Once upon a time, any­thing went in the realms of top-flight mo­tor rac­ing. This month, Michael looks back at some of the cra­zier cre­ations

New Zealand Classic Car - - Motorsport Flashback - Six wheels on my wagon — Tyrell’s F1 odd­ity Yu­nick’s od­dball racer as it is to­day

t can’t hap­pen any more — 50 years ago, as For­mula 1 (F1) was ready­ing it­self for the ‘re­turn to power’ when the max­i­mum ca­pac­ity would in­crease from 1500cc to three litres, the en­gine could be any con­fig­u­ra­tion the en­gi­neers came up with. Fer­rari, not sur­pris­ingly, had a V12 good to go, as did Maserati, and then Honda. There was also the prom­ise of a V12 Wes­lake for Dan Gur­ney’s Ea­gle — un­til then, the Amer­i­can was go­ing to get by with a 2.8-litre straight-four. Fer­rari also had its 2.4-litre V6, while Repco was ahead with fol­low­ing the V8 route, and Cli­max bored out its V8 1.5-litre en­gine, as did BRM. How­ever, the last-named had some­thing even more tech­ni­cally in­ter­est­ing than the sim­plic­ity of a mere V8.

And here’s the key — the true mo­tor­ing mav­er­ick who went down the tech­ni­cally in­ter­est­ing path pre­sum­ably knew that his­tory had shown it was al­most cer­tainly head­ing for disas­ter, but went there any­way. BRM had done it all be­fore — in fact ‘tech­ni­cally in­ter­est­ing’ was at the very root of its ex­is­tence when, in 1947, it gave the world a 1.5-litre su­per­charged V16 — an en­gine that it promised would pro­duce prodi­gious power. Mind you, BRM never stopped to con­sider where the tyres were go­ing to come from to trans­mit that power to the track, as­sum­ing the en­gine ever ran long enough to be a con­cern — which it rarely did. So, in an ex­am­ple of mo­tor-sport am­ne­sia, BRM for­got that two lots of eight had once been a recipe for fail­ure and ridicule, and con­nected a pair of its beau­ti­ful 1.5-litre V8s to come up with the H16.

It can’t hap­pen any more

When F1 ditched tur­bos at the end of 1988, the lead­ing con­tenders for the 1989 world cham­pi­onship com­prised Fer­rari’s in­evitable V12, Mclaren and Wil­liams with V10s

( Honda and Re­nault, re­spec­tively), and the V8 Ford­pow­ered Benet­ton. They all seemed to have their own song — at the sea­son fi­nale at Ade­laide, I watched Fri­day prac­tice from the se­cond- gear Stag Ho­tel cor­ner as they blasted up through the gears. I could close my eyes and not only dif­fer­en­ti­ate an eight from a 10 and a 12, but a Judd V8 from a Ford V8 — and, while the Fer­rari was pre­dictably sen­sa­tional, noth­ing made your ear­wax dance like the Lola’s Lam­borgh­ini V12.

To­day, a For­mula en­gine is a 1600cc V6 — that’s it, no other vari­a­tions such as straight-fours or flat- eights. The od­dball fac­tor can’t ex­ist.

As an aside, in the ’50s, Fer­rari pro­duced a 2.5-litre V-twin — it never raced, but it did such a job on the test rig that the de­signer was look­ing for a new gig that af­ter­noon. Still, the point is that it was pos­si­ble.

Then there’s an­other thing — an F1 car must now have four wheels — so no more crazi­ness of hav­ing half a dozen of them as tried by Tyrrell, March, and Wil­liams.

Mav­er­ick rac­ing

Can-am was a won­der­ful bas­tion of ‘mav­er­ick­ness’ — if you wanted od­dball, there was the tiny-wheeled AVS Shadow, the high-winged Cha­parrals, and, later, the in­fa­mous ‘sucker car’. How­ever, all th­ese looked pos­i­tively sane com­pared with the Macs IT Spe­cial with its four two-stroke en­gines. Tech­ni­cally in­ter­est­ing? Check. Suc­cess­ful? Hardly.

The Bi­mo­tore

Be­fore the edi­to­rial desk asks ‘Yes this is all tech­ni­cally in­ter­est­ing, but where’s the Kiwi con­nec­tion?’, we can­not leave the arena of odd­i­ties with­out men­tion of my favourite, the twin-en­gine Alfa Romeo. It was al­ready my fave (well, it is an Alfa …) long be­fore my close en­counter with it at the Don­ing­ton mu­seum in Septem­ber 2003.

Two Bi­mo­tores were built — one with a pair of 2.9-litre units, and the other with a cou­ple of 3.15-litre en­gines. The idea was hatched early in 1935, and by April 1 was be­ing tested by Tazio Nu­volari. As Stein would learn 30 years later, the weight of two en­gines was a killer com­bined with what the Bi­mo­tore was do­ing to its nar­row tyres.

In­trigu­ingly, the Bi­mo­tore’s best re­sult came not with Nu­volari at the wheel but Moné­gasque Louis Ch­i­ron, who ran se­cond to the Mercedes of Luigi Fa­gi­oli on the daft ‘twin-dragstrip’ AVUS cir­cuit. That was in late May, and, shortly af­ter­wards, the folly of the Alfa od­dball was clearly ob­vi­ous; the Bi­mo­tore was aban­doned, and, on July 28, Nu­volari was back in a ven­er­a­ble Tipo B for the Ger­man Grand Prix (GP) at the Nür­bur­gring, a race that ex­pected to high­light the might of Ger­man ma­chin­ery and driv­ers. The two pre­vi­ous rounds of the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship had gone to Mercedes pi­lots, and now in western Ger­many, it was sim­ply a mat­ter of which of the nine Ger­man cars would emerge vic­to­ri­ous, and, of course, a short man with a funny mous­tache was tak­ing a keen in­ter­est in the re­sult of this race and ex­pect­ing the Ger­man driv­ers to up­hold Nazi hon­our.

So, bring­ing us back to odd­i­ties and New Zealand — a Bi­mo­tore was brought here by John Mcmil­lian, who had won the first New Zealand GP at Ohakea in 1950. He’d been run­ning a sis­ter P3 to the Ger­man GP/ Nu­volari car and, in an ar­range­ment that seems some­what el­e­gant all th­ese years later, ended up with an­other Alfa en­gine for his P3. He then passed the rest onto ar­guably our first mo­tor-rac­ing leg­end, Ge­orge Smith of Geeceeess Spe­cial fame.

Smith in­stalled his Chrysler V8 into the front en­gine bay of the Bi­mo­tore’s chas­sis, but even­tu­ally gave up on the cum­ber­some beast. As hap­pens, the car — now an A truly wacky racer — Smokey Yu­nick looks on as Bobby Johns tries out the Hurst Floor Shifter Spe­cial in 1964

An al­leged 300,000 spectators watched as Mercedes’ main man, Ru­dolf Carac­ci­ola, led ini­tially, but soon the rain came, and it be­came ev­i­dent that Nu­volari hadn’t read the script — he was up to se­cond go­ing into the fi­nal lap. The driver of the lead­ing Mercedes ig­nored team or­ders to stop for a tyre change, and one burst as Nu­volari flashed past for an im­prob­a­ble vic­tory — cer­tainly his most fa­mous and prob­a­bly most sat­is­fy­ing. un­com­pet­i­tive old tank — drifted around the coun­try un­til rest­ing for a while in the South Is­land.

I didn’t ac­tu­ally see this car in the Don­ing­ton mu­seum — I hap­pened to walk­ing past a door­way on a Wed­nes­day just be­fore lunch when I spied a cou­ple of lads strug­gling to push it onto a trailer bound for the Good­wood Re­vival the fol­low­ing week­end. Time had not light­ened the car and, with the help of a Kiwi who had locked the odd scrum in his time, we got her loaded. From the time Ge­orge Corn­wall Smith had dis­pensed with it, un­til that day at Don­ing­ton, it is fair to say the car’s value had grown a bit.

José Froilán González wres­tles with BRM’S fear­some V16 The Don­ing­ton Bi­mo­tore on dis­play

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