Tag Archives: Betherton

VSCC University – VSCC Prescott Speed Hillclimb

Apologies to all for the absence of any blogs over the last week, unfortunately this was unavoidable after a moment of absent mindedness. Over the weekend I popped over to Prescott with regular GALPOT contributer Tim for the VSCC Speed Hillclimb.

Ceirano S, VSCC Prescott

As ever the days education started in the car park where among several manufacturers, brands and models I’d not heard of before was this 1925 Ceirano built in Turin by SCAT (Societa Ceirano Automobili Torino) some years after founder Giovanni Ceirano, a prime mover behind the formation of FIAT in 1903, had died. Ceirano cars are best known for winning back to back victories in the Mille Miglia in 1911 and 1912.

Vauxhall Prince Henry, VSCC Prescott

The paddock was of course equally full of unusual delights above the nose of a Roland Duce’s 1913 Vauxhall Prince Henry.

Lees, Vauxhall Viper Special, VSCC Prescott

Another 1913 Vauxhall was Tony Lees Vauxhall Viper Special powered by a 200hp, 12 litre/732 cui Wolseley Viper aircraft motor of the type more usually found in late versions of the Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a and Avro 522.

Scaldwell, GN/JAP Grand Prix, VSCC Prescott

Among the fastest ladies present was Anne Scaldwell driving the GN JAP Grand Prix which was featured on this blog a couple of years ago.

Collings, Mercedes Simplex 60 HP, VSCC Prescott

Another familiar car was Ben Collings 1903 Mercedes Simplex 60hp.

Martin, Morgan Special, VSCC Prescott

Displaying maximum attack skills on the hill, what ever the conditions, was Charlie Martin in the fabric bodied Morgan Special entered by CJ Maeers.

Cobden, Riley Falcon Special, VSCC Prescott

Robert Cobden seen above driving the Riley Falcon Special did well to keep his car on the road after executing an unintentional 180° spin coming out of the Pardon hairpin.

Hulbert, ERA 4D, VSCC Prescott

Fastest time of the day was keenly contested with Mac Hulbert taking the honours and The Mays-Berthon Trophy 0.36 seconds from James Baxter, both driving ERA’s. Mac is seen in the 1938 ERA R4D which appropriately enough way not only conceived by Raymond Mays and Peter Peter Berthon but also driven to many post war hill climb victories by Mays.

Grafton, VSCC Prescott

On the way back through the car park we stumbled across the JAP powered Grafton cycle car, the vehicle was built by Tim Gunn, seen on the left, of the Gunn Cyclecar Co in 2001 using a timber frame and an assortment of vintage parts.

Thanks for joining me on this “VSCC University” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for Americana Thursday. Don’t forget to come back now !


British World Beater – BRM V16 Type 15 No. 1

After the on track success and commercial failure of his pre war English Racing Automobiles project and as the 1939-45 war drew to a close Raymond Mays returned to thoughts about how to build a British World Beater to compete in the highest form of motorsport.

BRM V16 P15 Mk 1, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

The saga that ensued was an object lesson in how not to go motor racing which began 2nd March 1945 when Raymond Mays announced an appeal to form a cooperative to design, build and race a national Grand Prix car.

BRM V16 P15 Mk 1, BRM Day, Bourne

Mays used his natural charm and reputation as a successful racing driver to attract over one hundred interested parties mostly from the motor industry and associated suppliers who were to contribute to the scheme with cash and or in kind.

BRM V16 P15 Mk 1, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Part of the problem with this way of working is that there were two many cooks, successful heads of industry, who in the kitchen that became known as the British Motor Racing Research Trust. As a result everything concerning the production of parts, running of the project and finances was done by committee. Note disc brakes did not appear on the BRM V16’s until 1952.

BRM V16 P15 Mk 1, BRM Day, Bourne

With more PR people, than mechanics, working for companies desperate to be associated with the project in order to drum up orders on the world stage the first of the new cars was completed at Bourne in 1949 and even given a run in the dead of night through the sleepy market hamlet of Bourne, Lincolnshire where it was built. Against May’s better judgement the car was shown to an eager audience of the Press on the 15th of December 1949.

BRM V16 P15 Mk 1, Goodwood Festival Of Speed

The concept for the car including the engine is credited to Raymond Mays collaborator at ERA Peter Betherton. Betherton’s choice of 1.5 litre V16 architecture with the two banks of cylinders inclined at 135° seems to have been inspired by the pre war unraced prototype Alfa Romeo Tipo 162 designed by Wifredo Ricart which was said to produce 490 hp.

BRM V16 P15 Mk 1, BRM Day, Bourne

BRM’s V16 was in essence two V8’s with a drive taken from the crankshaft between the two halves. Fatally the car was supercharged by an aircraft type centrifugal supercharger developed by Rolls Royce. The problem with this type of supercharger is that it gives great power, for aircraft operating continuously at a high rev range BUT it is almost unmanageable in a racing car application where smooth power band is required from low revs. The BRM V16 is said to have produced 550 hp at 12,000 unforgettable ear splitting RPM, see 8m 22s into this clip turn your volume up loud !

BRM V16 P15 Mk 1, BRM Day, Bourne

The gearbox for the car was a copy from Mercedes Benz blueprints obtained as ‘war reparations’ of the type used on their pre war Grand Prix dominating cars.

BRM V16 P15 Mk 1, BRM Day, Bourne

The V16 BRM’s were supposed to make their debut at the 1950 British Grand Prix however they were still far from ready and instead one car did a couple of demonstration laps in front of future Queen Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip.

BRM V16 P15 Mk 1, Goodwood Festival Of Speed

When the V16 did make it’s debut in the hands of Raymond Sommer it arrived at 9:40 am on the morning of the 1950 non championship Daily Express Trophy after an all night engine rebuild at Bourne. The car had been flown at the race organisers expense twixt factory and circuit where Sommer needed to complete 3 quick laps before 10 am in order to be given dispensation to start from the back of the grid.

BRM V16 P15 Mk 1, National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

Come the race and an expectant crowd who had been given a souvenir pamphlet on the new British wonder when the flag dropped the field sped away leaving Sommer behind as a universal joint snapped leaving the car with no drive.

Later in 1950 Reg Parnel driving the same car seen here won two minor races at Goodwood in the rain and the following season Reg used chassis No.1 on the cars Grand Prix debut at Silverstone where he finished 5th enough to score a point in the world championship. Team mate Peter Walker came home 7th in No.2 like Reg he was suffering from the intense cockpit heat with the addition of neat fuel vapor fumes coming from the motor.

The following year Formula One was abandoned in favor of Formula Two, in part because in their efforts to sign Juan Manuel Fangio BRM reneged on a deal to race in Turin which gave the unintended message to other race organisers that BRM was unable to challenge Ferrari. Ferrari won the two world championships run to Formula Two regulations in 1952 and 1953.

Fangio did sign for BRM and in one of the few non championship races held in 1952 and 1953 and he took a great liking to the V16 BRM’s. Driving chassis No.1 at Albi he beat the Ferrari driven by Alberto Ascari in the heat but then retired from the lead of the final when a tyre failed damaging the hub and brake disc. This was the high point of the BRM’s career as a British World Beater, although it did win 15 non championship races between 1951 and 1954 in all.

If you want to know the whole story behind BRM I can wholeheartedly recommend “BRM The Saga of British Racing Motors” by Doug Nye. Volume one of a projected two took almost sixteen years to write and while I am ploughing through a copy of volume one kindly lent to me by Tim Murray BRM fans are eagerly anticipating the appearance of BRM Volume 4 which Doug has repeatedly told his fans is in the pipe line.

Thanks for joining me on this “British World Beater” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I shall be looking at a Formula One car from France. Don’t forget to come back now !

04 07 13 Errata the correct type designation for the original V16 BRM is Type 15, not P15, thanks to Tim Murray for pointing this out to me some time ago. Not also that the car featured here has been fitted with a later type large radiator and associated body work modifications first seen in 1952.