Giles Cooper Memoir: A Life Well Lived

Flat Out in Poland

Flat Out in Poland

Our dear friend Giles Cooper was remembered in the latest edition of Lotus Notes with a series of memoirs by friends in the community. Please read on, with thanks to everyone who contributed, and Andrew Row for allowing us to share it here.

An Inspiration, by Joe Arico

Giles was one of most positive people I’ve ever met. I got to know him after his Cancer scare and I so admired the way he responded to facing his own mortality.  It was clear he made a decision to live his best life and boy did he live it.  I always joked with him that when I grew up I wanted to be just like him!  So many great adventures that he shared with all of us…made us feel like we were part of his journey.  I found it inspirational, especially the first adventure to Alaska in his Elise.  Never to be repeated again I’m sure!  I loved the way he could organise the seemingly impossible and make it happen!

One occasion I recall was visiting his house when he and Ashton were stripping the Healey in preparation for the Peking to Paris rally.  They were having trouble removing the fasteners that held the doors in place…they were rusted quite badly and covered in God knows how many layers of paint.  I grabbed a hammer and punch and belted the hell out of the screws which then proceeded to come out with minimal effort.  He was suitably impressed but it was my technique that amused him.  Rather than go at it hammer and tongs I would do two small taps and then an almighty one that did all the work.  He asked me why I did it that way and I don’t recall exactly what I answered but the “tap, tap, bang” technique became the running joke whenever immovable fasteners came up in conversation after that.

The Lotus community feels his loss but his memories will live on in his adventure blogs that are so engagingly written and will no doubt  inspire another generation.

Columbia Icefields bus

Columbia Icefields Bus

The World Needs More Gilses, by Anne Blackwood

“I have never met someone with the energy and drive of Giles Cooper.  Maurice and I first met Giles and Janet, I think, at the Tasmanian trip organised by Kerri and Guy Stevens in 2006.  This trip, for me, set the benchmark of how road trips should happen. We had recently bought our Elise and Giles named it “Buttercup” because of her colour and attraction by bees.

Giles and Janet were in “Elsie” their Series 1 Elise.  “Elsie” because there had been minor rear end damage and a new sticker was required.  “Elsie” arrived, via typographical error,  and “Elsie” it was.  Elsie and Giles’ exploits are well documented on his blogs of his worldwide travels.

I caught up with Giles on the Goldie, along with others, within the last year and he was still that upstanding, energetic, raring-to-go spirited creature.  Planning his next adventures.  I also think in a previous life he had been an orchid breeder of considerable repute.

I know Janet and family will miss him.  And so will I.  The world needs more Gileses.”

Giles with the Mackie brothers

Giles with the Mackie brothers

Always Ready to Lend a Helping Hand, by David Mackie

I first “met” Giles on the Aussie Elises forum in 2004 shortly after I bought my Elise. He was quick to inform me that the colour of my car was Titanium, not grey. He was also quick to offer ample advice to a new Elise owner from his wealth of knowledge and experience.

In 2006 on the Lotus tour of Tassie my virtual friendship with Giles became real when I spent a fabulous week with Giles and his wonderful wife Janet driving some of the best and worst roads in the country. Giles always had a story to tell about some place in the world he’d been to or some place he was going to one day. I admired his determination and optimism for trips he was planning and always looked forward to the stories when he returned. I was just amazed by the places he took Elsie and Troopie.

Since then Giles did so much for me, always there to offer help and advice.

Like the time he drove his camper van to Queensland Raceway when Tim was racing there and offered us the van to sleep in while he slept in a tent. The reliable helping hand whenever we raced at Morgan Park. He even found a Series 1 Exige for me in Queensland and helped me secure it before anyone even knew it was for sale.

When we moved to the Gold Coast in 2021, I was excited to become neighbours with Giles and Janet and was looking forward to a few beers and lots of stories. Sadly, he was taken away too early and I never got chance to chat about his trip and adventures around Australia in Clementine.

I will miss Giles greatly, and will always treasure the time I spent with him.

Rest in peace Giles.

Its dusty in an open car. The end of a hard day in the Gobi.

Its dusty in an open car. The end of a hard day in the Gobi.

He Liked a Good Challenge, by Ashton Roskill

Giles was my great friend, co-conspirator, and rally navigator-extraordinaire.

He and I first met at Knockhill circuit outside Crieff, sometime in 2001. We were both running our Elises in a track day. The first of many it turns out.

He was always the most gentle of gregarious sorts, and that day was no exception. By the end we’d discovered that we were both planning to move to Australia, and stayed in touch during the planning.

As it turned out, the original plan to share a container didn’t work out as he and Janet were going to Perth, me to Sydney. But that in itself resulted in us forming Aussie Elises once we landed in Oz. So we could keep in touch.

Which we did, a lot. In between his madcap adventures, first in his beloved Elsie, then later in Troopie.

It was as he was returning from his American and European Troopie adventure that I suggested the idea of doing Peking to Paris.

He couldn’t say yes fast enough.

And so began another adventure, one that I like to think he rated among his great challenges and achievements.

And he liked a good challenge.

Like preparing my Austin Healey 100 for the rigours of the rally. Gidget, as she was christened, took over his life for two years. Just ask Janet (thank you Janet for your patience).

And I didn’t make it easier by turning up for random weekends to “help”.

But his amazing attention to detail and organisation bordering on fastidious was exactly what was required for that event.

And frankly what got us to Paris in one piece.

Choose best route in Gobi

Choose best route in Gobi

On our return, he still had itchy feet but this was overlaid by a desire to rebuild cars, following the success with Gidget. So Clementine came to be his latest, and sadly last, challenge, culminating in his last adventure of a (sadly incomplete) circumnavigation of Australia.

So farewell my lovely friend. We will miss your dry sense of humour, impeccable manners, wonderful stories, great organisational ability, and above all, wonderful friendship.

I’m honoured to call you a friend, and even more so that I got to spend so much time with you. I’m just sad that you were taken too soon, before we had completed some more adventures.

Gods speed, and keep a place in the garage in the sky for when we meet again.

Elsie at Cradle Mountain

Nothing Stopped Him, by Geoff Noble

Giles was an engaging and charming person to be around, but he was also a cheeky bugger and loved a good pisstake. If you were in an Elise and had the roof up, you were sure to be taunted and shamed until that roof was down, no matter what the weather.

Giles, Rob Stevens and myself, drove to Wakefield Park in 2006 for a CLA driver training day and the opportunity to meet many of the members of Aussie Elises in person. Rob and I couldn’t get the fuel mileage that Giles could, so there he was, chortling with delight at “those gas guzzling S2’s” when we needed to stop and he didn’t!  It was much later that we understood the different gearing between the S1 and S2, with the S1 being taller when in 5th gear.  I’m sure Giles knew – he just neglected to mention it.

Also in 06, Giles talked me into competing in the “Dutton Rally”, which was a series of speed events held over a long weekend – sprints, drag races, hillclimb and autocrosses etc. Always a keen student of the time sheets (a more competitive man would be hard to find!), he was quick to enquire “oh Geoff, what happened there?” when he had posted a faster time on one of the events.

Both of us had competed in Formula Ford in the 80’s – Giles stayed on bit longer and one year came up with a plan to run in the support categories at the Australian Grand Prix (then in Adelaide). The event was sponsored by Fosters Brewing, so Giles approached a competitor in XXXX and they agreed to support him at the event. You can just see Giles and the XXXX marketing manager giggling with delight at the prospect…

Or there was the time Giles had his eye on both the class record and the Qld State Championship in the 1600 – 2000 Sports Car Class at Mt Cotton Hillclimb. Under CAMS rules as it was back then, State Championship eligible vehicles must have a Log Book, meaning approved Roll Cage and other things. Elises are difficult to retrofit with such items and Giles didn’t want to detract from the originality of ‘Elsie’. So, ever the thorough researcher of everything he did, he discovered a quirk in the rules, whereby it was possible to obtain a Log Book with ‘non compliant roll over protection’. This he duly did and presented his car to scrutineering with said document. The organisers were not amused, but realised that he had effectively snookered then and allowed him to compete. Giles got his State Championship and the class record – nothing stopped him when he set himself a goal.

Ashton Roskill christened Giles “Mr Toad”, because he always behind the wheel – I remember towing my car to Melbourne on Giles’ trailer (especially modified by the manufacturer to Giles’ thoroughly researched specs). Giles had to go to Sydney around the same time – ‘you can come with me, I’ll drop you in Sydney’ – “no, I’ll drive Elsie down”. And so he did – we travelled together on that trip, me towing, and Giles with the roof down all the way.

There’s so much more, but yeah, never forgotten, and a massive lesson for all of us to get out there.

Elise Adelaide run 2005

Elise Adelaide Run 2005

He Left Nothing in the Tank, by Daryl Wilson

Strange I cannot remember the first time I met Giles Cooper; it must have been sometime between late 2005 and late 2010 at an LCQ social or motor sport event. Giles was competing in the Queensland Hillclimb championship during that time in his Lotus Elise which he called Elsie. I believe Giles won his class in the Queensland Hillclimb Championship, but I cannot remember what year. Geoff Noble knows more about Giles motor sport activities and I believe he will also be writing an article about Giles.

In October 2010 my wife Moira and I did a trip to the USA West Coast where I met up with some Golden Gate Lotus Club members in San Fransico. The Golden Gate Lotus guys took me to an Autocross event they were running in a large open air car park just south of San Francisco. I was impressed and felt this was an ideal event that LCQ should look to run as a relatively safe entry level competition motorsport event.

I raised this idea at the next LCQ meeting and soon teamed up with Giles to investigate options as to how and where we could run such an event. Giles had run these types of events when he lived in Perth and was very keen to be involved.

Giles and I sought advice from many people such as Keith Butcher (since passed) then President of the Holden Sporting Car Club on possible venues and timing equipment. HSCC were running motorkhanas at Willowbank Raceway behind the dragstrip and Keith was very helpful and encouraging.

We met with Mt Cotton Training Centre management, but they were reluctant to have car clubs due to noise issues with the neighbours! I cannot remember all the places we visited or considered, but it was proving difficult to find a suitable venue.

At a chance meeting with John Tetley at Lakeside Raceway, John mentioned why not use the Lakeside Driver Training Centre track and that he would lend us their Alge Timy Timing equipment to run events. We had not been aware of the Lakeside DTC track until then and on inspection it was ideal venue.

Once we had found the Lakeside DTC venue and the offer of Timing equipment the LCQ committee agreed it was then full steam ahead to organise how and when we were going to run the events.

Giles said we would need some Staging Lights, so we could control the cars, so he set about building the first set of Staging Lights using timber poles and green and red navigation lights he bought from a boating shop.

Long story short with help from many other LCQ members the first LCQ Lakeside DTC event was run on Saturday 23 August 2011 with 34 competitors, see article by Dick Reynolds –

LCQ have been successfully running Lakeside DTC events each year since and the event is still popular in 2023 thanks largely to Giles support and drive to make the event happen.

Dusty Arctic Circle

Dusty Arctic Circle

Giles then moved on to planning his next adventure a trip in his Lotus Elise to Alaska and the Arctic Circle. Giles shipped his Lotus Elsie to Los Angeles and then drove by himself to Alaska and the Arctic Circle. I cannot believe he managed to do this trip with only a small tent and what he could fit in his tiny Lotus Elise.

As with everything Giles did he meticulously planned this trip and made modifications to the Elise to fit the essentials in any small space he could find. Giles being an ex-school teacher was keen to document the trip and share his experiences with others. I am happy to claim a small part in helping Giles to set up his first blog, so he could document the full details of the trip.

Perhaps the biggest challenge Giles undertook was when he and long-time friend Ashton Roskill decided to do the 2019 Peking to Paris Rally. Ashton had a 1954 Austin Healey 100/4 which he thought was in reasonable condition and would not take much work to prepare for the event, WRONG !!!

Once the vehicle was delivered to Giles home on the Gold Coast is soon became clear that the vehicle was in need of some extensive, modifications repairs and maintenance.

Over the next year or so Giles worked nonstop to get the Austin Healey ready to be shipped to China for the start of the Peking to Paris on 02 June 2019.

You can read the full story on Giles blog –

Giles went on to do several other trips and wrote extensive blogs for each of these trips – see the list below.

Unfortunately, this blog will never be finished and Giles will not complete this trip as he passed away on the 23 August 2023 south of Perth on his way to Melbourne.

There are many more stories about Giles and several others will be also writing articles so hopefully you will get to read some of the exciting things Giles did in his life.

Moira and I are pleased to be able to count Giles and his wife Janet as our friends and we have enjoyed many happy times together over the years.

RIP our friend Giles Cooper a life well lived and you left nothing in the tank.

2023 A Lap of Australia

Some travels in Australia

2016 Toyota across Iceland & Canada

2015 Toyota in Europe & Africa

2014 Toyota Alaska to Ushuaia

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