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  BRM Type 15 'V16'

  Article Image gallery (21) 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
Download: All images
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Click here to download printer friendly versionTo add insult to injury, the sports governing body decided to run the 1952 World Championship under Formula 2 regulations. This left the V16 eligible only for the minor Formula Libre races. The backers of the team (a large group of British companies) lost interest and decided to sell BRM off. One of the original backers, Alfred Owen of Rubery Owen stepped up and bought the team. He believed that the V16 was unfinished business and asked newly signed engineer Tony Rudd to continue working on it. The biggest modification was the installation of Girling discs, greatly improving the braking. Additionally the engine was reworked and was now rated 600 bhp at around 12,000 rpm.

The confidence in the V16 paid off and in the hands of the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio and Froilan Gonzales, the Type 15 BRM finally started to win races. It must be said that the opposition was never as strong as in 1951 but the V16 could match the Ferraris for speed. In 1953 the screaming machines were losing their edge and Rudd was asked to develop a new version for 1954. This Type 30 or V16 Mk2 had a considerably shorter wheelbase and twin trailing arm rear suspension. It was also a good 70 kg lighter. Two of these leaner BRMs were built and the winning continued. When the cars were finally retired at the end of 1955, they had won 16 out of a possible 33 Formula Libre races.

Today the BRM V16 is stuff of legends partly for the right reasons but equally for the wrong reasons. Although not very kind on the ear drums, the engine note is one of the most beautiful ever created and certainly unique. When one of the surviving cars was exercised at Silverstone recently a man living over 5 miles from the track instantly recognised the V16's noises. He had seen the BRMs in action in the 1950s and like most others who have heard it never forgot the sound. It did not only sound very good but when it was sorted, the sixteen cylinder engine also performed really well. It would take until the F1 Turbo-era that the 400 bhp/litre would again be broken.

On the other hand there is the handling and the reliability. Sir Stirling Moss described the V16 as the worst racing car he had ever had to drive. This was probably less down to the handling and more down to excessive horsepower and the little rubber available to transfer it to the track. Adding more complexity is the delivery of all those horses; nothing to very little until 7000 rpm and then a whole lot all at once. With its great weight distribution and low centre of gravity the chassis itself would have acquitted itself quite well with a slightly friendlier engine. The reliability is the only real flaw of the BRM. The mechanics had problems getting it sorted back in the day and a solution still has not been found.

Of the five cars built (three Type 15s and and two Type 30s) four have survived to this day (two of each). While all are in or close to running order, the reliability issues really limit their outings. So seeing and more importantly hearing the V16 is a rare privilege. One of the owners, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, has offered a helping hand by making a book and CD (Into the Red) about his collection. In a small clip on the CD the V16 can be enjoyed in all its glory. Perhaps the car would not last long enough but there is no doubt that many of us would greatly appreciate a full CD of V16 notes.

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  Article Image gallery (21) Type 15 / 1 Specifications User Comments (4) Video (1)