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Behind the MINI John Cooper Works badge

If you buy a modern performance MINI, you'll find a Cooper or John Cooper Works badge on it. The Cooper and JCW branding signifies the sporty option in the MINI range - but what does it actually mean?

The very first Mini was not intended as a performance car in any respect. Developed as a response to the oil shortages of the Suez crisis, the Mini was an attempt to make a small, economical four-seater. With an 850cc engine and tiny 10-inch wheels, few could imagine that the Mini would be a good base for a performance car.

Racing drivers though will race everything, and the Mini had a good report from early development test drives regarding its handling. John Cooper, of the famed Cooper Car Company, had been involved in the early stages of Mini development and sensed potential - and this was the man who had revolutionised Formula One with his mid-engined racing cars.

Cooper was convinced that the Mini was a racer at heart and set about convincing the British Motor Corporation (BMC) to build a sportier version. With disc brakes and a larger 1-litre engine from one of Cooper's Formula Junior cars, BMC saw what Cooper had seen and the Mini Cooper was born.

With performance liberated, the Mini was entered into international rally events. BMC produced the cars and John Cooper provided the spark, but the cars were entered as official factory models - or a 'works' team.

Over the years, the Mini John Cooper Works cars became feared. Winning the Monte Carlo rally outright in 1964, 1965 and 1967 - with a spurious disqualification under lighting regulations after a 1-2-3 finish in 1966 - the little car developed to be kind on its petrol tank was a world-beater on the track.

The modern MINI may be a sportier performer than the original, but the John Cooper Works badge still signifies a performance leap, honouring the man who created the Mini's racing heritage and the legend of Monte Carlo.