• 1956 Cooper T39 Bobtail Racing Car
  • Coventry Climax FWB 1460CC engine
  • Ex Bill Paterson, Alan Jack, Peter Briggs
  • 1957 State of Victoria Tourist Trophy Class Winner
  • 1958 State of Victoria Hill Climb Class Winner


The Cooper Car Company dominated motorsport in the 1950’s with their design approach of nestling their engine within the rear of their lightweight tubular chassis. An immensely strong and convenient approach which allowed a lower front-end, weight distribution above the rear wheels and a lower centralised cockpit position due to the direct drive to the rear wheels. The rear engine revolution they spearheaded was eventually adopted by all of their competitors but in the meantime John and Charles Cooper built up Cooper Cars into one of the most revered and accomplished of Motor Sports enterprises, one which has lived on in the memory of all by their association with the legendary Mini Cooper.


Now offered for sale at The Classic Motor Hub, this Cooper Bobtail’s first appearance was with Ivor Bueb at Brands Hatch in ’55 where a creditable 3rd place finish got the car noticed. Shortly after Jack Brabham and Ian Raby racing two cars placed 3rd in class at their initial Le Mans debut and immediately orders started to flow in.

The rear end of the car was cut short in response to German aerodynamics Professor Wunibald Kamms newest working aerodynamic theories that by abruptly ending a vehicle’s tail, minimal drag was created but airflow smoothed out. As the modification became the norm amongst manufacturers the name ‘Kamm’ became synonymous but at this early stage of its adoption the unusual cut-off tail was referred to as the ‘Bobtail’.

Factory records are incomplete although with relatively few owners this particular example can be traced back to its original importation to Australia in the Autumn of 1956. Jack Brabham had been asked by Charles Cooper to campaign a car in Australia to widen the market, and on the back of this his friend and ’54 Hill Climb Champion Bill Paterson immediately put in an order and the two cars were shipped together, CS11 having reputedly been diverted from an order for Briggs Cunningham in the USA and thus already painted in the Cunningham teams distinctive American white and blue livery. What Briggs Cunningham thought of his diverted order is not reported.

Initial T39s were equipped with the superb and lightweight 1100 cc four-cylinder Coventry Climax engine but the two cars shipped to Australia were fitted with the more powerful Coventry Climax FWB 1460CC engine and first time out Brabham finished 1st in Class but, unused to the new driving style, Patterson went off on the first lap. The following weekend he returned and on his second outing achieved a first in class. He continued into 1957 with a Class win in the Victorian Tourist trophy and a second place in the NSW South Pacific Championship and the climax of the 1958 season at the Victorian Hillclimb Championship where he was obviously in his element as he knocked a full four seconds off the class record and came in second overall.

In 1959 the car was sold to Alan Jack who finished in 5th place overall in the Australian Grand Prix of that year. He also came 7th in the 1961 Australian Grand Prix where Coopers took 6 of the first 7 places over the line.

The car was retired from front line racing in 1962 and after passing through a number of owners found its way into the collection of Peter Briggs, owner of the York Motor Museum in Western Australia where it remained for a number of years. Eventually he was persuaded to sell it and a full pre-race restoration was carried out with all stressed components being replaced, the engine re-built and a new body constructed. All of the removed components are supplied with the car including the original aluminium bodywork.

The car is finished in the original Briggs Cunningham white with central blue stripe paint scheme that it arrived in Australia with and whilst a few minor modifications will need to be made in order to run within current UK historic events the chance to acquire a well-known car with clear history of international events is a rare opportunity. The Cooper Bobtail is much loved amongst the historic racing fraternity for its giant beating reputation and solid reliability.

Total production of the T39 Cooper Bobtail is unknown, but it is believed to have been under 50 cars with approximately 20 known to have survived. They are readily welcomed at all of the major track events and offer great value historic racing with true winning potential.

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