1961 Cooper Kimberly T54
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Sir Jack Brabham won two World Championships in 1959 and 1960 at the wheel of the little rear-engined 2.5-liter Cooper Formula 1 cars, but Brabham had the biggest influence on the racing community in the United States when he entered this Kimberly Cooper Special in the 1961 Indianapolis 500. After testing a Cooper at Indy in 1960, Brabham finished ninth in the 1961 race. It was the first time that rear-engined car had ever raced in the Indy 500, and it started the move to rear-engined designs that eventually lead to the end of the front-engined race cars.
The Cooper Car Company was founded in 1947 by Charles Cooper and his son John Cooper. In 1947 they began building race cars in Charles' small garage in Surbiton, Surrey, England. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, they reached auto racing's highest levels as their rear-engine, single-seat cars altered the face of Formula One and the Indianapolis 500, and their sedans dominated rally racing. Brabham took the Championship-winning Cooper to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a test in 1960, and then entered the famous 500-mile race in a modified version of the Formula One car in 1961. The 'funny' little car from Europe was mocked by the other teams, but it ran as high as third and finished ninth. It took a few years, but the Indianapolis establishment gradually realized the writing was on the wall and the days of their front-engine roadster were numbered. The rear-engine concept would gradually change forever the face of not just Grand Prix racing, but cars that would compete in just about every category around the world.
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