It seems that in every generation a car is born that somehow manages to achieve “cult” status. This could happen for various reasons but generally speaking the common denominator is its design and philosophy that greatly differentiates itself from what is conventionally considered “desirable” during that time. In fact in many ways these cult cars re-define what makes a vehicle “desirable” and finds an audience that was previously never reached. The MINI Cooper was and continues to be a cult car and I just got to spend some time with perhaps one of the best MINI’s ever made…
When MINI returned under the BMW umbrella sometime back a tuning house known as John Cooper Works was reborn with the mission to make the new MINI as desirable to performance addicts as they are to those who simply wish to have something different from the norm. John Cooper Works (JCW) soon became the “official” performance arm of MINI and offers various performance and aesthetic parts available through MINI dealers all over the country. There are even JCW edition cars that can be bought right off the lot. However, the MINI I visited was a step above a “special edition”.
The MINI John Cooper Works GP is a model that has only come around once before and has solidified its status as a true collector car. The latest JCW GP saw an extremely limited run of 2,000 examples worldwide. Of those 2,000 only 500 made it to the United States. Of those 500 two of them currently reside at Long Beach MINI right in my hometown. After getting some service done at Long Beach BMW (the sister dealership of LB MINI), I was graciously invited to check out the JCW MINI GP they had in their showroom. That isn’t the kind of invitation one should turn down! I promptly returned with my trusty Canon and snapped the pictures you see here.
OK, those who may be unfamiliar with MINI might be asking what makes this car so special and/or if it really holds to its title. The more jaded of us are used to models being touted as a “special edition” when the only thing “special” about it are some cheap plastic badges and wheels you can’t get on the others. However, the JCW MINI GP is not one of those pretenders to the throne. This car truly is a performance model.
JCW starts by literally boosting performance with a turbocharger. The turbo pushes the power output to 211HP total. That number might seem modest but consider that JCW also took the liberty to shave some serious weight off by completely ditching the backseats. Replacing them is a bright red anti-roll bar signaling to all who lift the trunk that this tiny terror means business. Interior electronics are kept fairly basic with only a stereo and no navigation. Yet the MINI GP does come with seat warmers. To enhance the looks and cut through the air better is a limited JCW body kit specifically for the GP, complete with a genuine carbon fiber deck spoiler.
Through out the interior, a plethora of JCW branding can be found as well as a pair of custom Recaro seats complete with red seatbelts. Also, just to remind the passenger that they are sitting in a limited edition car a GP badge is mounted on the passenger side with the production number listed. Also, if owners want to broadcast which number out of 2,000 they own they can have their production number printed along the driver’s side edge of the roof.
After I was done drooling over the car I was invited to drive it. However, with it being such a rare car (as well as not a press car) I elected to be a passenger instead. Despite not driving the car it is very easy to feel the power delivery. For a turbocharged car the power comes on pretty smoothly with minimal turbo lag. The suspension, while stiff, isn’t unreasonable and the cabin noise never got into the realm of annoyance.
By the numbers the GP is a great car but what makes it special is what it means to MINI fans. See, the price tag on a JCW GP is around the 40k area. To most people that kind of price for a MINI seems a bit on the high side. That is exactly why the JCW MINI GP is not made for “most people”; its made for those who have a true appreciation for MINI and/or those who really want a collector car. Although, if I owned one it would be hard for me to simply “collect” car that clearly begs to be driven.
I’d like to thank the men and women at Long Beach MINI for affording me the opportunity to get to know this awesome little beast. If you happen to live in the area and want to buy this particular car feel free to contact Mr. Ali Alnashawati (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information!