Exclusive: MINI to Make the JCW GP a Full Sub-Brand

What if there were something beyond a JCW that came straight from MINI? What if there were a MINI engineered from the beginning to be faster, more extreme and look completely unique from all other MINIs? Then, what if MINI did this with not just one model, but with most of their lineup, one by one, until it became something of its own? Something like JCW but even more special and more rare. Sounds like the JCW GP, doesn’t it? But what about a whole lineup of GPs?

It could be coming sooner than you think. Our sources are indicating that MINI didn’t just approve one new GP, but two. One hardtop. One Coupe. The hardtop-based version will debut at MINI United this May. The Coupe-based GP will follow later in the year. Two GPs is big news, but the real story is that MINI won’t just be creating a GP (or two) every six years. Instead, we believe this signals a major change in how MINI will use the GP name. If our suspicions are correct, we expect MINI will turn the JCW GP into it’s own sub-brand that will be offered much more regularly, and for a wider range of models within the MINI lineup.

When MINI bought the John Cooper Works name in 2008, the idea was to turn it into a BMW M-like sub-brand that offered high-performance, factory-built MINIs engineered in Munich and tested on the ‘Ring. In some ways they’ve succeeded. The JCW has both speed and character, but for several years it simply didn’t feel special. It didn’t look different enough and it came stock with MINI’s softest, least aggressive suspension.

Fast foward to 2012 and most of that has been dealt with. The car looks unique with the JCW aerokit and JCW-only exterior and interior colors and options. Crucially however, three things haven’t been revised: stock suspension, power and weight reduction. These cornerstones of high performance cars were the core tenets that set the 2006 GP apart from its brethren. We believe these three factors will be at the epicenter of the new GP sub-brand that MINI is bringing to market with these two new cars we’ve already seen glimpses of.

Think of the current JCW products as MINI’s version of BMW M’s newly announced “M Performance line” or Audi’s S models. Future JCW GP products would in turn be MINI’s BMW M style product offering (or Audi’s RS models). Built from the ground up to be unique and very performance oriented.

That the first GP existed in the first place was mostly luck. Head of MINI Design, Gert Hildebrand, and MINI boss, Dr. Kay Segler, both championed the car personally. Unfortunately, MINI Plant Oxford did not have the production capacity to handle the GP in the hand-built, bespoke manner in which it was intended. In the end, the MINI GP was made possible by the sales failure of another BMW product. That failure was the BMW C4 enclosed scooter that BMW hoped would revolutionize urban transportation. The production capacity that BMW had bought from Bertone for the C4 was going un-utilized. The workforce was idle, yet still getting paid. Suddenly there was a solution to both problems. Instead of attempting to build the bespoke R53 GP at Oxford, MINI would ship 2000 unfinished cars to Italy where they’d be assembled by hand at Bertone.

Bertone has since shuttered its doors for good. For a new generation of the MINI GP, such events would not conspire again. So MINI has been working to make the 2nd incarnation of the GP more sustainable from a business standpoint. How? The answer is more volume. Unfortunately, volume is contradictory to the very idea of a special edition car. The solution? Instead of increasing the production volume of a single GP, MINI would engineer two GPs simultaneously — one hardtop and one Coupe— then stagger their release. By doing this, MINI can afford to specialize the cars at a level not otherwise possible — a level worthy of the GP name. Adding the Coupe to the GP lineup doesn’t just please fans of the R58, it helps make the second generation GP possible in the first place.

When will we see the Coupe GP? MINI could surprise us and offer both GPs simultaneously. Our expectation is that they will stagger the release of each car, with the R56 going on-sale this Septebmer in Europe, and then October in the US. We believe that the Coupe GP will be previewed around that time, or in early 2013, with sales starting in the spring. That Coupe GP launch timeline, however, is a guess on our part based on what we’ve heard, and an understanding of MINI’s marketing and sales strategy.

The JCW GP. It’s no longer just a single car. Start thinking about it as a brand within MINI — the ultimate expression of what high performance factory MINI can be.

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  • Captain

    Sign me up for the first JCW GP Clubman.  I need 4 seats to make it happen, not too much to ask or will they make the JCW GP Clubman a performance delivery van (or gulp, not at all)?

  • Lee

    They are ruining the brand man!

    Not really I just wanted to be the first to say it. I still want a R53 GP but a coupe would be sweet! It would be great to see MINI with a M type brand.

    • Kurtster

      I want a ///Mini badge.

  • Speedy1

    I love my R53 GPs and I can’t wait for more!!!  My preference is still the hatch…my husband’s torso is a little too long for the coupe…please keep the GP Hatch!!

  • Gene Sanchez

    Reminds me of how Audi works with their RS cars.

  • JonPD

    Well guess my hope is that they leave JCW about where its at a car that walks the line between sport and comfort and develop the GPs with more sport than luxury comfort. Do have to say that I feel the JCW is still a long ways Gabe from the ///M feel.  Imagine a new /M 3 that used a body kit that a 320 driver could throw on their car and a different colored roof to visually separate it from the  standard 3 series. I have hope that if they do sub brand JCW GP that they continue on the form for the prior GP being truly unique in the family,

    • Look for my comment on the gp coupe story from two days ago.

      • JonPD

        Time will tell, but will keep my fingers crossed that this turns out the way I think we all hope. 

  • chad

    i think the near perfect analogous series/parts line is/will be BMW 3 series.   328i (MC), 335i (MCS), 335is (JCW)…as well as OEM after market parts from BMW performance (JCW).   and…GP would be likened to M. this is a bold statement and if MINI can truly bring a product(s) that push the MINI platforms the way M pushes a BMW platform, we are in for something very special. we will see, but this is what gets me excited about all of the GP news.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      Chad- spot on. I think you picked up on the bread crumb trail a while ago.

      We can’t just can’t let the cat out of the bag and expect sources to put their necks out. Once the coupe was “spied” it took them off the hook for the leak.

      Burn a source and you lose them all.

      • chad

        putting together the crumbs is often half of the fun!

  • b-

    I am thinking an aluminum or even a carbon roof for the Coupe would be awesome!  This is good news indeed!

    • Don’t expect it. A carbon reinforced plastic is very pricey and isn’t as effective at reducing mass as you’d expect. On the M3 it only save 12 lbs. There are much better ways for MINI to spend money on the car.

      • Versus

        Thoughts on how you’d like to see them spend it?

        • Engine, suspension, brakes, weight reduction aerokit.

          via mobile

  • Brendon

    Wow, thats amaizing news. Here i was going to leave the mini family but Im thinking ill be getting a GP Coupe now, as long as its as special if not more special then the R53 gp. I hope to one day own a r53 and am extremly envious of those who got their hands on one. 

  • Mark Smith

    Let’s imagine a Higher Output 1.6 Turbo!!!! Lighter weight!!!!! This is Utopian thinking!!!! MINI be like Nike and “Just Do It!!!”

  • Edge

    2,500 GPs?  I thought that only 2,000 R53 GPs were built?  In any case, I welcome this news, provided that each GP model is still a very limited production, because that’s the entire point. I think keeping it to 2,000 units per variant is sufficiently unique to maintain the “specialness”. However, those asking for a 4-seater GP variant, even in a Clubman… I suspect you’re barking up the wrong tree… I predict that every GP variant will be 2 seats only. After all, it’s about saving weight to improve performance, practicality be damned, right? The regular JCW models will still be available for those requiring a bit more “balance”.

    EDIT: I see the number in the post has now been corrected to 2,000. OK, nevermind! 🙂

  • Howsoonisnow1985

     I always thought that the Original GP should have been 225hp, also that it needed an aluminum bonnet and door skins.  If the second incarnation comes hopefully it will have 225hp or more, but not just with ECU tuning but oem go-fast bolt-ons and strengthened internals. And add more lightness via aluminum bonnet, boot and doors like the BMW M3 GT and GT2 Evo.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      What 2500 people are going to pay $60+k for a MINI? The amount of money it costs to change stamping is enormous, that is not happening- especially with the boot. New dies would be needed as well as new supply chain and crash testing.

      The E9X M3 does not even have aluminum doors- Just the hood and CFRP front fenders since the hood needed to be revised to fit the air box and the fenders needed to be widened. The M3 is also $25k more than the base 3 Series and sell in excess of 25000 units over the run so they can offset stamping costs. For example one of the greatest costs with the 1M was the widened rear quarter because of the stampings.  

      The body in white of the GPs is going to be identical to the base models. The aero will be different and there will be bolt ons-removes that are in critical areas. You have to be realistic as these are still street going cars.

      BMW last year introduced the M3 CRT- and it cost €137,000 even if they could do a light weight MINI in similar fashion it would cost $80k and there would be no one to sell it to… for that much money you can get a lot more car. 

      In the future things will change with new models and volume but the RXX MINI is not a platform that is going to be heavily invested in moving forward. They are not going to R&D all new components. The engine work is already done and they can make significant changes that do not break the bank.

      The FXX MINI’s are an avenue that lightweight tech will see more play in. 

  • Edge

    (redundant post, please delete)

  • Aaron

    To be honest, this doesn’t excite me at all. I know I may be in the minority here, but I am getting a bit weary of all the special edition MINIs (eg, the Rolls Royce, the Green Park, the Hyde Park, the Sidewalk…yawn…), and the GP is basically a “special edition” JCW. I don’t see how the demand will sustain for a further, permanent sub-brand for JCW. I don’t mean to be a wet towel here, but this is one of those situations that makes me feel like too much of a good thing is not actually a good thing. Part of what made the GP so special was its very limited run. It’s sort of the ultimate special edition MINI, and as far as I’m concerned, the only one MINI should be bothering with. Churning them out year after year as a special edition rotating through the different MINI models is not something I’m interested in seeing.

    • Captain

      I would like to see GP performance available across the MINI range, limited production or not. I also believe the original GP will stand on its own regardless. Count me as part of the chorus who have lamented the lack of oomph on the JCW, clamoring for a more evolved entry from MINI beyond the window dressing and modest increase in HP over the S the JCW provided for a premium.

      Offerring a limited GP run once every 6 years does not satisfy the demand for a performance oriented MINI. My thought is make the JCW closer to a GP or make more GPs. If MINI chooses the latter and because of covering costs enables more GPs to be produced in the future – I am all for it.

      • BimmerFile_Michael

        You will see more GPs. That is the point. To make more high performance MINIs. The GP moniker has already been established and there is an audience- let the expansion begin (as we have hinted at for months).

        JCW is a glorified sports pack and has been since BMW bought the naming rights- Do I think they knew what to do with it when they bought it- NO. Do I think the have already established the JCW name as a mid level performance descriptor- YES. 

        Has GP and MINI already been established to mean the best performance from the factory- YES. They can now use that to push forward with future high performance (in the scope of the market) products with the GP name with substance behind it. 

  • Herr26

    The Coupe and Countryman are both earmarked for GP status.  The upcoming Countryman Coupe will also be available as a GP. There is no denying the impact these cars would have both with customers and a financial point of view.   We are in the midst of a SUV explosion not only is elite super SUV’s the next big thing, witness Lamborghini and Bentley for that. But also for the other segments. Especially the Compact market. Which is why the Audi RSQ3 will face competition from both the MINI Countryman JCW/GP and BMW’s X1 M35i.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      I welcome this move. It makes sense and has been missing from MINI and the market in general. It will go a long way to reestablishing MINI as a whole and performance intentions. 

      You are spot on with the new influx of SUVs an how they are becoming sportier- The X6 spurred a movement it seems (ironic considering the original X Coupe was shot down!). It is the next niche in the market and BMW/MINI are leading the way.


  • Ballandchain410

    I thought MINI was starting to specialize in stickers and graphics……

  • So, they’re going to take a special, rarified model, and water it down into a brand?  So what is going to happen with regular old JCW now?  Mike Cooper never should have sold his father’s company if this is what it’s going to come down to…

  • Vickt

    If they are coming out with both a Hardtop and a Coupe GP, does that mean the Hardtop might come with a back seat then? Seems a bit redundant to have two dedicated two seaters…

    • All questions have been answered in our previous GP stories. Check them out in the GP section.

      • Vickt

        Thanks for the reply. I did read the article saying it would not have a back seat, but was just wondering if the reveal of the coupe and a whole sub brand with customization would have changed things (like adding it as an option ala GP1 AC). I suppose you’ve stated later of knowing about the coupe and couldn’t leak the info though, when you reported on the r56. At least that will still leave a niche for the JCW as the most upsec you can get without compromising practicality…

        • Yup you got it. Two seats in the small cars four in the R6x variants.

          via mobile

  • m8o

    The quote from Kay Segler in a C&D interview is that “John Cooper Works” is the sub-brand, not ” “John Cooper Works GP”, aka “JCW GP” as is cited in this article’s title.  Time will tell which it actually is or is there an answer for that presently?

    • Yes JCW has been a sub-brand for years. What this article is reporting is that MINI will start a line of JCW GP products that will be the ultimate expression of performance within the MINI brand.

  • R Burns

    2013 too late…

    F56 coming…………