55 years ago, in 1964, Paddy Hopkirk and Henry Liddon drove 33EJB, a Morris Cooper S 1071 to victory in the Rallye of Monte Carlo, striking a hammer-blow to the other big competitors. The Mini was so small. The importance of this victory on the world stage cannot be overstated.
How did the victory come about? Partly through Competition Department Manager Stuart Turner’s planning, but mostly through a new engine. Although in the 1963 Monte Carlo, Rauno Aaltonen and Hopkirk had respectively come 3rd and 6th Overall in Cooper 997s, BMC knew that it needed something much more to snatch outright victory from the grip of the major European manufacturers.
To take in the magnitude of this victory, examine the British taxation system of the day. Dating back to the 30’s, cars were partly taxed on the bore of the engine-cylinders, and this led to cars (all other things being equal) having vastly under-square motors, ie. long stroke, and small bore, to minimise tax. This created relatively slow-revving, torquey characteristics, which, given that Britain had just gone through a war, made much sense. The Mini’s very existence arose out of the petrol shortages of the 1956 Suez Crisis.
Well before this, BMC knew that it needed a more powerful engine than the 997 or the 948. Back in 1955, out of frustration, Marcus Chambers, the first Competitions Manager, had written a (now) famous memo to BMC’s Managing Director requesting a seriously competitive car. George Harriman, to his credit, understood that motorsport successes generated sales. Gambling that sales volumes would overcome the
extra taxation , BMC had unfinished business, and planning had already begun.
Through 1961 and 1962, with Harriman’s backing, BMC engineers Eddie Maher, Jack Daniels, and Harry Weslake, Alec Issigonis, (the Mini’s designer), Daniel Richmond of Downton Tuning fame, and John Cooper had all been meeting to discuss the question of extracting much more power from the motor, with Cooper’s experience in Formula Junior racing (up to 1100cc) being drawn upon. The 997, tweaked to 65 bhp at
6500rpm, simply wasn’t enough.
The 997, at 62.43mm bore, and 81.28mm stroke, followed these conventional principles. However, the design team above turned these principles on their head. The 1071 was designed as a short-stroke, big-bore, over-square racing motor, with a bore of70.60mm and 68.26mm stroke. Add to this the new high-lift 649 camshaft, and the 1071 was the very opposite configuration to the conventional 997.
The engineering principle which the designers pursued was volumetric efficiency. While the 997 had valves of 29.4mm inlet and 25.4mm exhaust, the 1071 however had valves of 35.71mm inlet, and 30.96mm exhaust. Bigger bores allow bigger valves, which, with an improved cylinder head, enable faster induction and scavenging into and from the combustion chamber, leading to higher revs, torque and bhp.
This production-line motor developed 70bhp ex-factory, although with special factory preparation, you could add 25-30bhp to this. The S engine was a sea-change, a revolution against contemporary doctrine and production-line manufacturing. So together with the vastly better disc brakes (50% thicker & 7% wider), thus was born the 1071 Cooper S.
A portent came with the 1963 Monte, when 997s took 3rd, 6th, & 28th Overall, and 1st, 2nd, & 4th in Class. Homologation for the 1071 S (acceptance for motorsport) required sales of 1000 units, and production began in March 1963. Homologation was submitted on the 9th May 1963. The 1071 S won 2 victories prior to the 1964 Monte: the June 1963 Alpine, with Aaltonen driving 277EBL, and Hopkirk winning the September 1963 Tour de France in 33EJB. Then a 1071S got 4th in the mud and rain of the Dec 1963 RAC. These victories went largely unheralded, and unnoticed.
Why was the Monte so important to BMC? Publicity. The Monte Carlo in January starts the rallying calendar, and accordingly, sets the tone for the coming year. From 1911, it was the first rally in the world; It remains a difficult winter mountain rally, terminating in all the attendant glamour of Monte Carlo, generating huge publicity.
BMC deliberately courted this publicity. Amidst the gloom of mid-winter, with sales at their low-point for the year, BMC and the British press hungered for good stories, and here was one with glamour: pizzazz, Formula I, casinos, big yachts, sunshine, money, and more glamour.
Since 1066, the French have often been the foe of the British. The 64 Monte gave BMC a very good chance of putting one over the French, especially Renault, Citroen, and Peugeot. Of course BMC would go for Monte Carlo. BMC now knew that it had a winning chassis and motor. Turner’s drivers were not “gentlemen drivers” of established car-clubs; they respected no-one’s reputation. More than quick, they were fast on snow and ice. BMC now ruthlessly sought to win, knock the Europeans for six, and claim the spoils of victory. Publicity.
And win they did. BMC beat Ford by 17 seconds. Back in England, with huge support from Dunlop, Lucas, Lockheed, and Castrol, the production lines at Longbridge and Abingdon cheered their heads off. The din of the celebrations could have been heard on the moon. Liddon, Hopkirk, and 33EJB were flown back to London to appear on “Sunday Night at the Palladium”. The crew made appearances everywhere. Dealers put rally-cars in their windows. Sales took off. Only 5 years after 621AOK first appeared, half the size of its competitors, BMC and the Mini had won the Monte Carlo.