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I’M ESPECIALLY enamored of Formula One cars of the 2.5-liter formula, 1954–1960. At first, Juan Manuel Fangio dominated the field while piloting front-engine race cars to four consecutive Driver’s World Driving Championships, 1954-1957, of his total five. (Fangio’s first was in 1951 during the previous formula.) The 2.5-liter era ended with emergence of mid-engine race cars, their heritage traceable to British 500-cc Formula Three designs. By 1960, front-engine Formula One cars were quaintly traditional, and unsuccessful.
In May and June, 1961, R&T published a series of cutaways of 2.5-liter Formula One cars by a talented artist named Bob Thatcher. (The only other example of his artistry I could find on the Internet is a cutaway of a 1959 Challenger 1 world speed record car.)
Here’s the first of a two-part selection of Thatcher’s art in R&T, shared in the cars’ chronological order with references to earlier SimanaitisSays citations.
Mercedes-Benz returned to Grand Prix racing in 1954 with a design rich in innovation. The W196 featured a straight-eight, its power output taken between cylinders four and five to minimize crankshaft deflection, the engine canted for optimal aero. Desmodromic actuation of its double-overhead-camshaft valves minimized float. Juan Fangio won his second and third World Drivers’ Championships in W196s. One of Fangio’s cars sold for $29.7 million in 2013.
Squalo is Italian for shark, but the 555 Super Squalo was one of the least successful of Scuderia Ferrari designs. Mid-season, Italian competitor Lancia dropped out of Formula One and gave Ferrari its D50 grand prix cars, which proved in time to be winners.
Not one to leave well enough alone, Ferrari modified the Vittorio Jano-designed D50 for 1956. Its pontoon-like side-mounted fuel tanks continued as its most notable feature. Juan Fangio won the 1956 World Drivers’ Championship in a Lancia/Ferrari D50. By 1957, he returned to Maserati for the last of his five championships.
Amédée Gordini was the underdog of the era’s Formula One. However, this impecunious French team owner exhibited ambition and elan in the design of his cars. The 1956 Type 32 had evolved far from Gordini’s production-Simca based roots. It had a double-overhead-cam straight-eight of his own design, an artful octuple of exhaust pipes being only one of its innovations. Suspension by Watt’s links and torsion bars was another, as were its inboard-mounted rear disc brakes.
The Vanwall has a special place in the hearts of British racing enthusiasts: In the 1957 British Grand Prix, held that year at the Aintree circuit, Stirling Moss took over the car piloted by Tony Brooks (allowed in those days) and stormed through the field to the checkered flag. This was the first Grand Prix win for a British driver in a British car since 1923. The year 1958 was even better for the Brits: Vanwall took the International Cup for F1 Manufacturers.
Tomorrow, we’ll continue with five more of Bob Thatcher’s fascinating cutaways, concluding with one that looked back over the era, the other to the future. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017