And so it soon became a three cornered effort with both John Cooper and Downton Engineering (Richmond) directly involved as consultants to the Morris Engine team and Competitions divisions. Somewhere else in my writings I have touched on the occasional rocky relationships which existed between the outside boffins (or as some engineer types refer to them as ‘hot rodders’) and motor company tech folk in these early days. This is one of the first the ‘modern’ era in the UK and BMC navigated these unchartered waters surprisingly well…
Things were heating up in 1962 and pressure from motorsport activities around the Mini in both racing and rallying were highlighting the potential… but also the weaknesses in design associated with top level competition. John Love was leading the UK Saloon car Championship driving a 997 Mini Cooper that year (he eventually won the title) and the Mini had bagged a good few rally wins as well. In the process it became abundantly clear that the long stroke 997cc engine, fragile in tough environments, now needed an upgrade to withstand the rigours of the competition to which the car was being exposed. The A engine needed some upgrading in the Mini application.
I will at this point deviate from the basic story and become a bit of a propellerhead. For those not aware of the cost pressures in car engineering environments, I can tell you that cost escalations are the enemy of the state. To justify increases as a result of design changes requires serious motivation and these are generally driven by the need to resolve field tech concerns or gaining market advantage by introducing new tech innovation. Traditionally the latter is done on as wide a range of product possible so as to amortise the investment. The S range of engines duly developed were neither, the mods were substantial, very costly, used on a very small % of vehicles and apart from the FIA homologation, required to achieve only two goals. Firstly, to allow the engines to produce as much power in competition form as could be achieved from the basic configuration and secondly, to prevent the A engine from showering the scenery with shrapnel…in a word be ‘unbreakable’. BMC were clearly serious about involving the Mini in motor sport….
History will show that this singular event was to change the fortunes of the little car forever. The above two objectives were more that met. In hindsight, given the very basic design of the original engine and the work that has been done over the years by the ‘A’ engine tuning fraternity, these upgrades were to result in the most effective production-based engine development during the period. Here I include the other two fabulous efforts in my top three…the Ford Kent/Lotus/Cosworth and the Chevy Small block.
For those that would disagree and put the Cosworth development of the Ford Kent ahead of the “A” transformation, I would just point out that whilst on a pure tech level the Cossie developments were far and away more sophisticated and ground-breaking…the “S” engine work was, to put it simply, far more effective in getting competitive cars to tracks and rallies in huge numbers. The significant issue being that the performance and durability gains were made without changing the basic architecture of the engine.