The Mini has to be the car that everyone thinks of when you mention the term "classic". The original Alex Issigonis design holds a place in many hearts and has been the ride of choice for racers, film stars, royalty and folks like us. The new BMW version looks like it is going to be just as popular.
A brief introduction to the Cooper
The original Mini Cooper was a competition variant of the original 1959 Mini. The concept was the brainchild of John Cooper, a race car builder and close friend of Alex Issigonis. He took the Little car's 850cc engine and stretched it to 997cc in 1961. The addition of sports suspension and wheels made this 55bhp car quite a handful and very competitive. In 1963, the Cooper S with a 1071cc engine was introduced; later enlarged to 1275 it continued in this form until 1971. In sporting terms, the Mini was a true giant killer with three Monte Carlo rally victories to it's name. The little Mini Cooper was re-introduced as a successful marketing ploy by Rover in 1990, fitted this time with single point fuel injected engines. The last of the original design Minis was produced in 2000. BMW purchased the rights to use the Mini name when it brought out the Rover Group in 1994. We had to wait until 2001 for the much publicised new Mini Cooper and the Cooper S arrived a little later.
Buying the classic Mini
Finding a classic old Mini isn't hard, finding a good one is a different thing altogether. The car classifieds in you local paper often have what appear to be cheap old Mini cars for sale but if you buy in haste, you will repent at leisure. With these cars, it is vital to buy the absolute best you can afford, even if it means stretching your finances to the limit. If you buy a bad used Mini, you'll be stunned by the rate at which it will consume your cash. The best place to find good examples is at classic specialists. G.C. Motors (Gcminis.co.uk) always have a wide selection of cars for sale including restoration projects. Rutland Minis are another used Mini sales garage that has excellent reports for it's servicing and repairs as well. Classic car publications like Classic Cars magazine and Classic Cars for Sale feature these cars strongly and you'll find plenty of private offerings and classic dealers.
The BMW version
BMW still sells the Cooper and Cooper S new. They are also a good source for used Cooper cars with their approved pre owned Minis being particularly good examples of the breed. These cars are a regular site on used car lots as well.