Charlie Cooper

Charles Newton Cooper was born in Paris in October 1893 to an English father, Charles Renard and a Spanish mother. The family moved to Malden, England when Charles was a boy. Charlie showed a keen interest in all things mechanical and, at 15 was apprenticed to Napier. In 1914 he joined the Royal Army Service Corp.

After the Great War, Charles started a garage business at Ewell Road, Surbiton and began competing in motorcycle trials. Through this he met Kaye Don, then the rep for Avon Tyres and when Kaye raced at Brooklands, Charlie would prepare the cars, often at Cooper's Garage. He married Elsie Paul in in 1922 and John Newton Cooper was born a year later. For a while, Charlie was interested in flying and built a Flying Flea as well as a couple of small cars for young John, the second of which was retrospectively titled T1. He was a rough diamond who knew well how to make a shilling, building caravans for a while and servicing fire engines in WWII.

 

Charlie fettles the Prototype Cooper at Prescott, July 1946

The great and the good of the 500 Club meet at Cooper's Garage 13th December 1947, including John Siddall, Colin Strang, Stan Coldham, Eric Brandon, Bill Grose, John Cooper, Commander Tony Yorke and Geoff Lang. Charles stands proudly on the far right. In the foreground is John's T2 Cooper.

If John Cooper was the driving force behind the Cooper Car Company, then Charlie was the pragmatic and hard nosed businessman who saw that a profit could be made from racing car construction. He was notoriously tight with money, refusing to heat the workshops or pay more than the absolute minimum for anything or anyone, and very cautious. In many ways, this made him the perfect foil to his son's more free thinking and ambitious approach and enabled the fledgling company to grow steadily and move up through the categories to Formula 1.

Charlie did actually take the wheel occasionally, notching up a twelfth at "Royal" Silverstone in May '50, a DNF in the 100 Mile Commander Yorke Trophy in July and another DNF in the same event in 1951. One of his favourite days was the British Grand Prix in May '49 when he finished tenth and was beaten by nine other Coopers!

We can't imagine what this meeting was like!

 

Charles Cooper died in October 1964 and John sold the company within a year. Charlie's house in Box Hill was bought by customer, family friend and un-paid team manager, George Saunders.

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