|Chevron B16 Cosworth|
Within a very short time, Chevron emerged as a leading racing car manufacturer. The company founded by the self-taught Derek Bennett had particularly impressed with the B8 sports racer introduced in 1967. Both a success on the racing track and in the sales room, it inspired Bennett to produce a prototype racer for the popular European 2-Litre Championship.
Bennett had had the plans for what would become the B16 in his head for quite some time but he could not start working on the new prototype racer until well into the 1969 season. This was mainly because the small company was fully occupied with building customer cars. Another problem Bennett faced was the lack of a suitable 2-litre engine because the BMW 'four' used in the B8 was at the end of its life cycle. What held the tried and trusted BMW 2002 engine back was its single cam, two-valve head.
Bennett's initial plan was to have Weslake or Cosworth develop a state of the art head for the BMW engine. Both parties were interested but Weslake required Chevron to bear all the development costs and Cosworth eventually opted to remain loyal to Ford. Instead, Cosworth developed the 'FVC' variant of its 1.6 litre 'FVA' Formula 2 engine, which was effectively one half of the DFV used so successfully in Formula 1. Although displacing only 1760 cc, it was still considerably more powerful than the BMW engine.
With the engine issues sorted, Bennett turned his attention to the design and construction of the new chassis. It was effectively a refinement of the existing design and once again consisted of a tubular space-frame, reinforced by steel and duraluminium sheets. The front and rear subframes could be detached to make repairs easier. The suspension also followed conventional lines with double wishbones at the front and reversed lower wishbones, top links and trailing arms at the rear.
One of the focus points during development was to keep the car as low as possible and accordingly the car was tightly wrapped in a fibreglass body produced by Specialised Mouldings. Uncertain about his own aerodynamic abilities, Bennett called in the services of Specialised Mouldings' stylist Jim Clark. The end-result was indeed staggering and the coupe's lines impressed all that saw it. It was very quick too, even using the the older BMW engine in testing, it was considerably faster than the B8.
Fitted with a FVA engine, the B16 made its debut early in September at the prestigious Nürburgring 500 km race in the hands of works driver Brian Redman. The new Chevron was immediately competitive but did appear to have some understeer. Overnight some small winglets were created and Redman clinched pole, well ahead of the previously dominant Abarths, who had skipped the final session. Redman immediately grabbed the lead and dominated the race to take a debut victory, which would become something of a Chevron speciality.
Redman's fabulous win ironically slowed down the B16 development as his driving skills hid the fact that the handling was far from sorted. Eventually the problem was tracked down to a lack of rear downforce, which actually produced so much oversteer that the drivers were fearful of turning in. Ironically that led them to believe the car understeered. Bennett fixed the issue by adding two big spoilers on the corners of the engine cover. Having learned his lessons, he did not call in the help of 'experts' again for the design of future models.
With the problems sorted, the B16 soon became a regular winner and orders flooded in. In addition to the FVC engined models, customers also raced the cars with the BMW four and a Mazda rotary engine. Three examples were used in the legendary Steve McQueen movie Le Mans. Although official figures suggest only 23 examples were produced, the car was fully homologated as a 'Group 5' GT, for which a production run of 25 was the minimum.
For the Chevron works team the European 2-Litre Championship was the priority in 1970. The team were unpleasantly surprised by the arrival of the all-new, open Lola T210 at the season opener. Lighter by a hefty 70 kg than the coupe bodied B16, it would be the team's main challenger in the hands of Jo Bonnier and others. Redman drove the works Chevron along with John Burton. After a very close fight, Redman did manage to win the first round at Paul Ricard and the championship was not decided until the final round, with Abarth also still in contention.
In order to keep up with the Lolas, Redman urged Bennett to build an open B16. He finally complied and he also followed Redman's advice to simply copy the shape of the Porsche 908/3 that he had driven to a dominant victory in the Targa Florio that year. The resulting B16 Spyder was mechanically identical to the 'standard' car but it looked like a new car. The new car had an uncharacteristically difficult debut at the Nürburgring 500 km but Redman bounced back, taking an epic victory Spa, securing the championship for Chevron.
For the 1971 season Chevron launched the B19, the production version of the successful B16 Spyder. Although really competitive for a few months, the B16 did dominate during that period and is still considered the finest of all Chevrons. So much so, that within a decade after original production had ceased, 'continuation' models began to appear. The first ones 'replaced' cars that had been destroyed or lost but soon after B16s appeared with chassis numbers that were never issued in period.
Brand new B16s can still be ordered from Chevron and as a result a multitude of the original 23-25 examples produced exist today. Current continuation cars are clearly identified as such but many of the cars (re)built in the 1980s sport the number and identity of one of the originals. It is even possible to catch two B16s side by side claiming to be the same car. A real historian's nightmare, all of these B16s are allowed to race and they do generally provide a great spectacle on track, usually hounding much bigger engined competitors. Fortunately a handful of truly 'genuine' cars do still exist and several of those are also raced.
Article by Wouter Melissen, last updated on November 04, 2011
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