This monstrous BRM‑Chevrolet P154 was dormant for 45 years
BRM is one of those names in motorsport that has a primary association – Formula 1. You won’t often have found them slithering about the special stages at Wales Rally GB or howling along the Mulsanne straight.
We say often, as BRM has had a couple of sportscar forays (none at the rally though, sorry) the most significant of which on their part was their entry into Can-Am in 1970. An effort born entirely, strangely, out of a new hire. Now-esteemed motorsport designer Tony Southgate joined at the back end of 1969 on F1-design duty but brought a healthy sportscar CV to the table too. Keen to take advantage of their new hire’s strengths they set eyes on a sportscar project. The car to follow Southgate’s P153 F1 car would be the Chevrolet-powered P154 Can-Am car.
What a glorious romping wedge of trumpetous weaponry it was, too. Southgate claimed to sculpt all necessary aerodynamic capability into the bodywork thus negating the need for a wing. Instead, a swooping whale tail and a ground-hugging snout keep it sticky-side down when speeds are thick into triple figures.
The lightweight fibreglass body is presented in all white with red and green striping and Castrol plastered along the side. We’re inclined to think it’s one of the most stunning machines of its breed. Not bad for a first entry but then again, they had a pro on the pen. Two chassis were built with this one presented at FOS 2017 by Hepworth international being chassis number 2.
For the short period racing history it accrued, it put in a pretty good shift. Ran only for the final three races of the 1970 Can-Am season, with a best of third at the season-ending Riverside round with late Le Mans legend Pedro Rodriguez at the wheel. Nevertheless, it was concluded the 154 wasn’t up to the steep competition from McLaren and co, so a replacement was quickly planned for the 1971 season.
Three races in and 154-02 was swept into antiquity. Such is the nature of fledgeling racing efforts. If it doesn’t perform, you bin it and move on sharpish.
It was disassembled and purged for parts for the successive P167 which would yield more positive results for the team. The project then fell into the late David Hepworth’s hands and he would race the cars in the European Interserie. Though 154-02 was due a restoration in time for this endeavour, a second driver never materialised for Hepworth’s new effort, so 154-02 remained in bits.
That is until two years ago when the car re-emerged from the Hepworth lot having undergone a comprehensive restoration. David’s sons Stephen and Andrew, armed with original drawings, put 154-02 back together, back to its former glory. It would turn a wheel as a whole for the first time since its 1970 season-closer at the 2016 Goodwood Festival of Speed and returned this year fighting fit and ready to attack the Hill in anger. It was unquestionably a favourite of spectators and organisers alike as the Hepworths gave it a good workout up the Hill. We even rated it as one of our top 7 best sounding cars from the Festival.
Just look at it wriggling and writhing around at the start!
We love stories like this where cars go underground for decades, only to re-emerge as new ready for a jaunt down at Goodwood. It’s the bread and butter of some of the best stories that have emerged from our paddocks and 154-02 is no exception.
Photography by James Lynch, Jochen Van Cauwenberge and Drew Gibson