THE MINI GP was the last of the first-generation BMW Minis, the R53. Essentially a John Cooper Works Cooper S with extra Cooper, it’s identified most easily by its deeper front bumper, red mirror caps, high-level rear wing with carbon centre, and four-spoke Ronal 18s.
Power from the supercharged 1.6 edged up slightly to 215bhp from the JCW’s 210bhp thanks to a modified intercooler and tweaked engine management software. GPs also got uprated springs and dampers, a limited-slip diff and bespoke aluminium rear trailing arms to replace the normal steels.
There’s nothing but carpet and strut brace where rear passengers might once have squashed, but the GP is far from the mobile torture rack that might lead you to expect: the leather Recaro seats give just a little as your backside squishes down, and the bolsters hold you securely and in great comfort. You still get electric windows, and air-conditioning was an option; living without it contributes to the overall 50kg weight saving.
The GP is an energetic little thing to hustle, from the bristling response and fierce supercharger whine of the Tritec engine to the meaty directness of its steering and the quick snick of the six-speed manual ’box. The chassis is fantastic – pointy at the front, light on its feet through direction changes, and with an adjustable balance that’s as happy to play it neat and tidy as it is to slide through an apex.
The penalty for all this interaction is a pretty unyielding ride, and you’d probably exploit more of the performance on a bumpy B-road if the suspension had more compliance. But the GP feels every bit as special and rewarding as the combination of buoyed-up exterior, pared-back interior and healthy premium over a Cooper S leads you to expect.
Just 2000 GPs were produced, all in Thunder Blue, with 460 sold in the UK. Those cars cost £22k when new, and they’ve held their value well: cars with over 100k miles go from £9k, while very lowmileage examples command £17k from independents. Buy something between those poles and you’ll bag a well-lookedafter car to enjoy using hard.
Cute and idiosyncratic Mini cockpit contrasts with the car’s extreme attitude