OF THE FIFTIES

Motor Sport News - - Monsters: 1950s Cars - Pho­tos: LAT Ar­chive

mid-range torque weak and, per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, the sus­pen­sion and chas­sis were not ca­pa­ble of deal­ing with the im­mense power. Its com­pli­cated steer­ing link­age also led to poor feel.

In Stir­ling Moss: My Cars, My Ca­reer (writ­ten with Doug Nye, ISBN: 9780850599251), he wrote: “When it was run­ning on song it was fan­tas­ti­cally pow­er­ful and far and away the fastest thing I had yet driven, but they ex­pended all their en­ergy per­suad­ing the en­gine to keep run­ning and hardly any on mak­ing the chas­sis han­dle.

“The car needed steer­ing all the time, even on the straights. It felt un­sta­ble and alarm­ing.”

Even to­day, Moss con­sid­ers it the worst car he ever drove: “A cen­trifu­gal blower is not ben­e­fi­cial for rac­ing and the front wheels would flap.”

The choice of a cen­trifu­gal su­per­charger, as used in air­craft, rather than Roots-type su­per­charg­ers as em­ployed by most other rac­ing car man­u­fac­tur­ers, meant the power kept go­ing up and up as revs in­creased. The BRM thus lacked the mid-range torque of its main ri­vals and suf­fered from colos­sal wheel­spin on the nar­row tyres.

En­gine breath­ing also failed to match the su­per­charger per­for­mance, adding to the poor mid-range torque. It also helped ex­plain why an en­gine the­o­ret­i­cally ca­pa­ble of 600bhp achieved more like 485bhp once ac­tu­ally on-track.

Moss only raced it once – on the de­mand­ing Dun­drod road course – with reign­ing world cham­pion Juan Manuel Fan­gio as his team-mate. By the end of lap two, Moss’s BRM was over­heat­ing and the gear lever knob had come off in his hand.

Af­ter re­tir­ing from the race, Moss walked away from the pro­ject, but in­ter­na­tional mo­tor­sport changes were even more im­por­tant.

When BRM scratched its Turin GP en­try in early 1952 – in or­der to al­low Fan­gio to test the car – the firm also con­trib­uted to the drop­ping of For­mula 1 from the World Cham­pi­onship. With Alfa Romeo al­ready hav­ing with­drawn and BRM ap­par­ently in­ca­pable of pro­vid­ing Fer­rari with any op­po­si­tion, the de­ci­sion was made to make For­mula 2 the World Cham­pi­onship cat­e­gory for 1952-’53. The V16’s rai­son d’etre had gone, but still BRM pressed on in F1 and For­mula Li­bre events.

“They got the money later and I think when they re­alised how bad it was, they changed it,” re­calls Moss.

Al­fred Owen bought the ail­ing con­cern and grad­u­ally the car’s grem­lins were ad­dressed. The team might even have beaten Fer­rari in the non-cham­pi­onship 1953 Albi GP had the V16s not started throw­ing treads as they topped more than 180mph.

Suc­cess in For­mula Li­bre races did come be­tween 1953 and 1955 and there was even a lighter, smaller Mk2 vari­ant.

But by then it was way too late. The V16’s main con­tri­bu­tion to Bri­tish GP ef­forts, apart from pro­vid­ing ar­guably the great­est-sound­ing rac­ing en­gine ever, was to show how not to do it. Tony Van­dervell, who had ini­tial in­volve­ment with the pro­ject, ended up rac­ing his Fer­rari-based Thin­wall Spe­cials against the im­proved BRMS. From there, he moved into GP rac­ing with Van­wall, which went on to beat Fer­rari to the in­au­gu­ral F1 con­struc­tors’ crown in 1958.

By that time, BRM was run­ning the much sim­pler P25. And was still wait­ing for its first world cham­pi­onship race win…

Maserati fought Fer­rari for world sportscar ti­tle Moss and Fan­gio starred in the ‘un­lucky’ Maserati sportscar

The BRMTYPE 15 ran a huge en­gine

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