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  Article Image gallery (26) Type 15 / 1 Specifications User Comments (4) Video (1)  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced from:1950 - 1951
Numbers built:3
Successor:BRM Type 30 'V16'
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:July 20, 2009
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Click here to download printer friendly versionOn May 13th 1950 Silverstone hosted the very first Formula 1 race counting for the World Championship. The gathered British crowd was possibly even more taken by a striking, pale green BRM (British Racing Motors) racer that put in some demo laps before the Grand Prix. It sounded like nothing they had ever heard and more importantly it was the first serious British Grand Prix car built in over two decades. This preview was the culmination of many years of design and developed work by a very small team that found its origin in the pre-War ERA (English Racing Automobiles).

BRM had been founded shortly after the War by racing driver Raymond Mays and engineer Peter Berthon. They had been two of three key players at ERA as well. The two very ambitious men considered two design avenues for their new Grand Prix racer. The first was a V8 and the second a V16 both fitted with a Supercharger and both displacing just 1.5 litre. While considerably more complex, Mays and Berthon believed the sixteen cylinder option would yield a bigger chance of success and form a better basis for future development. Near Mays' house in Bourne a small factory was created and the work began.

Although the V16 layout had been popular with American luxury cars there were only very few racing cars had sported sixteen cylinders. The most famous of these was of course the Auto Union Grand Prix car but the BRM was far more closely related to the unraced Alfa Romeo 162. Built just before the War it sported an impressive twin overhead camshaft engine where the Auto Union used simpler overhead valves. With the Alfa Romeo V16, the BRM engine also shared the 135 degree cylinder angle. This gave an even firing order and also kept the height of the engine. That's about where the similarities with previous designs stopped.

In accordance with the Voiturette regulations, which had now been adopted for the big Grand Prix class, the engine could displace just 1500 cc if a Supercharger was used. By comparison the Alfa Romeo and Auto Union were respectively two and three times larger. As a result the new BRM engine sported tiny pistons with a stroke of just 47.8 mm. This enabled the V16 to rev well over 10,000 rpm. Each bank of cylinders was split in two blocks of four. Sandwiched between the two 'V8s' were the gears driving the camshafts. This effectively cut the length of the camshafts in half, preventing excessive flexing. Due to the sheer size of the engine this was no unnecessary luxury.

Rolls-Royce was commissioned to supply a smaller version of the centrifugal Supercharger fitted on the Merlin V12 engines used in the Spitfire and Mustang fighterplanes. Originally it was mated to an elaborate Fuel Injection system. After problems early in testing this was abandoned in favour of a simpler twin SU Carburetor setup. At the first tests the engine produced 400 bhp, which was already more than any other comparable engine and by quite a margin. Further development brought the power up to an incredible 525 bhp at 10,500 rpm in 1950. At the time the engineers believed that 585 bhp would be possible but there were no suitable Carburetors available to make that possible.

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  Article Image gallery (26) Type 15 / 1 Specifications User Comments (4) Video (1)