing plea­sure, Ian.

“I de­cided I wanted to make my car a replica of my dad’s Cooper Si”

In­te­rior fea­tures many John Cooper items inl­cud­ing han­dles, winders and levers .

Ian’s Cooper has the later Mag­no­lia coloured in­stru­ments.

Brantz trip com­puter.

Black and white colour com­bi­na­tion is rare on SPi Coop­ers.

Cor­beau GTS re­clin­ers with Luke har­nesses.

John Cooper gear knob.

Paddy Hop­kirk sig­na­ture in sun vi­sor.

Ad­di­tional oil pres­sure and volt­age gauges.

The rear valance, lower rear panel and boot lid were all re­placed.

Racy flip top fuel cap fit­ted.

Stan­dard Rover Minilite wheels.

En­gine was re­built by Pat Healy to 1293cc with a Swif­tune SW5i cam.

Look­ing ev­ery bit the clas­sic wtih bon­net stripes and unique colour scheme.

Cov­ered front fog and spot lights.

Cooper-badged mud flaps.

Sig­na­ture bon­net stripes stand out against the pris­tine paint­work.

Stick­ers to show off the Mini’s her­itage.

Over­rid­ers add to the pe­riod look.

From the paint­work to the im­mac­u­late body, this is a project to be proud of.

Ian Chilcot and his Cooper.

Wing mir­ror in black match the roof.

RC40 cen­tre exit ex­haust was one of Ian’s ad­di­tions.

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