An Ode to the JCW GP

The MINI JCW was a kit until 2006. Even then it was a factory option that was engineered in a garage. Then came the GP. Taking the spirit of the garage and coupling it with intensive factory testing on the Nuburgring and elsewhere, it gave MINI fans something to believe in. Here was a car, fathered by head of MINI Deisgn Gert Hildebrand, approved by Dr. Kay Segler (the future father of the BMW 1M) and built off-site at a storied Italian coach-builder. This was a special car. More special than anything that was priced around $31k had a right to be.

And now we’re on the cusp of the next GP, we can’t help but look back and tip our hats to the original. The GP gave MINI’s performance brand JCW some pedigree and MINI some attachments – enough to hold it’s own in the broader world of performance cars. And some would argue that it hasn’t been topped since within the MINI range.

On May 11th at MINI United that will all change. MINI will introduce a car that is 20 seconds faster than the previous GP around the Ring. A car that should be better in every way.

Yes, the original will always be special. But on May 11th, the crown will change hands.

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  • Tony

    Thank you to MINI for the GP.  Still my favorite car MINI thus far.

  • chad

    i am not sure where i heard this, but it is certainly not original- it is nice when a car is built to be the best it can be, not to a price point. the GP is a great example of this. kudos to MINI for doing the R53 and now doing it again.

  • m8o

    Can we please get some continuity between the people/writers of Motoringfile and the affiliated/sister side Bimmerfile?  Because I’m getting quite tired and annoyed constantly reading the false-hood from someone with “_bimmerfile” in his handle that “JCW isn’t a performance brand of Mini” …. 

    Phewey to that!  Are we to believe the vehicle being spot-lighted here is -not- a maximum factory performance oriented brand?  No, it doesn’t achieve the differential levels of performance “M” might; but it’s the best Mini can or will choose to do, and -is- their performance brand.

    This article here, proves “it’s not a performance brand” wrong.  Mini’s branding applied to their involvement in racing series proves that wrong.  Mini representatives at the NYC car show who were telling me “wait until we release the John Cooper Works kit” for the R53 last decade proves that wrong.  Everything about how the “JCW” acronym or full name is positioned in the Mini line-up proves that wrong. 

    To keep seeing that be written by someone affiliated in some way with this very site makes me question why I give credibility to the opinions of this site and the affiliated Bimmerfile. 


    • All writers on both MotoringFile and BimmerFile are free to disagree and voice their differing opinions. There’s plenty that I agree with Michael on and plenty we disagree on. I’d find it odd if we all were in complete lock-step about every subject.

      • BimmerFile_Michael

        Thanks Gabe, and as far as my opinions go and my knowledge on MINIs and my connections they will stay with me going forward. It is lost on this site. 

        • Hoover

          I hope that’s not the case.  I would say that the majority of us (who are often silent) who follow both MF and BF don’t question your knowledge of the company, and how that informs your opinion.  There are some new visitors who may not know the history here.

    • chad

      @Steve, the credability of the site(s) is not determined by congruent a writing; credability is about presenting clear arguments and information based in fact from solid sources.

    •  Steve – I wouldn’t worry about it. I tend to ignore most of what the “_bimmerfile” poster does post on Motoringfile because it is just so wrong. The Motoringfile team that writes the articles (Gabe, Nathaniel, etc.) know what they’re talking about when it comes to MINIs.

    • JonPD

       As a GP and JCW owner has to say I am one of those that adore the GP and consider the JCW to be a sporty car but think the JCW sub brand is really sad if its a attempt to make it the performance brand.  Yes the GP is a JCW but is light years anything MINI has made up to the GP2, my JCW Coupe is decent for sure but is lightyears away from being equal to the GP. I really feel the JCW is a mildly tuned S personally.

      • KingofClubs

        Agreed. Sporty. Looks and sounds sporty, but not in a performance tier.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      It’s called an opinion and I am expressing mine. Read what I wrote- GP is Performance. John_PD shares my opinion so I am not alone. I own an R55. 

      • m8o

        Just because JCW’s are ‘soft’ now’days or doesn’t give us the level of performance differential that BMW’s M division gives us does not == the JCW brand is not Mini’s performance brand.  They’re just choosing to give us less for the more $$$ cuz we’ll still buy it [ I did; I have an ’09 JCW ]. There’s countless “Mini [or BMW] hits record sales/profits” posts on these two sites to support that.

        Ok then.  I was wrong thinking your past statements and re-statements posted in a number of threads’ comments to the effect of “JCW is not a performance brand” was a statements of fact.  Thanx.

  • Vanmini

    The king is dead. long live the king.

    • Brent

      screw them all!  The GP is the original and the rarest of them all!  Long live the original king.   All others, just copies! GP0840, I want to see some roof numbers!!!!!!!!

      • JonPD

        GP0509 for now, likely selling soon sadly

        • ErikR

          GP 0080, keeping when my new GP gets here.  Want to try and get 80 again.

        • Oh no! Why are you selling your GP? If I owned one of those I’d do everything in my power to keep it!

        • JonPD

          Adore the car but basically just out or room and even worse I just have not been driving it much as it deserves. The GP ranks near the very top of cars I have ever driven (including a large list of mouth watering cars), while its not the fastest or best driver the combination of its ability, looks, and  performance. Spent many days second guessing selling it but keep coming back to this.

      • Hatether56

        Agreed!! I would take an R50 “Justa” over the upcoming GP. R56=GAK

  • KingofClubs

    Personally I am excited to see the new GP in the flesh from both a style and performance perspective. I will also eagerly await the reviews comparing the past and the present GP.

    A GP is never going to be in my garage for practical purposes, I have a family.

    I wish the JCW product had a bit more teeth to it, less flash, more substance. I will stick to the S until the JCW offers a better value proposition for my tastes. A JCW Clubman looks the part, but falls short on my expectations behind the wheel and under the hood.

    Out of curiosity and ignorance, how many JCWs were sold the year the R53 GP was released?

  • Bob Hayhurst

    I loved seeing a GP for the first time.  It was distinctive and mean and visceral and I wanted one. Ah, it didn’t happen, but for me, it was the nature of the car that set it apart and aside from all the other MINI models. It wasn’t supposed to be comfortable. It was noisy. It was performance from the factory.  As I recall, it wasn’t to hard to modify a standard JCW/S in the aftermarket to approach the performance that the GP was capable; but you could not get to where the GP was in terms of uniqueness. It was and remains to this day absoloutly special in terms of performance and desirability. 

    Current JCW products seem to be, as JonPD stated, “…mildly tuned S…” cars.  While the performance of JCW brand cars is considerable when compared to other cars within MINI, it is hard to jusitfy the premium money that JCW requires given the performance differential between it and the S.  No such problem over at BMW and M//sport.  The distinction between a 3 series and an M3 is light years apart. An M3 is simply ferocious.  Once again, that is what set GP apart and aside from every other MINI product. It’s sole purpose was performance.  Hopefully, the new GP will have that something special that will make it worthy as a successor.

    • JonPD

       There was a lot of complaints about the stereo for sure in the GP. However I have driven mine a couple of times a long way in long drives to get to events and while its suspension is a little rougher of a ride I think the GP is perfectly comfortable and as for noise  I don’t think its bad at all. I think the little change to the ride and the little gain in noise all worked to make the 2006 GP something incredibly special. I still think that the best analog to how history will look at the 2006 GP is the same way that the E30 M3. You could aftermarket tune a E30 to create something equally quick and handles nearly as well, however no tuned E30 holds a candle now a couple decades later to the E30 M3. Its also not the fastest M3 by any means but holds something special that keeps it in a special place with the scope of time.  I have a new JCW Coupe and do like the car a ton but hands down its no GP. I hope they work it out a couple of big issues that I think plague the current range of JCW cars. The clutch is very odd as the point of engagement is very high on the pedal throw and feels a bit numb to me. The second is a huge issue compared to the GP, I do not like the steering in the new cars much at all. The feel with the sport button on is ok but still feels like a disconnect with the car. Its a little numb and isolationist feeling. With the GP I can kiss a apex time after time with massive precision while the JCW is good its just not great.

      One thing If feel they should address is the sport button. In its current configuration its a similar work to the ///M button, you push it to get the M-cars to feel and drive like a ///M. To me I would software change the sport button for the GP2 and make it an economy button. So in effect you hope into the GP2 and turn the motor over and have a GP under your  foot and the seat of your pants and yet still have the option of making the car more efficient and softer when you want too.

  • i feel that the next gen GP has to have ATLEAST 220hp and closer to 230-250 hp. (and all JCW’s from then on)