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“We wanted to create a dual purpose machine – one that could be shown as an authentic original – and one with minor changes that could be raced safely and win in hard competition.”

- Two sets of suspension: Original is for show, Pat Prince built replica is for hard competition.

- Two sets of wheels and tires: Originals are for show. Aluminum replicas and modern race rubber are for intense competition.

- Two noses: The original hand formed aluminum is for show while an easily repaired fiberglass winged version is for hard racing.

- Thicker rear uprights prevent breakage that plagued original factory issue. There is a spare set along with molds and patterns.

- Correct UK-sourced rivets were used in restoration.

- Engine has been dyno-tuned to provide maximum passing power in the 6 to 8 thousand RPM band. Webers have been thoroughly sorted out and rejetted by Bill McCurdy of Williams Racing.

- Hewland LG600 freshly rebuilt.

- Car is liveried as it appeared at the 1969 London Auto Show.

History

Wikipedia describes the Cooper Works: The Cooper Car Company was founded in 1946 by Charles Cooper and his son John Cooper. Together with John's boyhood friend, Eric Brandon, they began by building racing cars in Charles' small garage in Surbiton, Surrey, England in 1946. Through the 1950s and early 1960s, they reached auto racing's highest levels as their rear-engined, single-seat cars altered the face of Formula One and the Indianapolis 500, and their Mini Cooper dominated Rally racing. Thanks in part to Cooper's legacy, Britain remains the home of a thriving racing industry, and the Cooper name lives on in the Cooper versions of the Mini production cars that are still built in England but are now owned and marketed by BMW. 
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This serial # F1C/3.69 was the last car built by Cooper Works before financial ills closed the company in 1969. The T90 is basically a T86 Cooper Formula One Grand Prix car with the engine bay modified to accept American 5-liter V8 engines. As such, with its current Chevrolet power, it is likely not only the last Cooper ever built - but also the fastest Cooper ever built, out powering the F-1 Maserati and Alfa Romeo V12’s then fitted by more than 140 HP.

Cooper’s financial problems prevented this model from getting the factory development needed to realize its great potential. However, so great was that promise that two intrepid racers from Connecticut were able within 4 months of its first pro race in July to take the radical open wheeler from top ten finishes to the 1969 SCCA National Championship, beating all comers at the Daytona championship run-offs. This was achieved despite running essentially a stock 302 crate engine against the competition’s exotic Bartz and Traco powerhouses. Peter Rehl drove the T90 while partner Dick Yagami masterminded its tuning and setup. Theirs was truly a David vs. Goliath tale of shoestring budget and ingenuity vs. the big bucks and vast expertise of the factory teams. Read Less...

Cooper T-90’s racing record 1969

Badger "200" Elkhart Lake - 20 Jul 1969 (F5000) 5-litre Cooper T90 F1C/3.69 - Chevrolet V8 Peter Rehl 7th
Schaefer GP Lime Rock - 2 Aug 1969 (F5000) 5-litre Cooper T90 F1C/3.69 - Chevrolet V8 Peter Rehl 9th
Lime Rock GP Lime Rock - 1 Sep 1969 (F5000) 5-litre Cooper T90 F1C/3.69 - Chevrolet V8 Peter Rehl 7th
Le Circuit Continental St Jovite - 7 Sep 1969 (F5000) 5-litre Cooper T90 F1C/3.69 - Chevrolet V8 Peter Rehl retired
Road Race of Champions (FA class) Daytona - 29 Nov 1969 (F5000) 5-litre Cooper T90 F1C/3.69 - Chevrolet V8 Peter Rehl 1st
  • Rehl also entered an SCCA Regional and two National races in order to qualify for the Nov. run-offs. He won those races.

  • Rehl sold the car in 1971 and it ran several Nationals and one more pro F5000 race before being tucked away in a private collection somewhere in eastern Massachusetts.

  • 1971 Ad for Peter Rehl’s Cooper FA (F5000): Notice how he derides the West Coast competition whose Bartz and Traco engines were reputedly able to develop 500 HP or more, yet ended up futilely chasing the flying T90 at the Daytona run-offs.

Cooper T86 Formula 1 with Maserati V12. Car is virtually identical to F5000 T90 except for drive train and cockpit surround. In Formula One the T86 immediately proved itself winning the 1967 the South African Grand Prix with Pedro Rodrigez driving. However the Maserati engine proved to be too heavy and underpowered, particularly once the Ford Cosworth DFV engines became available to the other F1 teams outclassing the suddenly overweight V12 powered Coopers. John Cooper had BRM develop a 3 litre V12 for the car – it was to be the Model T91. The firm’s financial problems prevented this new combination from getting beyond the design phase, thus rendering the serial # F1C/3.69 T90 as its last and ultimate creation.

British Cooper T86 Formula One converted to F5000 T90 specs by substituting 5 litre Chevrolet V8 for Maserati V12. The Chev small block adds more than 100 HP without increasing weight. Major difference between F1 and F5000 models besides drive train is cockpit surround. Several F1 cars were converted to F5000 in the UK.

F1C/3.69 during build at Cooper Works

F1C/3.69 nearing completion before London Show. Vega Tune engine used only for show.

F1C/3.69 during build at Cooper Works

F1C/3.69 getting ready for London Auto Show.

F1C/3.69 during build at Cooper Works

F1C/3.69 is painted and wearing London Auto show livery. Weber carbs are only partially assembled. Notice monocoque roll bar diagonal runs down between carbs to a manifold mount. Engine is a stressed member of chassis enabling this weight saving method of bracing chassis.

F1C/3.69 during build at Cooper Works

F1C/3.69 nearing completion before London Show

F1C/3.69 during build at Cooper Works

F1C/3.69 at works before painting Nov. 1968

F1C/3.69 during build at Cooper Works

Cooper T90: This is the first T90 built. It was crashed heavily and totally destroyed, killing its driver in European F5000 Race -1970. Car was never rebuilt and its parts lost.

F1C/3.69 during build at Cooper Works

F1C/3.69 being prepped by Peter Rehl and Dick Yagami in their shop – spring 1969.

F1C/3.69 during build at Cooper Works

Prepping F1C/3.69 for SCCA Nationals and Continental Formula 5000 by Rehl and Yagami. Sweeping hand formed headers are indicative of British artisan’s metal working skill that went into this beautiful race car. Note the dual air inlet carburetor hood. This was not used in the later competition. Weber 48 IDA’s do not like anything near airhorn throat that forces airflow to turn a corner to enter carb.

F1C/3.69 during build at Cooper Works

Prepping F1C/3.69 for SCCA Nationals and Continental Formula 5000 by Rehl and Yagami

F1C/3.69 during build at Cooper Works

Prepping F1C/3.69 for SCCA Nationals and Continental Formula 5000 by Rehl and Yagami

F1C/3.69 during build at Cooper Works

Peter Rehl at speed in F1C/3.69 at the old Bridgehampton 1969.

F1C/3.69 during build at Cooper Works

FiC/3.69.
This photo is frequently found on the web when ‘Cooper F5000’ is entered.

F1C/3.69 during build at Cooper Works

Peter Rehl holds F1C/3.69 on the false grid awaiting start at Bridgehampton 1969.

F1C/3.69 during build at Cooper Works

Restoration

Welcome to the restoration! Here you will find annotated photos detailing every step of this careful restoration. Get to know the thought process and all of the clever engineering that makes this vehicle. Not to mention the sheer beauty of the car that is nearly conveyed in full by these high definition photographs. Nothing can compare to seeing it in person though. 

1
Phase 1 Gallery

The first phase involved cleaning and inspecting the car. We made an inventory of all the many bits and pieces that went into the Cooper’s construction, giving us a record of the many different types of hardware used. About midway through the restoration we also managed to procure some burnt copies of the original build Cooper sheets which further validated, or corrected our inventory. During this phase more than 150 photos were taken to create a visual record of what the car originally looked like, and gave us a benchmark to work towards as we brought it back to life. During this phase we began to outline the plan for the car’s restoration. We wanted to create a dual purpose machine – one that could be shown as an authentic original – and one with minor changes that could be raced safely and win in hard competition.

This is our first view after we pulled tarp off the T90 and cleared away surrounding items. While there was no serious or shunt damage to contend with, the entire car was very tired after a vigorous year of campaigning in 1969. Although eponymously attributed to Colin Chapman the Cooper truly represented the pinnacle of the British racing industry’s infamous brinkmanship engineering where everything was designed to fail or disintegrate shortly after the finish line was crossed. While the tub itself was usable most of the running gear was fatigued beyond repair and had to be recreated. We did however save all the original bits and pieces, and depending on show or race use the car can be configured with either authentic 1969 Cooper items, or modern replacements that will stand up to hard competition use.

This was so exciting because we were able to find and identify so many original parts such as the hand formed aluminum nose and the original Elektron monocoque – made of a special alloy exclusive to Coopers. Those crazy conical Cooper mag wheels were also not only on the car but in excellent condition. The data plate riveted to the dash showed the serial number to be F1C/3.69; the last race car to exit the works and that this indeed was the car with which Peter Rehl won the 1969 SCCA Formula A Championsip Run-Offs at Daytona.

Grey color is preservative applied after cleaning. Main bulkhead and cowl are added to jig mounted chassis. Using suspension mounting points for jig insures correct alignment when suspension is added. Note center line shown at bottom of bulkhead. This was picked up from factory marked center line on monocoque bottom.

The engine pontoons are being restored with revised internal reinforcement to prevent tearing. Apparently the Chevrolet V8’s additional torque combined with the brinkmanship weight saving engineering caused the pontoons to fail prematurely. The right side would begin to tear around the fuel filler opening and it would spread over the pontoon, adversely affecting the car’s handling.

Pontoon before inside skin affixed. Note shifter stanchion affixed to top panel. The pontoon’s improved inner structure will insure against tearing and other failures that plagued factory design.

Note how rivet style changes on pontoon to replicate factory assembly. Blind rivets were used to affix outer skin to top panels and locate suspension arm mounts while more common pop rivets were used elsewhere.

Cooper bespoke brake caliper showing newly machined stainless steel pistons. Brakes are single piston but car’s ultra light weight mitigates design. Semi-inboard brake mounting also served to reduce unsprung weight.

Magnesium wheels after Zyglow treatment showed no defects. Note unusual construction. Two conical magnesium castings are joined by a thin steel cylinder drilled for light weight. These innovative Cooper wheels are as light as modern day composite race wheels.

4 piece construction is detailed. 2 cones joined by welded-in spacer and drilled sleeve to support inner tubes. Wheel size is 15” D by 14” wide between beads. 4-Bolt spacing is custom to Cooper. Bolts are extremely small and light.

Header detail. Tubes were hand bent by Cooper. After cleaning and straightening the headers were ceramic coated by Jet-Hot to insure longevity – these are irreplaceable. They also develop more power than modern dyno headers – about 10 HP across the 6 to 8 thousand RPM band. This is a result of the generous radii incorporated by hand bending the tubes.

2
Phase 2 Gallery

The second Phase involved disassembling the Cooper and reducing it to its most basic elements. Parts were assigned categories. A part that could be easily restored with cleaning and or paint/coating, etc., and was robust enough for racing was an A. A part that with similar preparation could be used for show (but not racing) was a B. A part that was no longer functional but would be retained outside the car for historic reasons would be a C. Parts that had to be recreated, replicated or extensively repaired were assigned D. Aluminum fatigue and magnesium corrosion belied visual inspection and resulted in many more B and D pieces than originally anticipated. We agreed that the job would be done correctly and no shortcuts would be taken. Accordingly we knew our working budget would greatly exceed the normally accepted market price for a working F5000, but our stewardship was not that of just any working F5000 – but that of the last Cooper race car ever built – a thoroughbred that represented all that the daringly innovative father and son team of Charles and John Cooper knew about building the finest racing machines ever to thunder over a racing surface.

We constructed wooden patterns for new rear uprights. This male makes an impression in sand mold that is inside a box. When pattern is removed, cavity in sand replicates pattern’s shape within 3 thousands of an inch. Other patterns will be fitted to form holes, back cavities, etc. Molten aircraft grade T6 aluminum is poured into cavity, forming part. Note authentic Cooper factory marking system employed with correct casting numbers as per originals. These uprights will not fatigue and fail like the original issue.

Wooden pieces for Pattern set to make rear uprights. The shaped pieces will be used to form cavities within the aluminum casting. The wooden pieces that will become core boxes will hold the female forms to shape the obverse side in the sand molds.

Pattern maker Jim Breton on right and Bob D’Amore planning upright project. Jim and Bob have worked together on many casting projects over the years. Original part was used to take measurements for the new pieces.

Jim Breton reaching into his bag of letters and numbers before affixing them to wooden patterns. The original Cooper cast left and right uprights carry different part numbers. Our replicas display the same correct part numbers and logos as the originals.

The male and female wooden patterns needed to form a rear upright. Not shown are the hole/cavity plugs and the foundry’s casting boxes which hold the sand after it is shaped by the wooden patterns shown. The red indicates where plugs will be placed to form the holes and recesses. These wooden pieces represent over two hundred hours of skilled workmanship, and can be used many times to replicate additional uprights. The geometry of the uprights is such that they can be adapted to almost any car with trailing radius arm rear suspension. Final machining determines bearing and shaft sizes as well as that of suspension mount bores. We did final machining in our own shop, making two complete sets and another unmachined set.

Finished upright (black piece to right) assembled on car. Brake caliper, rotor and suspension detail are also shown. LG600 Transaxle cooler is shown at lower left. Shocks are correct double adjustable #8212 Konis set up by Phil Harris at TrueChoice in Ohio. Original springs were freshened and reinstalled. Actual wheel rates were determined in the event that further suspension tuning is required.

Upright shown installed with all adjacent parts in place. Halfshafts are restored originals but the individual pieces are available from Spicer. Note how brake rotor is entirely exposed to slipstream. Coil overs are at steep 70 degree angle to eliminate negative progressive effect on springing.

Partially assembled engine is fitted to engine bay pontoons. Cylinder heads and carburetor setup as shown should support up to 580 HP. Critical area is the pontoon recess to insure header clearance. Engine is stressed member contributing to chassis structural strength – innovative for its time.
Bridgeport in background was used for finish machining many of the bits and pieces.

3
Phase 3 Gallery

This phase involved the actual restoration or replication of individual parts. E.g.; The 41 year old monocoque tub was never hit, but was wrinkled from a combination of thin light weight aluminum and magnesium stressed panels doing their best to contain the outrageous torque of the 5 liter American V8 whose pound-foot ratings more than doubled that of the screaming 3 liter V12’s originally fitted into the T86’s. Hours of heating and stretching/shrinking brought the panels back into true alignment, correcting more than 3/8” of distortion that had crept into the tub from front to rear axle.

Bottom of stressed skin roll bar structure after forming in press brake and welding. Not only does this design weigh less for its strength than a conventional DOM roll bar but its mounting with the monocoque shell spreads the stress over a much larger area improving the safety system’s ability to retain its integrity around the driver during a crash. It also contributes to increased chassis stiffness compared to a conventional roll bar. This was a Cooper innovation.
Pattern for seat back is shown in background.

This view shows wide mounting base of stressed skin roll structure. The ultra-light Elektron panels introduced to motor racing by Cooper cannot be readily welded – thus the extensive use of rivets and laminates in the monocoque’s construction.

Front view showing how stressed skin roll structure towers are affixed to monocoque. Each separate element of the T90 is tied into another element to promote chassis stiffness – a prerequisite for handling. Suspension mounts span from monocoque to engine pontoons, as does roll structure. Even the engine becomes a solid connector between monocoque and pontoons. A diagonal bar will be installed that runs from upper roll structure down to engine manifold to maximize the longitudinal triangulation of the chassis, while the broad roll structure in conjunction with the thick chassis bulkheads maximizes lateral triangulation. If nothing else, F1C/3.69 is a showcase for most of the tricks the Coopers learned building race cars.

Stressed skin roll structure taking shape on car. The same hardwood buck serves to shape both front and back pieces which are then joined with two simple curved pieces of metal. The resulting arch structure is extremely strong thanks to its pyramid-like flanks that descend down into the monocoque.
Photos from 2010 show that this feature was missing on the car when we discovered it. We were fortunate to have access to Peter Rehl and many of his photos when recreating this work of art. We also had many of the factory’s build sheets. Although burned in a fire, much valuable information was gleaned from them.

Stressed skin roll structure after welding, before smoothing. Seat back with curved fire extinguisher pocket will be riveted into cavity to create web between towers, providing solid secure space for driver’s seat.

Seat back integrated into stressed skin roll structure. Seat back was made on metal roller and press brake. Curved concavity at top of structure is for hand held fire extinguisher. A 10 pound Halon fire system is also incorporated into F1C/3.69.

Note detail showing how stress skinned roll structure is fastened to monocoque with many rivets spreading load over a wide area. Longitudinal stability is further enhanced by 1” D diagonal tube running from top center of roll structure to rear of intake manifold. After having restored the McKee Mk8 F5000 which was built a mere year earlier than F1C/3.69 we were absolutely blown away by the difference in chassis stiffness between the two contemporary cars. Perhaps it reflects the philosophical difference between a UK company that built dozens of formula one cars from an American company that cut its teeth on Indianapolis cars.

F1C/3.69 is beginning to look like its old London Auto Show self once again. Stressed skin roll structure flows down into chassis forming a wide base for optimal support.
This view shows the esthetic beauty and meticulous precision of the hand made exhaust headers.
The Hewland LG 600 transaxle is being rebuilt at this time. Bearings, dog rings, and 2 gearsets were replaced. The limited slip was fine, as was the ring and pinion set. Ratios in conjunction with the 3.3:1 final drive ratio are 2.4 first, 1.78 second, 1.5 third, 1.32 fourth and either 1.15 or .947 fifth. The higher gear offers a 210 MPH top speed. This car was timed during the 1969 Championship run-offs at 192 MPH with a significantly less powerful engine.

Floor section in monocoque serves to stiffen chassis, provide secure anti-submarine structure for driver’s seating, and locates battery in a safe place where it will not be prone to shorting out in the event of an upset.

Stressed skin roll structure from rear. Halon fire bottle for onboard system is shown in place. Hand held fire extinguisher is in cavity behind driver. Construction detail shows different types of rivets used throughout the T90. Also shown is that roll structure in conjunction with main bulkhead makes area surrounding driver the strongest part of F1C/3.69.
Panel in seat back gives access to front of engine and fire system.

Trial assembly engine, exhaust headers, cockpit surround. Now main diagonal brace from stressed skin roll structure to engine can be designed and built. Engine and top of stressed skin roll structure will be connected with 1” diameter tube to complete longitudinal triangulation of chassis.
Lower ears on towers will provide stabilizing mount for rear wing mounted onto uprights. Headers will be sent to Jet Hot for ceramic coating. Chassis remains on alignment jig to insure trueness. End plates have been fit into engine pontoons. Engine bay and monocoque are joined at main bulkhead. Exhaust headers have been cleaned up and straightened – new megaphones rolled and welded onto collectors. Also shown is new water neck/filler assembly to replace missing item (not fitted to Hilborn manifold).Panel in seat back gives access to front of engine and fire system.

F1C/3.69’s long block on stand. Note custom Canton oil pan, rocker stud girdles, large intake ports and SFI harmonic balancer. Valve springs are double 1.55” diameter. This is a serious engine. It was machined and assembled by our inhouse engine builder.

Detail shows mounts for wing stabilizers and main chassis diagonal that triangulates with engine. Also note how seat back is riveted to become web between stressed skin roll towers, along with curved fire extinguisher cavity to complement that section’s structural integrity. Final grinding will prep car for body work and paint.

Fully dressed engine on dyno stand at Bill McCurdy’s Williams Racing shop. Dyno testing covered 4 days as the old Weber 48 IDA’s required a lot of TLC and rejetting before we were satisfied. This shot shows original Cooper headers fitted along with 6” stacks on Webers. This combo gave best performance across the 5 to 8 thousand RPM range.
Engine detail:
1969 Chevrolet large main 4 bolt block blueprinted by our in-house engine shop
Forged Mahle pistons and Eagle rods
Forged 3” Eagle crankshaft
Iskendarian solid roller RR-640/72-76 camshaft, Comp-cams 1.5 roller rockers
Edelbrock Victor Junior 215cc cylinder heads
MacKay manifold with 4 Weber 42mm choke 48IDA carburetors, Holley Blue pump
Vertex magneto with electronic start module
Triple disk 7.2” NASCAR style clutch with aluminum button flywheel

Detail shows Weber 48IDA carburetors with 6” stacks. Linkage and black rubber (neoprene) fuel line are restored period correct items.
Final setup 48IDA carbs: 42 mm venturis, F7 tubes, 180 correctors, 170 main jet, 70 idle with 100 correctors. The 42 mm chokes traded a little top end HP to get broader torque band. 48IDA’s accept up to 45 mm without modification. If car were to run courses such as Daytona or Road America the 45’s could be substituted. Short courses like NHMS could use 37 mm chokes.

Williams Racing dyno room with F1C/3.69’s engine ready to go. Dyno is water brake. Bill McCurdy is one of the top Weber tuners and is sought out by racers internationally. While we were testing a record holding Bonneville streamliner engine was awaiting its turn on the brake.

Front view on dyno shows graceful sweep of handmade Cooper headers. McKay manifold is aluminum version and evidences no corrosion or warpage. The magnesium versions did not fare well against corrosion over time. Engine paint is Chevrolet black.

Vertex magneto is same piece used by Peter Rehl in 1969. Our restoration added an electric starting module to ease starting with onboard starter. Valve covers and all engine accessories are period correct.

Front bulkhead exposed to show intricate detail. IDFS Rocker arms pivot points are at upper outer ‘ears’. Chassis still wears protective primer. Magnesium plate will cover front bulkhead further stiffening structure. Fuel cells are yet to be inserted through the oval openings in side pods.

Note mid line marking on bulkhead. Original factory center line is behind it scribed into monocoque.

Front view of F1C/3.69 following straightening and final painting. Front A-arms and upper rocker arms attach to front bulkhead. Master cylinders and steering rack will mount onto this piece after front panel is installed.

Rear view of chassis following painting. Next comes the fun part – bolting it back together with its immense inventory of restored bits and pieces and seeing it evolve as the championship winning F1C/3.69 once again.

F1C/3.69 progresses to sprout additional restored bits and pieces. Original mag wheels are shown in this photo. There is another set of new aluminum replica wheels that can be fitted for serious competition. So unique are the Cooper wheels; there is no practical way to replace the original wheels should they be damaged. It makes more sense to fit a more robust replicated wheel that will stand up to curbs, etc. when the car is raced. The replica wheels can be easily replaced from their builder.

This closeup shows the intricate skill Kent brought to this project. The fuel cell vent runs up the roll structure tower to its central upset-proof ball valve.
The quality of the vent’s brazing, and the beauty of the surrounding old fashioned blind rivets contrasting with the correct pop rivets on the fuel filler, give some indication of the care and ability invested in F1C/3.69’s restoration.
The list of the artisans who contributed to this restoration is a Who’s Who of auto racing. Names like Pat Prince of Prince Racing, John Grubb at J&J Racing, Phil Harris at TrueChoice, Bill McCurdy at Williams Racing, and Dave at PrepRite were instrumental in helping us execute our program. Valuable insights were provided by Bob McKee of McKee Engineering, Woody Neale, and Karol Andrews. The latter two gentlemen steward the UK and US Cooper Car Clubs respectively and directed us to several of the actual Cooper artisans who built the car. We were very fortunate to have open access to F1C/3.69’s original owners Peter Rehl and Dick Yagami who graciously supplied us with so much valuable information in the form of anecdotes, documentation and memorabilia.

Original fuel filler incorporated into stressed skin roll tower. While we did our best to recapture F1C/3.69’s esthetic beauty, we did not over restore it. Note the TIG welds are fairly smooth but not ground to a perfect fillet, replicating the finish found in the original sections. Coopers meant these to be race cars, not show queens.

Right front wheel is one of the new set of aluminum replicas which can be used for serious competition to preserve irreplaceable original magnesium wheels. The race wheels are now shod with new Avon road racing slicks.

Contact

This is why we do it.

Contact Robert D’amore:

robertdamore4@comcast.net

Contact Kent Jones

kentjones@hotmail.com