John Newton Cooper (July 17, 1923 – December 24, 2000) was a co-founder, with his father Charles Cooper, of the Cooper Car Company. Born in Kingston, Surrey, England, he became a motor racing legend with his rear-engined chassis design that would eventually change the face of the motor sport at its highest level Formula One.
Charles Cooper ran a small garage in Surbiton Surrey that specialised in maintaining racing cars. His son John left school at age 15 to become an apprentice toolmaker and served in the Royal Air Force as an instrument maker in World War II. After the war, he and his father began building simple, inexpensive single-seat racers for privateers, often from surplus military hardware. The cars were extremely successful and quickly in high demand, and in 1948 they founded their own company to build more.
In the early 1950s, it seemed as if every aspiring young British racing driver began behind the wheel of a Cooper, and Cooper's Formula One cars were driven by the legendary drivers of the time Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss, Maurice Trintignant & Bruce McLaren. In a nine-year period, the team took 16 Grand Prix wins, as Brabham and the team won back-to-back World Championships in 1959 and 1960.
As the company's fortunes in Formula One declined, John Cooper-conceived Mini Cooper -- introduced in 1961 as a development of the Alec Issigonis-designed British Motor Corporation Mini with a more powerful engine, new brakes and a distinctive paint job -- continued to dominate in saloon car and rally races throughout the 1960s, winning many championships and the 1964, 1965 and 1967 Monte Carlo Rallies.
Several different Cooper-marked versions of the Mini and various Cooper conversion kits have been, and continue to be, marketed by various companies. The current BMW MINI, in production since 2001, has Cooper and Cooper S models and a number of John Cooper Works tuner packages.
John Cooper received the CBE (Commander of Order of the British Empire) for his services to British motorsport. He remained head of the West Sussex family garage business (which had outlets for Mini Cooper at East Preston and Honda at Ferring) until his death at age 77 in 2000.