BRITISH Racing Motors (BRM), the historic F1 team with whom legends such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Graham Hill, Sir Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda raced, will celebrate its 70th birthday by constructing three 16-cylinder racing cars based on the legendary Type 15 Mk1 BRM V16.
The Type 15, whose V16 engine noise is remembered as one of motor sport’s best — so loud it was said to distract other drivers — raced in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and was intended as a competitor to the German and Italian models that had dominated motor sport before World War Two.
Fitted with two-stage centrifugal superchargers from Rolls-Royce, it was significantly more powerful than any of its contemporaries, able by the end of its development to put out nearly 600bhp at 12,000rpm. This amount of power did, however, lead to difficulties with engine development, and unreliability meant that the Type 15 never really reached the soaring heights it was expected to achieve.
Fangio said of it: “The BRM was really difficult to get off the line because below around 7,000rpm there seemed to be no power at all, but at 7,200rpm there was so much power and torque it was unbelievable.”
It did, however, win the Woodcote Cup at Goodwood in September 1950, driven by Reg Parnell.
The first edition of the three new Type 15s being made will be delivered to John Owen, 81, the son of former BRM team principal Sir Alfred Owen, who took over the team in the early 1950s. He was just 10 when he first heard the sound of the V16, and the reconstruction of the engine and car is the fulfilment of his childhood dream.
“Watching the likes of the Pampas Bull [José Froilán González] and, in particular, Fangio, master the power of the V16 was very special”, said Owen. “And the fabulous noise of the engine still rings in my ears 70 years on.”
“In a selfish way, I have always dreamed of hearing that sound again.”
The other two Type 15s are available for purchase on application (a phrase that tends to be synonymous with an astronomical price tag). There is only one extant example of the original Type 15 left and according to BRM its value means that it is destined to remain a “cherished museum piece”. The continuation models are being constructed to FIA standards, meaning that they can take part in official historic racing events.
The units are being constructed by automotive restoration specialists Hall and Hall, using an archive of around 20,000 drawings supplied by BRM as reference to manufacture every piece of the Type 15 in “forensically authentic” detail. The archive has been described by racing historian Doug Nye as “probably the finest archive in British motor sport”.
Hall and Hall’s founder, Rick Hall, was part of the BRM team in the early 1970s, and has half a century of experience working with BRM models. The new units will use chassis numbers put aside by BRM for the Type 15 in 1950, but never made due to a change in Formula One regulations.
Construction of the models is already underway at Hall and Hall’s premises in Lincolnshire, and on-track demonstrations are scheduled to take place to celebrate BRM’s 70th anniversary next year.