After World War II Europe was ready to get back to racing. Charles Cooper and his son John Cooper created the Cooper Car Company in 1947 after the racers they created were desperately sought after by privateers. The racers they built were very competitive and just as impressive though their existence could be viewed as accidental. Materials were in short supply due to the war so the racers were constructed by joining two old Fiat Topolino front ends together. Power came from a JAP 500 cc motorcycle engine. It was placed behind the driver purely for convenience; a chain was attached to the engine and drove the rear wheels.
The small racer was called the Cooper 500 and it was meant as an inexpensive entrant into the racing world. Soon, it was astonishing everyone, even the drivers. Soon, due to increasing popularity, the company became the world's largest post-war manufacturer of racing cars for privateers.
During the period from 1951 through 1954 the Cooper 500s accounted for 64 victories out of the 78 major races they entered.
The 1953 World Championship season had run under Formula 2 regulations. At the close of the season, the regulations changed to 2.5-liters in natural aspirated. Cooper decided to focus on Formula 3, unveiling the newest contender, the Mark VIII 500 in October. The 'curved-tube' concept was unveiled to the public where its streamlined body was hailed as the sleekest Cooper to-date.
The car was very revolutionary, with its mid-engine layout and spaceframe construction, it was aerodynamically sound and had excellent weight distribution. The 8-gallon light-weight aluminum fuel tank was fitted between the driver's legs. The goal was to increase the stability at high speeds and through corners. The familiar Cooper suspension setup was retained from earlier cars, consisting of transverse leaf springs and wishbones on all four corners. The suspension was given improvements to stiffen the rear leaf springs by bolting them directly to the top frame members.
The Mark VIIIs had much success during the 1954 season. Les Leston captured the Championship with his Cooper car, beating Don Parker and his Kieft by only half a point. Cooper cars accounted for 37 of the 48 major F3 races during the 1954 season.
Stirling Moss competed mostly in Grand Prix events during the 1954 season, but was able to find time to race his Beart-Cooper car in some of the 500cc F3 races where he was rewarded with podium finishes. he won at the British GP Silverstone meeting, Oulton Park Gold Cupe and the Eifelrennen at Nurburgring, among others.
The other factory driver for the 1954 season, alongside Leston, was Stuart Lewis-Evans who won at Brough, Brands twice, and at Orleans.
Formula 3 remained popular until the close of the 1950s. Other Formula events had been capturing the public's attention. Competition in F3 began to decline as there were fewer entrants contesting for victory. The class began to dwindle into the 'club racing' category, as there were still people willing to compete, but most of the major factory teams and drivers had left to contest other classes.
Cooper had remained in F3 for a number of years, providing the Mark IX in 1955, an improved version of the Mark VIII that had retained many of its features. Further improvements brought the introduction of the Mark X, Mark XI, Mark XII, and the Mark XIII.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2007
Formula 3 was created in post-war Britain as a venue for inexpensive racing. The 500-pound, 500cc F3 cars were noisy, tiny, and sometimes home built. They were often ridiculed but very fast. With an all-independent suspension, tubular chassis and motorcycle engine placed directly behind the driver, the Formula 3 cars are said to have led directly to the Formula 1 'rear engine revolution' of the early 1960s. Although Formula 3 was not created as a training class, Stirling Moss, Peter Collins, Eric Brandon, Don Parker, Jim Russell, and Ivor Bueb were just a few of the many top ranked British drivers of the 1950's who began their careers in the seat of one of these motorcycle engine powered 500cc cars. In 1959, the 500cc formula was discontinued in favor of the Formula Junior specification.
The original owner of this car was Senator T. Newell Woods of Pennsylvania. The SCCA 'Bryfan Tydden' Road Races were run on a course around his estate in the early 1950s.
It was restored by the current owner in 2007, and ran VSCCA races including Pocono and Pittsburgh. The drivers, since restoration, have included Dick Irish, Formula III Champion in the early 1950s, and Nigel Ashman, Formula III Champion of England in 2001.