The Car – Cooper T72
Approached in 2014 by Michael John Cooper, we, at Mini Sport were offered the incredible opportunity to completely restore a Cooper F3 T72, driven by Sir Jackie Stewart in the golden era of British Formula 3. John Cooper became heavily involved throughout the 1960’s with the design and development of a number of F3 cars that went on to be raced by the likes of Stirling Moss and Peter Collins who attained high-ranking titles in Motorsport – and we were honoured to restore and rebuild such an iconic car.
The T72 was designed by Eddie Stait and Neil Johanssen and employed a semi stressed-skin construction. The engine was a familiar BMC unit from the Mini Cooper ‘S’ with a 12.5:1 compression ratio and a single SU HS6 carburettor pushing out a total power quoted as 88bhp @ 7750 rpm. The oil cooler and radiator were combined and the oil tank sat between the radiator and the foot pedals. The gearbox was a modified ‘Jack Knight’ 4-speed Hillman Imp box fitted with interchangeable ratios.
The T72 was the next in a long line of F3 cars after Cooper dominated the category into early 50’s, albeit with front-engine cars. The reared-engine revolution quickly came about and Cooper Car Company remained at the forefront of motor sport, having pioneered this layout in 1955 with the ‘bobtail’, although more for convenience than for weight distribution and handling.
With Jack Brabham leaving, Bruce McLaren was now the number one F1 driver for Cooper and it was his job to test the new Cooper T72. It was on the shakedown of the T72 in 1964 at Goodwood Circuit that two young and enthusiastic drivers were to be given their chance to impress. One of these was John Fitzpatrick (who later went on to win the British Touring Car Championship) was having a trial drive for the Mini Cooper and the other, Jackie Stewart who was then driving for Ecurie Ecosse but hoping to earn a drive under Ken Tyrell in the F3 team.
This was Sir Jackie’s first drive of a Formula Car but he didn’t shy away from the challenge and not only matched the then number one F1 driver Bruce McLaren but beat the times he set consistently throughout the day! He was signed immediately and, as they say, the rest was history, with Jackie Stewart becoming multiple F1 World Champion and one of the most famous names in motor sport history.
In the summer of 2014 we started the entire restoration project. The vehicle was completely stripped before expertly smoothing the shell, priming and painting it in the original British Racing Green. All mechanics were expertly restored, retaining original parts where possible to maintain the cars integrity.
The project was restricted to a certain timescale as the final restoration was to be exhibited at the ‘Goodwood Revival’ in September – reuniting T72 with its original driver, Sir Jackie Stewart. Having been transported south to Goodwood Circuit the historic Cooper F3 racer was carefully unloaded and presented first to Michael Cooper before Sir Jackie Stewart himself. Both Michael and Sir Jackie were delighted with the results and couldn’t wait to get it on track. Both drove the car over the Goodwood Revival weekend, taking everyone back to the Goodwood heydays where Cooper ruled the motor sport scene.