With the chequered flag of the Grand Prix of China came crunch time in our competition to win a copy of Stuart Codling’s excellent new book, “Art of the Formula 1 Race Car.”
Now, I know I said I would narrow down the list and send it off to Codders, but frankly your answers were so good, so varied, and so well argued that I thought it only fair to let Stuart judge from them all.
And this, is what he thought…
First up, thanks to Will for the glowing review. Your cheque’s in the post!
Judging this one became more difficult as the comments rolled in. Every one of them reminded me of the
arguments discussions during those crucial early stages as we tried to narrow 60-odd years of Formula 1 history down to a list of 19 cars.
Of course, we had to temper ambition with practicality (by which I mean we could only photograph cars that we could actually get hold of and get to a studio). That is why 19 became 18; the restoration of one car we intended to shoot went past the deadline, and with great regret we (James Mann and I, that is, not the royal ‘we’) had to leave that chapter out of the book.
So many cars, so little space! Clearly we would have to aim for no more than three or four cars from each decade, so we had to make some tough decisions. The 1950s cars chose themselves; the Alfa’s restoration wasn’t complete until perilously close to the deadline but it was worth hanging on for. The Maserati, Lancia and Mercedes are personal favourites and historically significant. So far as that decade was concerned we had to stop there.
The rear-engined revolution was the next obstacle. After some discussion we decided to roll with the BRM rather than a Cooper; James felt that the colour of the available Cooper wouldn’t work against the black backdrop. I concurred on the grounds that I preferred the look of the BRM, and that it had an interesting story.
The Ferrari 156? We’d have loved to include this beautiful car. Regrettably no originals are left and the only ones out there are copies (I know the D50 in the book isn’t an original car, either, but it’s made from mostly original parts). We considered the Eagle T1G as well. As Ben says, it’s a beautiful car. On art grounds alone it would have justified its inclusion, but in the end it had to give way to other cars from that era that were more successful and/or significant.
Obviously you could fill the 1960s and 1970s with Lotuses. After much hand-wringing we decided to leave out the Lotus 25 and 79 and go with the 49B and 72. Although there was a chronological gap between the 72 and 79, we thought that having two cars with the same very distinctive livery would detract from the book. Classic Team Lotus were prepared to lend us either or both. Ultimately the choice of 72 over 79 came down to pure nostalgia; James and I both had Matchbox toys of it when we were kids.
Why am I harping on about this in the style of an Oscar winner whose speech is going on a bit too long? Partly its because so many of the entrants found themselves in the same quandary as James and me when they tried to make their list. There are so many beautiful cars in the history of F1 that it’s hard to arrive at a definitive choice.
Marthambles relates an amusing and distinct tale and I agree with his choice. The Maserati 250F is a marvellous and beautiful thing, albeit inexactly assembled “with crappy materials” (says Stirling Moss). But I cannot award the prize to a fellow scribe; it feels too much like a violation of the “colleagues friends and family” clause you get in competition Ts&Cs. Sorry.
The Brabham BT52 is a stunning-looking car that comes with a fascinating tale I’d love to have been able to include in the book. Gordon Murray claims that its design process was so fraught that he went without sleep for months and had to use amphetamines to function. The engine alone is a thing of mystery. There are all sorts of stories about what Paul Rosche, BMW’s engine guru, used to get up to, such as storing the blocks outside and getting his staff to urinate on them. Apparently it had some sort of metallurgical effect (“I don’t know about that,” said Murray when I asked him about it, “but I wouldn’t put it past him”). The fuel was highly dodgy and definitely toxic; Rosche claims that he found a wartime lead substitute in BASF’s archives which prevented pre-ignition at high boost pressures. Over the years this has become the “Nazi rocket fuel” theory.
I thought that the only examples of this car belonged to Bernie so I duly fired off a fax to Princes Gate. I heard nothing back. Only later, after spluttering with rage and kicking a wall when I saw studio shots of the BT52 adorning the cover of Motor Sport, did I learn that BMW have one in their museum.
Anyway, enough of my wittering. Sasquatch – the book is yours!
And here, for you all, is Sasquatsch’s winning entry:
After reading your post I immediately knew which car I would choose. The rocket-like Brabham BT 52. But to put into words why, that’s something completely different. But I will give it a try.
Thinking of one particular car as the most beautiful is something personal. It doesn’t have to be a succesful car and sometimes it doesn’t even have to look good. It’s just a gut feeling. Tiny details or personal experience can make a car special. But somehow a beatiful car is always different than others.
Right from the start of the 1983 season, the Brabham stood out from the other cars that season. It was totally different with the short angular sidepods at the back of the car, which, with the engine cover, looked like the fins of a rocket (or dart). Because the ban on ground-effect made for a whole new design, designer Gordon Murray removed the obsolete parts of the sidepods, which now, after the ground-effect era, generated more lift than suction. An at the same time got rid of some weight.
Also the white and blue colorscheme made the car look very esthetic (and fortunately not as clinically white as Eccelstone would have preferred it). Add to this the legend of the BMW turbo engine, which was an adapted 1.5 liter, 4 cylinder engine, taken from normal road cars. Rumours have it that some of them had over 100,000 kilometres on the clock before they were transfomed into 1500 hp capable Formula One engines. These are the tiny details that make this car special to me, as well as the personal experience of seeing this car (already special to me) race in front of my eyes in the Dutch GP of 1983. Although an accident ended it’s race prematurely, I was a happy boy.
Although it was not the best car of the season, and sometimes not very reliable, the car led Piquet to the first turbo-powerd world title in 1983 by using ‘rocket’ fuel in the last couple of races. Apparantly Castrol delivered some special fuel for the final races of the season, making the car. Another tiny detail, which adds to its beauty.
After the 1878 fan car, Gordon Murray had done it again. He designed something special. Just as he would do a couple of years later with the (not so successful) radical low-line Brabham BT55 or the dominating McLaren MP4/4. Or the McLaren F1 road car. Or the Rocket Roadster or …
And although I am now 43, I still have a scale model of the Brabham BT52 on a shelf in my study.