2018 Shannons Melbourne Winter Classic Auction

c1960 Cooper Climax T53 Low Line Race Car

$150,000 - $200,000

No Reserve


Engine 2467cc Climax four-cylinder
Gearbox 4 speed Borg & Beck manual
Engine No. FPF430-1142 (see text)
Chassis No. F11.8.60 (see text)
Body Work Single-seat racing car
Colour Dark Green
Interior Brown
Trim Leather
Wheels Cast Alloy
Brakes Discs

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The Cooper Car Company is a racing car manufacturer founded by Charles Cooper and his son John Cooper. Together with John's boyhood friend, Eric Brandon, they began building racing cars in Charles's small garage in Surbiton, Surrey, England, in 1946. Through the 1950s and early 1960s they reached motor racing's highest levels as their rear-engined, single-seat cars altered the face of Formula One and the Indianapolis 500. Jack Brabham raised some eyebrows when he took sixth place at the 1957 Monaco Grand Prix in a rear-engined Formula 1 Cooper. When Stirling Moss won the 1958 Argentine Grand Prix in Rob Walker's privately entered Cooper and Maurice Trintignant duplicated the feat in the next race at Monaco, the racing world was stunned and a rear-engined revolution had begun. The next year, 1959, Brabham and the Cooper works team became the first to win the Formula One World Championship in a rear-engined car. The Cooper T53 is a single-seater designed for Formula 1 and Formula 2 competition in the early 1960s, and it is the car that enabled Brabham to win the World Driver’s Championship in 1960 and Cooper to claim the World Constructors Championship the same year. Brabham also took one of the championship-winning Cooper T53 "Lowlines" to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a test in 1960, then entered the famous 500-mile race in a larger, longer, and offset car based on the 1960 T53 F1 design, the unique Type T54. Arriving at the Speedway 5 May 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-engined roadsters were numbered. Every Formula 1 World Champion since 1959 has been sitting in front of his engine.


Fabulous Cooper Climax T53 with continuous history
Supplied with CAMS Certificate of Description
Letter from Jack Brabham confirming sale
Single ownership extending more than 40 years
Fresh from long-term ownership, this ‘lowline’ Cooper Type 53 can trace its origins back to a car sold by Sir Jack Brabham to local star Lex Davison in early 1962 for the final round of the Tasman series - the inaugural race meeting at Sandown Park - after ‘Davo’ wrecked his earlier ex-Yeoman Credit T53 at Longford.  The car appears to have started life as a replacement built for Brabham late in 1960 using one of the numbers assigned to the Cooper works cars that year (‘F11/5/60’, ‘F11/8/60’ or perhaps ‘F11/17/60’), competing in South Africa in December before coming to Australia and New Zealand for the Internationals in 1961/62.  Brabham reportedly used the car as a spare in the early part of 1962, preferring to race his newer ex-works Type 55 and ultimately sold the T53 to Davison, who in turn campaigned it into 1963.  Passing to Tony Osborne mid-year, the ageing Cooper continued racing until 1964 when he commissioned the current owner’s engineering firm in East Malvern to build a Chev V8-powered sports car known as the Argo using the T53’s front end and rear suspension.  There remains considerable conjecture over what survived of the Davison/Osborne car – John Blanden wrote some years ago that the body panels, fuel tanks, oil tank, firewall and other parts went to Don O’Sullivan in Perth. The two 2.5-litre FPF Climax engines and the CS5 transaxles were also sold off.  However the current owner is understood to have purchased the Argo and associated Cooper parts from Osborne circa 1976 and painstakingly restored the T53 back to operational condition.  The Cooper wears the chassis plate ‘F11/8/60’ today – one of the numbers allocated by Cooper for the works ‘lowline’ cars raced by Brabham and his Kiwi team-mate Bruce McLaren for the duration of the 1960 season – the highly respected website Oldracingcars.com run by Allen Brown points out that no history for either of these cars can be traced beyond 1960.  Despite the best efforts of historians like Doug Nye and John Blanden, Cooper provenance is a veritable minefield and sorting out the individual racing histories of the works cars has proved extremely difficult due to the lack of record keeping, switching of ID plates and the rigours of racing.  Presented in the Cooper works livery made famous by Brabham in winning the Formula One World Driver’s Championship in both 1959 and 1960, the ‘lowline’ has been on display at the Len Lukey Museum at Phillip Island in recent years and will need some recommissioning before it can be safely raced again.  The Climax engine has been restamped with a 2.5-litre number FPF430-1142 (the capacity has not been verified), while the gearbox is a period-correct Cooper-Knight C5S unit.  Documentation supplied with the car includes a Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) Certificate of Description dated 2015 along with a signed letter from Sir Jack Brabham O.B.E. regarding the importation and sale of the car dated March 13, 2002.  A fabulous opportunity to purchase a piece of Australian motor racing history, the Cooper will be offered for sale unregistered and with No Reserve. 
Note: Shannons advise that all potential buyers research all vehicles before purchase to authenticate originality.

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