This 1963 Morris Cooper Is From The Land Down Under
Photography by Andrew Golseth
There I was, making my rounds at the local cars and coffee as I do every Saturday. Except, this Saturday was different. This was New Year’s Eve. What is normally an impressible assemblage of diverse and eclectic automobiles was significantly down on attendees, hampered due to an unusual weather phenomenon called “rain”—Edit: I’ve been informed the majority of the country east of California experiences this regularly?
Anyway, as I was about to depart my Saturday ritual, feeling uncharacteristically disappointed, a pint-sized piece of British cheer sputtered its way into the open lot, bringing a smile to everyone’s faces. Like some kind of magic trick, out hopped four full-grown adults. I got to chatting with the owner, Jorge Sanchez, who was ecstatic everyone took notice of his beloved 1963 Morris Cooper.
After poring over the tidy little details of this very squared away Mini, I had to get a closer look. Jorge was kind enough to meet me the next week for photoshoot in some more traditional San Diego morning weather. Here’s the story of Mr. Sanchez and his chipper blue Mini.
Andrew Golseth: Jorge, how’d you get wrapped up in cars?
Jorge Sanchez: It was my dad. Since I was very young he was always into cars. He always tried to get me into cars, but also into motorcycles and that kind of stuff. He’s the one who taught me how to ride a motorcycle at a very early age. I was about 8 or 9 years old. He bought me my first car at the crazy age of 13 years old.
It was a Volkswagen Beetle. As you know, here in Mexico the old style Volkswagen Beetle were made some years after they stopped selling them in the United States. I believe the last year was 1999, or something like that. My father was always into cars and he knew a lot about classic cars, but not because he was really into old cars but mostly because of the years he lived in. They were just used cars then, not considered “classics” at that time.
But he always wanted to buy a Mustang when he was young but he couldn’t afford to then. When I was 9, he finally bought one, a ’66. He restored it. He went to Waco, Texas to buy all the original parts and restored it from zero.
AG: So, your first car was a Beetle—what year was that one?
JS: I think it was a 1994, but it looked like a ‘70s one but with a modern engine—a 1600cc fuel-injected engine, to be exact.
After the Beetle, my father bought me a ‘72 Mustang. But at such a young age, that car was not appropriate for me. (laughs) That car had a V8, and I stepped on the gas too much. It was just a lot of problems for a young kid to handle because, as you know, a classic car needs to be treated with respect, not to be treated like a normal car.
After that, I got a Nissan SE-R with the special 2.0-liter engine. Then I got a Golf Cabriolet, then back to a Nissan 240SX, then a Pathfinder, and then a Nissan 350Z—that was pretty cool. Then I bought a Mercedes SLK, a black one. It was really nice. That’s when I really got into Minis.
I bought a modern Mini, a John Cooper Works ‘Championship 50 Edition’—I got pretty lucky getting one of those, only 10 made it to Mexico. I still own that car. It’s got a John Cooper signature on the hood and on the glovebox. It’s pretty cool. I have my everyday car, a Passat, but we kept the 2011 Mini for a Sunday kind of car.
AG: If I remember correctly, you mentioned you had another Mini before that, right?
JS: Yeah, I had a more classic Mini before the John Cooper Works car. A side affect of my dad assembling the Mustang was that it really got me into classic cars—even more than my dad. He likes more of the modern cars now and I’m all into the classics.
I got my hands on a 1990 Mini, an Austin. It wasn’t in perfect condition but we restored it and changed the things that needed to be changed—brakes and some work on the engine. Finally, I repainted it a factory red color. My girlfriend and I, we started with that 1990 and went to many Mini meets here in Mexico.
After seeing them more and more, we realized the old Mini Coopers were the really cool ones, the more valued pieces. So, we started looking for a classic Mini. Some years back, I saw a Mini Cooper S, a ‘60-something in south Miami, Florida. So, my girlfriend and I flew to Florida just to see the car, but it wasn’t a great choice. The engine was overly modified—the originally just wasn’t respected at all. It was a nice trip but we decided we wanted a more original car.
Later, I saw this blue 1963 Morris Cooper on eBay. It was being sold by a respected gallery in Connecticut, so I called them and spoke for two weeks back and forth. I wanted pictures of everything because I didn’t have the time to go to Connecticut. I was lucky enough to get in contact with one of the guys who originally restored the car in Australia.
I asked him everything and he was very kind. He sent me pictures of the restoration process and all that. He sold it a long time ago but he was very kind about all my inquiries—I believe he was the president of the Mini Club in Australia. He informed me the car won “Best Restored Mini” at the OZ 40th Anniversary Mini Cooper event at the historic Lakeside International Raceway located in Queensland, Australia. He said it was a really good car and I got the feeling it was the right one.
So, I sold the 1990 Mini we had here which I did pretty good on, actually. There aren’t a lot of nice classic cars here in Mexico and Minis are very popular. My Mini was in pretty good condition, a good looking car, so I sold it to a friend who always wanted one and actually didn’t have to put a lot of extra money towards the ‘63 Morris Cooper, so it was kind of a good bargain for me.
AG: Sounds like it was meant to be. This little blue guy, first things first: what’s the paint called and is it the original color?
JS: The paint name is Shadow Blue with a “platinum” white roof, which is the original color combination of this car along with the matching blue interior. The restoration was made to classic spec, back to what it was when it left the production line.
AG: It’s a shame nobody offers colors like this anymore. So, this car was originally an Australian market car?
JS: They have a term for it in Britain, when they assembled these Australian market cars. “CKD” meaning “Completely Knocked Down.” This basically meant they assembled most of the cars in Britain but with some stuff missing. In this case, it was the interior that was left to be installed in Australia.
This allowed BMC to avoid some kind of importation tax in Australia. That’s why this car has a different interior than the Minis sold in England. If you find a Morris Cooper from England, it’ll have a different interior entirely. I think I like the Australian interior ones a little better because it’s all the same color, not two-tone like a lot of the British spec cars.
This car, it went from Australia to a Cooper club for a factory restoration in 2001. Afterwards, it stayed in Australia for some years after the restoration. Then, the gentlemen in Australian told me, it was shipped to Canada. From Canada, it somehow ended up in Connecticut.
AG: Very cool. I love the minimalistic blue interior. So, it was pretty much all done up when you bought it?
JS: Yeah, in 2001 the car was completely brought back to its original Australian specific specifications. When I got the car in 2013, it was in pretty good condition shape still, but the interior panel behind the gauge cluster and the ventilation tubes weren’t right and there were a few other little things.
I took the car to an upholstery shop in San Diego that specializes in classic Porsche interiors. They did a really good job restoring the dash panel, with all the ventilation tubes back to where they were supposed to be.
I found the shifter to be very shaky when I first got the car and I wasn’t quite sure what was wrong. I took it to a guy, Mel, who lives in San Marcos. He’s a British guy that specializes mostly in Jaguars, but he used to own a Mini Cooper so he knew what he was getting in to.
Being old, the engine was dropping a lot of oil and the generator wasn’t working right either and some other parts of the electrical system weren’t working properly. He changed some rubber components on the gearbox and fixed all the other little issues. Basically, he did a lot of little jobs that weren’t aesthetic, just mechanical work.
AG: What’s your favorite part about driving this car?
JS: It drives like a cart, even though it doesn’t go really fast compared to modern standards, it’s still a thrilling drive around the curves. For example, the back roads going to Temecula, it’s very steady. The way the suspension feels in this car, I just love it.
The other part I like, which you’ve probably heard before, is when you get in a Mini, there’s just no way you can have a bad time because everyone is happy to see you. There’s always someone giving you a thumb-up, smiling, and cheering you on. It’s a really great experience. That doesn’t happen in other cars. You know, you could have a 2016 Lamborghini and it’s not going to get as many smiles as a Mini.
AG: I actually just drove my first classic Mini a few weeks ago and I have to agree it was one of the most fun cars I’ve ever driven. I’ve even been considering buying one.
JS: They’re great, and the Mini community always encourages new members, too. It seems everyone around the world with a Mini is nice. All the owners we meet seem to have the same friendly spirit. You know, a lot of other car clubs, the members can get really competitive.
In the Mini community it doesn’t matter if you have a classic in an unmodified state or a heavily modified one, everyone is welcome. They always cherish new members.
AG: I got a warm welcome at the Mini Meet West last year—everyone seemed to be very friendly. Is there a favorite Mini adventure of yours?
JS: There is that one that stands out. When we got our first Mini, the 1990, it wasn’t in very good shape, but there was a Mini meet and rally 200 kilometers north of where we lived. My wife and I, it just happened to be our first anniversary, so spending such a special day at a Mini event was a cool experience.
We went to the rally and we didn’t do very good. We did awful. The rally was just too much for the little car—it ended up coming home on a flatbed, but now we laugh about that weekend all the time. The mini has been a big part of our lives, for sure, and now we’re actually expecting our first child. The Morris Cooper is something we hope to keep and pass down our family.