Originally designed on a napkin, the world-famous Mini launched by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) in 1959 was envisioned as a cheap, practical city car for families on a budget. Now, 61 years later, it's a sought-after classic that many aftermarket companies hail as the ideal foundation on which to build their wildest dreams. Gildred Racing thought further out of the box than most by turning a Mini into a mid-engined, 500-horsepower sleeper.
Starting with a 1974 model, the California-based firm removed the original four-cylinder engine (and the four-speed manual transmission bolted right under it, where you'd normally expect to find the oil sump) and completely stripped the interior. Only the front seats ended up going back in; the space occupied by the tiny rear bench is now home to a 3.2-liter V6 that started life under the hood of an Acura CL Type S from the early 2000s. It's mounted transversely, and it spins the rear wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.
Acura quoted the six's output at 260 horsepower, which would be a healthy upgrade for the little Brit, but Gildred tuned it to 500 horses and 383 pound-feet of torque by making a long list of modifications (including, significantly, adding a supercharger). That's a 466-horse increase compared to a stock 1974 Mini 850, so the scope of chassis upgrades is long. It includes bigger brakes made by Wilwood, and a fully redesigned suspension. And, although packaging a V6 in a small, front-wheel drive car like the Mini was as challenging as it sounds, Gildred pulled it off admirably. The engine bay is now home to the fuel tank and the radiator, while opening the trunk reveals a huge exhaust. The trade-off, of course, is that there's no longer a trunk, but it's a sacrifice we'd happily make.
Performance specifications haven't been released yet. Gildred simply said its 1,400-pound Super Cooper is "quite impressive," which we believe. The original wasn't; it took 34 seconds to reach 62 mph from a stop.
Gildred also made several changes in the name of modernity. It added a 9.7-inch iPad where you'd expect to find a touchscreen for the infotainment system in a modern car, an Alpine sound system, a push-button ignition, power locks and windows, LED headlights, plus automatic A/C. We imagine the whole cabin gets hot when the V6 works up a sweat. The passengers sit on leather- and suede-upholstered Recaro bucket seats that are heated and cooled. And yet, the Super Cooper looks like your standard souped-up Mini when viewed from the outside. It's wider and lower than stock, but it's not overly altered with wings, vents, and other tacky add-ons.
The red example shown in our gallery is the first Super Cooper Type S. Nine additional examples will be built, so you still have time to get your hands on one if your pockets are deep enough to afford its $150,000 price tag.
Countless other options are available if you love the idea of a resto-modded Mini but you don't need Chevrolet Corvette-like power sent to its rear wheels. England-based David Brown Automotive makes a Mini Remastered that, for a price, takes perfection to unprecedented heights, for example. Alternatively, if it's something newer you're after, there's a shop currently stuffing a BMW M3-sourced V8 in a 2007 Mini Cooper S.