||Vanwall 1957 GP
||Bore X Stroke:
||96 X 86 mm
||285 bhp at
tubular frame with unstressed engine, 5 speed gearbox, Borrani
wire spoke 16"
Since the end of
World War II Formula 1, except for a brief period when Mercedes-Benz competed, has been
dominated by a sea of Italian red. You had to drive an Alfa Romeo, Maserati or Ferrari if
you were to have any hope of winning. The British Racing Motors V16 project, which was
ruled by committee that included Oliver Lucas and Alfred Owen, was
floundering. Tony Vandervell, the "ThinWall" bearing
magnate was one of its early supporters. But he soon found himself tiring of the constant
delays, brought about by infighting and red tape. He abruptly quit the project and chose
to embark on his own course. His first step was to purchase some race cars from Ferrari
which he christened the "ThinWall Specials". Being the prudent buyer he had his
engineers strip down the cars whereupon it was noticed that many of the parts appeared
worn. After some heated correspondence with Enzo Ferrari the situation was never
duplicated. These heavily modified Ferrari's soon dominated British Formula Libre events.
The experience from running these cars would soon be used against bigger fish.
The next step for the new team would be in Formula 2 where he had a custom
designed engine fitted to a Cooper built spaceframe chassis. These cars became the test
bed for what ultimately would be a full scale Formula 1 team.
The first true Formula 1 Vanwall was
designed by Cooper's resident designer, Owen Maddock but would be built in-house. The
engine was based on a Norton design. Progress was slow and the team's transport driver
suggested to the team manager that he had a friend who might be able to lend a hand. That
friend's name was Colin Chapman. Derek Wootton, the driver, called his friend and said
"Here Col ... you ought to come down to Acton - old man Vandervell needs help with
his chassis" Chapman who was just starting his business and who up to that time
worked only with sports cars jumped at the chance to work on a real Formula 1 car. On
visiting the workshop he was looking over the car when "the old man" happened by
and asked Chapman what he thought of the car. After Chapman answered it was clear to
Vandervell that nothing short of starting over would appease the young engineer. Showing
the decisiveness that had made him millions, he authorized Chapman to start a new design.
For the body Chapman recommended an up and coming aerodynamicist named Frank Costin.
Chapman's spaceframe design weighed in at 87.5 lbs. Up to that time the
Italians had relied on the ancient ladder-based tubular design for
their chassis. The theory behind a spaceframe was that each component
tube was either under tension or compression and never under bending.
A stiffer frame was possible allowing softer springs which offered
An important aspect of this car was
that unlike BRM, Vandervell would use only the best components regardless of which country
they originated in. The Costin designed body was striking in its teardrop shape and under
body treatment. The Vanwall's low-drag shape was needed in negating its
high frontal area. It's wide body results from the side tanks used as
part of a three tank arrangement. It's height, another striking
feature was 3 3/4 feet tall. Later in it's life Vanwall even tried a
canopy for the car at Monza but the racket inside was unbearable to
the driver and it was abandoned.
The car proved fast out of the box but suffered reliability
problems and high-speed handling was suspect. For
1957 Vandervell had two goals, improve reliability and hire the best drivers available -
preferably British. The rear suspension was replaced with what would become known as a
Chapman strut while the dampers were replaced with German units. Stirling Moss was
available and a test was set up so that he could compare the leading British cars
including a BRM, Connaught and Vanwall. He found the Vanwall to have the best potential
and was promptly signed along with another driver who had made a name for himself driving
the Connaught to victory at Syracuse, Tony Brooks. Stuart Lewis-Evens was eventually
signed as the third driver. After more reliability problems victory was gained, fittingly
at the British Grand Prix. At the Italian Grand Prix the Vanwalls qualified 1-2-3 with
Moss scoring a victory on the Italians home ground. 1958 saw Moss in a Vanwall battle the
Ferrari of Hawthorn for the World Championship. In the end he lost the title to Hawthorn
by one point though he had won more races at 4 to Hawthorn's 1. As consolation Vanwall won
the constructor's championship only to suffer tragically when Lewis-Evens crashed and died
at the last race. Vandervell was heart-broken at the moment of Britain's greatest triumph.
Facing mounting costs and poor health Vandervell decided to end Vanwall full-time racing
operation at the end of the year. Even though its history was short lived the door was now
open for other British constructors to challenge and beat the best of the continental
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