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Is This Your Mini? 1961 Austin Mini Cooper

Got an inkling that you’d like to drive an original Mini? This might be your chance, if you can pony up at least $9995, which is the opening bid on this 1961 Austin Mini Cooper California car which now resides in Vancouver, Washington. It’s on ebay if you’re interested, with a few days left in the auction and no bites as of yet on that opening price. You’ve got about three days to make your play if this is your kind of collectible.

When you get the car home and restored, you’ll have an original Mark 1 Mini with the 850-cc  (as the ad  describes it; actually 848-cc) engine. That won’t knock your socks off for power, and probably would not do at freeway speeds, but think of how good you’ll look driving around town. The car is currently black, and perhaps some wizardry could bring back the paint (obviously not original), but this is really a blank slate to work with. You will want to strip the grille, which is black rather than factory chrome. From there, the Mini color palette is yours to pick from. Personally, I’d go red with a black top, which is what my mom’s 1960s Mini was when I was growing up in Montreal. That care was a beater with a rusted-out floor, but man, did she love it.

What you need to worry about with this car is what you don’t see. It’s been said that body point and its rubber donuts can be the conjunction where rust happens. The seller does nothing to reassure you that rot isn’t apparent on this car, and there are no photos that picture those areas of the underneath. Further lacking in detail is info about the car, or claims as to its suitability. But, worryingly, there are at least five places where the seller reinforces the message: “Deposit not refundable.”

On the plus side, the car has a claimed 67808 miles and has been on the salt-free West Coast, and in one person’s possession for 45 years. What the doesn’t tell you is when it was last driven or what work has been performed to it—ever. The seats have been changed, and the wheels, so you’ve got some simple things to start spending money on. Nor do you know the status of the storage. Damp? Dry? Outside? It seems like for this price, you could do a quickie resto and drive this car, but you really don’t know, and the seller isn’t particularly willing to help. He just wants some lucky person to tow this car out of his yard and not look back. Is that person you?


  1. Avatar photo Aussie Dave Member

    Ok I’m confused, it’s a Cooper? With the 850cc engine?
    Over here all the Cooper’s had 1275 donks.

    Like 5
    • Avatar photo HoA Member

      I read, the 1275 came out in 1964.

      Like 2
  2. Avatar photo Steve hitchins

    No such model as a1961 Cooper, all BS

    Like 6
  3. Avatar photo bobhess Member

    All above is correct. I wouldn’t move on this one without more underside information and the attitude of the seller doesn’t excite me either.

    Like 2
  4. Avatar photo Yblocker

    These, along with the new ones, and the Smart cars, actually save your loved ones some funeral expense, after you get enilated by a Peterbilt, or something similar, the work’s half done, you’re already in a coffin, all they gotta do is dig a 6′ hole lol

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo tompdx

      If hit by a Peterbuilt, would it matter if you’re on a scooter or in a Suburban?!

      Like 6
  5. Avatar photo Malcolm Boyes

    This is a stock Mini.The Cooper was a 998 and the Cooper S was the 1275. This is the basic 850 Mini.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo bkanick

      With the addition of a right hand fuel tank.

      Like 0
    • Avatar photo jwaltb

      There was also a 1071 Cooper S. We had one.

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo Shaun Martin

        And a 970cc Cooper S

        Like 0
  6. Avatar photo Shelbydude

    I seem to recall that the Cooper S was also available with 970cc and 1071cc. The early 850 mini did not have the rod shifter.

    Like 0
  7. Avatar photo rustylink

    the equivalent of calling every Fiat 500/600 an Abarth…

    Like 1
  8. Avatar photo Troy

    Something just looks off to me wrong tire and wheel combo I’m not sure but this one is a hard pass

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Danny V. Johnson

      Yeah, Troy, I saw the same thing. It would eat front tires. It would steer like a little red Radio Flyer wagon. The Mini wheels had negative offset, even the race cars. All minis are not “S” Minis.

      It might make a nice starter to create a C/Sedan vintage racer, though. That, after chucking the stupid wheels, and putting a competitive 1275 cc engine under the bonnet..

      Like 0
  9. Avatar photo Wes Holliday

    1961 Mini Cooper did have a 850 engine, I have a short block sitting in my garage.
    The 998 was a early Cooper S.
    Then they later had an 1100 cc engine.
    Last several years they made a 1275, the engine size followed the MG Midger and Austin Healey Sprite.
    My wife raced a 1961 Mini Cooper to two Mid-Ohio Championships. Of course it had the 1275 engine with many of the allowed SCCA modifications,and performance parts.
    Mini Coopers are now manufactured by BMW, during that time there was a company that made a John Cooper Special Mini Cooper. I have one with the second generation body style as my daily driver.
    I also raced a 1981 Mini Cooper in SCCA B-Spec class.
    There have been a lot of changes in engine size,and body types since the cars were first built in 1961. If interested you should google Mini Cooper,instead of those making stupid comments. Wes Holliday

    Like 5
    • Avatar photo Martin Horrocks

      Reluctant to contradict your memory, but there was never an 850 Mini Cooper, though the Cooper did debut in 1961 with 997cc. The Cooper went to 998cc in 1964.

      The first Cooper S was 1071cc in 1963, replaced in 1964 by 970cc and 1275cc Cooper S models.

      Like 3
    • Avatar photo Crawdad

      Tell it all , Brother, Tell it all ! Good to see you are still out there kickin’ !!

      Like 0
  10. Avatar photo Rufus

    IIRC, the Mini was an Austin or Morris and came with the “magic wand” shifter that came up close to the firewall. The Coopers were, as Malcolm said 998, and there was a 997 Cooper as well. The Cooper S could be equipped with a 970, 1071 or 1275 engine. These were the specs for North American cars. It has been a common mistake to refer to all of the Minis as “Mini Cooper” but, while common, it is incorrect. Back in the early to mid 70’s, it was fairly easy to find an 850 Mini, yank the engine and gearbox out and replace it with either the MG1100 unit (including the remote shifter) or the 1275 unit from an Austin America. I did several and they became decent drivers, but not Coopers or CooperS’s.
    This appears to be a conglomeration of parts from who knows where, from the brake booster (usually only seen on S’s) to the remote shifter, to the single SU (correct for the 850) to the horrible dash. With the nostalgia for early Minis at a high point there is no doubt a market for a car like this. But for goodness sake, can’t we at least call it what it is? A loveable Mutt!.

    Like 3
  11. Avatar photo Tin Box

    Sorry @wes Holliday but wrong on both accounts. There was never an 850 Mini, nor was there a 998 Cooper S. The 850 was a regular mini, 997 & 998 we’re Coopers, and the S came as 970 / 1071 / 1275. Now everyone calls every mini a cooper in the same form that in North America every Bini is a cooper.
    This is actually a decent starting point for an early hot rod mini.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo Wes Holliday

      TinBox is correct on most accounts.however the 1961 Mini was an 850 cc. see : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini_(Mark_I)

      If someone wants the 850 short block it is in my basement, if you will pick it up you are welcome to have it. As people say “it ran when parked” about 25 years ago.

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo Tin box

        lol, you are correct – meant to say there was no 850 cooper. Yes, the basic mini was an 850

        Like 2
  12. Avatar photo Jimbosidecar

    My first car, purchased when I was 15 was a 1965 Austin Mini Cooper. I thought it was a 1098 but at 15 all I knew was what I read in R&T. I paid $25 for it because it had a rod sticking through the crankcase. I bought a new crankcase from a Mini Cooper racer in NH but someone offered me a racing kart in trade before I ever got to it.

    Like 0

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