On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
THIS SELECTION of Bob Thatcher cutaways from R&T, May and June 1961, continues my celebration of Formula One’s 2.5-liter era, 1954–1960.
The Ferrari Dino 246, named to honor Enzo’s late son, was significant in several ways. It was introduced in 1958, late in the 2.5-liter years, yet it retained the front-engine orthodoxy of the era’s beginning. Indeed, the 246 was the last front-engine car to win a Formula One race. This was the 1960 Italian Grand Prix, albeit a race boycotted by the Brit mid-engine teams because they feared their cars weren’t up to surviving the bumpy Monza banking. The 246 proved potent enough to take Brit Mike Hawthorn to his 1958 World Drivers’ Championship.
Aston Martin had an impressive run of sports car victories during the mid- to late-1950s, culminating in a Le Mans win and the World Sportscar Championship in 1959. So why not transfer sports car expertise to Formula One? Other manufacturers have had similar ambitions: the 1952 Connaught A Type, the 1955 Bugatti Type 251, and the 1960 Reventlow Scarab described below, to name three. Aston Martin tried twice, the 1959 DBR-4/250 was based on the DB3S sports car, followed a year later by the DBR-5/250. Neither was successful. From then on, Aston Martin concentrated on what it knew best, sports cars.
The heritage of British Racing Motors, BRM, dated back to Raymond Mays’ ERA, as in English Racing Automobiles. BRMs were renowned for wondrous exhaust snarls and unorthodox design, such as the Type 25’s single centrally mounted rear disc brake and the Type 75’s H-16 engine in a later 3.0-liter formula. BRM’s first race car, the Type 15, competed in 1950 and 1951 with little success under the previous Grand Prix formula. The Type 25 had a single GP victory, Jo Bonnier’s win at the 1959 Dutch Grand Prix. Under subsequent 1.5-liter regulations, Graham Hill piloted the P57 in 1962 to the first of his two World Drivers’ Championships. BRM’s final GP win was at Monaco in 1972, Jean-Pierre Beltoise driving a P160B.
John Cooper began race car construction shortly after World War II with English 500-cc Formula Three cars. This 1959 Cooper-Climax helped break the tradition of front engines in Formula One. Indeed, the year before, the Stirling Moss-piloted Cooper won the Argentine GP and another driven by Maurice Trintignant won at Monaco—each car spotting the competition 300 cc in displacement. Cooper remedied this deficiency in 1959 with Coventry Climax’s FPF 2.5-liter in the Cooper T51. Jack Brabham won World Drivers’ Championships, his first two of three, in 1959 and 1960, in Cooper-Climax cars.
Lance Reventlow’s sports cars were highly successful in the late 1950s, but the Scarab F1 came along too late, with too many teething troubles. Like other Scarabs, the F1 was meticulous in its fabrication. However, akin to an Indy roadster in profile, it was one of the front-engine holdouts in 1960, the last season of the 2.5-liter formula. Among competitive cars, only the Ferrari 246 persisted together with the occasional privateer Maserati 250F. And, by mid-season, Ferrari jumped ship by putting the 246P’s engine behind the driver.
A motorsports era was over, in more ways than one. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays, 2017