British cars are some of the most historical vehicles in the world and a small factory in Surbiton has been honoured for contributing to history. The Cooper Car Company (CCC) has been awarded the English Heritage blue plaque. The company is responsible for producing the Mini Cooper, an icon of the 1960s that gained even more fame in the cult classic The Italian Job.
CCC was established by Charles Cooper and his son John in 1947. Their first cars could be considered four-wheeled motorbikes, which dominated Formula Three in the 1950s. The company also produced revolutionary racing cars that earned Jack Brabham a Formula One championship in 1959 and 1960.
The Mini Cooper was developed as a collaboration with CCC and the British Motor Corporation. The cars were made at BMC factories, though it was Surbiton that prototyped the early driving Mini Coopers in the 1950s.
Mike Cooper, John’s son, said “at its heart it was very much a family firm. I remember my dad telling me the story of how during a really cold spell the mechanics at the work asked my grandad if the workshop could have central heating. My grandad, with my father, promptly went downstairs to the workshop and, with two lengths of tubing, picked up the coke burning stove which was placed along one wall and placed it in the centre of the workshop, my grandad saying: “There you go, central heating!”
The plaque ceremony was attended by family members, dignitaries and fans. English Heritage historian Howard Spencer spoke about the significance of the Cooper Car Company. The factory is “a hugely important building to the history of the British car industry. It’s a testament to the continuing resonance of its legacy that we have to many vintage Coopers and their owners here today to show their support.”