Senior Engineer Ian Stanfield peers over the steering wheel and down the V16 engine extending miles in front of him and says: ‘It’s running, but it won’t be for much longer unless we can rebuild it.’
The car? What else but a BRM V16. The BRM V16 MkI in fact – chassis number and the only MkI left. As driven by Fangio, Moss, Parnell and Wharton, among others, and a car very familiar to regulars at both FoS and Revival over the past 10 years.
This year, though, its presence at Revival is as much to do with survival as it is entertaining the crowds.
The car is owned by the National Motor Museum Trust whose BRM Conservation Appeal is the nominated beneficiary of this year’s Revival. You may have seen the fundraisers waving their buckets, and visited the trust’s stand (by the Aeroclub up from all the D-types) where the famous old car is on show.
And if you were anywhere near the circuit on Friday morning you may have seen, and would most definitely have heard, the 1950 Formula 1 car doing its high-speed demo laps. More demo laps are scheduled for 9.15am on both Saturday and Sunday.
‘At its maximum 9500rpm it’s so loud up close that it could make your ears bleed,’ says Ian, who has looked after the car ever since the trust acquired it. ‘We aren’t using that many revs this weekend but it’s still fast – and still very loud.’
The BRM V16 may not have been the most successful racing car in period, despite the greatest talent of the time behind its wheel, but in terms of its spec it’s still spectacular: 16 cylinders, just 1500cc, two-stage Rolls-Royce supercharger, 600bhp. ‘It was unheard of for 1950,’ says Ian.
It was also unheard of to finance a racing car by public subscription, but that’s how British Racing Motors came into being, and how it was able to kickstart Britain’s postwar racing renaissance. Now public subscription – via the BRM Conservation Appeal at Revival – is once again playing a key role in the V16’s life.
The first thing that’s needed, says Ian, is that engine rebuild. ’In period the engine would have been taken apart after every race, but it hasn’t had a rebuild now for years.’
With a bill for the engine in the region of £20,000 to £30,000 and urgent work needed as well on brakes and suspension, the appeal aims to raise £50,000 for the rebuild so the car can keep running.
And response to the appeal so far? Terrific, says Ian, but a lot more is still needed he says.
Hands in pockets everyone – historic racing without the first BRM V16 still able to deafen us all is surely unthinkable!