Model history: BRM's first attempt to bring Grand Prix success to Great Britain failed miserably due to the complexity of V16-engined racing car, but also the equally complex management structure. It had all started with high hopes in the late forties when rich entrepreneurs and talented engineers joined forces to form British Racing Motors (BRM). There was not one supremo, but instead all decisions were 'by committee', which was definitely not the most effective way. The engineers came up with a very advanced 1.5 litre V16-engined single seater, that never lived up to its 550 bhp potential. The team struggled on for a few years until one of the founders, Alfred Owen, stepped up and bought the team in its entirety late in 1952.
By this time the V16 BRM was no longer eligible for Grands Prix, but it continued to be campaigned in Formula Libre events. It was also further developed and several victories were scored, but all in minor races. Five years after the V16's debut, work was finally started on a new Formula 1 car. This time simplicity was the keyword, but the team still persevered with their founding principle of having every major part designed in-house. There were a few bits ordered from specialized suppliers; specialized British suppliers of course. At first glance, the resulting BRM Type 25 (not P25 as it is often erroneously called) was certainly a more simple affair, but there were again some unique features that not necessarily improved the car's chances for success.
The biggest contrast to the high revving V16 of the previous BRM was the twin-cam 2.5 litre four cylinder, designed from scratch by Stuart Tressillian. He opted for an unusual big bore to allow for very big valves to be fitted. The nationalistic principles were set aside for the two twin-choke Webers. The engine was installed in a straightforward steel ladder-frame chassis with wishbone and coil spring suspension at the front and a DeDion axle at the rear with a transverse leaf spring. The four speed transaxle sported another oddity; a single disc brake used to slow both rear wheels down. At the front a conventional setup was chosen with Lockheed discs. Cast alloy wheels were used instead of the still very popular wire-wheels.
In September 1955 the Type 25 debuted at a local race at Aintree. It was relatively quick straight away, but there were handling and reliable problems that would dog the car throughout its career. The big valves were a weak spot and oil and dirt build-up on the single rear brake was another major issue. For 1956 Mike Hawthorn and Tony Brooks were hired, but other than some spectacular crashes, they did not manage to grab attention. At the end of the season Brooks took off; he did not want anything to do with the horrible BRM anymore. There were some revisions carried through for the 1957 season, but BRM again failed to impress. To add insult to injury, Vanwall scored that elusive first British Grand Prix win in thirty years.
Still determined BRM carried on into 1958 with some fundamental changes. A more sophisticated spaceframe chassis was introduced and the suspension was modified. Following suggestions made by Lotus' Colin Chapman, the single rear leaf spring was replaced by coil springs on each corner. By now the Type 25's reputation was, however, so bad that the one-handed Archie Scott Brown refused to drive the car, even though he was desperate to get a break in F1. The changes did improve the handling, but the results were again poor because the engine suffered from overheating after changing from alcohol-based fuels to pump gas. For 1959 the cooling system was improved and the Lockheed discs were replaced by Dunlop brakes, but the single rear disc was retained.
Three years of developing had finally turned the Type 25 into a, by BRM standards, fast and reliable racing car. The car's first victories were scored in non-championship events and then Jo Bonnier finally added that elusive first Grand Prix win to BRM's tally at Zandvoort in the Spring of 1959. Sadly Cooper's mid-engined revolution meant that by the time the front-engined Type 25 finally came good, it was also virtually obsolete. Encouraged by the first win, BRM quickly developed a mid-engined version of the Type 25, using many existing parts from disassembled Type 25s. Other than the location of the engine and the driver, the specifications of the Type 25 and P48 were virtually identical. Surprisingly the rear brake layout was also retained.
The hastily thrown together P48s debuted late in 1959, but in BRM fashion failed to impress. There were some revisions for 1960 and low and behold the single disc brake was replaced by two regular discs in the last races of the season. That season the P48s managed to record just four finishes and BRM dropped from third to fourth in the constructor's championship. This was the final year for the four cylinder BRM as the rules were changed dramatically for 1961, with a displacement limit of just 1.5 litres. This meant all teams were forced to start from scratch and this time the BRM design team, now lead by Tony Rudd, finally made the right choices and in 1962 the V8-engined BRM P57 reigned supreme in the hands of Graham Hill.
In the process of building the mid-engined P48s, all but one of the surviving Type 25s were cannibalised for parts. The one that got away was Bonnier's Dutch Grand Prix winning car, which served BRM very well as a demonstrator and was not sold until the team's assets were auctioned in 1981. In later years some of the parts used for the P48s were used again to reconstruct some of the Type 25s that had been lost. Both the reconstructed cars and the Dutch Grand Prix winning Type 25 are used regularly in historic events.
Completed in June 1958, chassis 258 was the third of six Type 25s produced with the spaceframe chassis. It was raced in the second half of the season by Harry Schell and Jo Bonnier. Over the winter, the car was fitted with an improved oil-cooler and Dunlop disc brakes. Bonnier considered 258 the best of the available Type 25 and raced it extensively in 1959. He started the car's season very well by taking the long awaited Grand Prix victory at Zandvoort. In 1960 this chassis was raced three times more with Dan Gurney claiming a second in Buenos Aires.
Unlike all of its sister cars, chassis 258 was preserved by the BRM factory and used extensively for promotional purposes throughout the 1960s. It was retained until all the manufacturer's assets were sold by Christie's in October of 1981. The sole surviving original Type 25 was acquired by the Honourable Amschel Rothschild. He retained the car, which was extensively raced in the 1980s and 1990s, until his death in 2001. The estate sold the car on to historic racer Spencer Flack for a princely sum. He campaigned the BRM around the world until, unfortunately, he fatally crashed it in Australia. Chassis 258 has since been carefully restored with the original panels that were not on the car at the time of the crash. Since then this very important has returned to the track and can be seen here at 2010 Monaco Historic Grand Prix and at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2007 and 2010.