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  BRM P48

  Article Image gallery (23) Specifications  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced from:1959 - 1960
Numbers built:7
Predecessor:BRM Type 25
Successor:BRM P57
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:February 21, 2007
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Click here to download printer friendly versionBRM'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 made by commissions, 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 P25 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 spaceframe 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 P25 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 another 'evolution' of the P25. This time the front and rear suspension were revised. Most importantly was the change from the single leaf spring to coil springs as suggested by Lotus' Colin Chapman. By now the P25's reputation was 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 P25 into a fast and reliable racing car; for BRM's standards. Nevertheless the first victories were scored in minor events and as the icing on the cake Jo Bonnier's took BRM's first Grand Prix win at Zandvoort. Sadly Cooper's mid-engine revolution meant that when the front-engined P25 finally came to fruition, it was also obsolete. Encouraged by the first win, BRM quickly developed a mid-engined version of the P25, using many existing parts from disassembled P25s. Other than the location of the engine and the driver, the specifications of the P25 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.

Featured is one of the seven P48s constructed complete with the 'bacon-slicer' single rear brake. This particular car was driven to fourth position in the 1960 Monaco Grand Pric by Graham Hill. It is seen at the same track again 46 years later during the Monaco Historic Grand Prix where it was driven by its current owner.

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  Article Image gallery (23) Specifications