Every time Formula 1 goes through a rule change which affects the size or type of the its engines, armchair pundits bemoan the fact that they don’t sound as good as the turbos/V12s/V10s/V8s (delete as appropriate).
One thing all can agree on however is that the BRM V16 is the one engine we wish they all sounded like. Well, it’s back, in a faithful recreation of the original P15 single seater 70 years after it first howled in anger. British Racing Motors (BRM) was the country’s first Formula 1 team and, still in existence, will be building three more P15s powered by that fabulously complicated and powerful engine to celebrate its platinum anniversary.
Working from around 20,000 original blueprints and drawings, the task has been entrusted to historic restoration specialists Hall & Hall, founded by former BRM engineer Rick Hall. Utilising chassis numbers assigned in the early ‘50s the three cars will be built to full FIA standards and therefore eligible for historic racing.
Despite each cylinder displacing less than 100cc, the V16 developed close to 600PS (441kW) thanks to an incredible redline for its day of 12,000rpm and its two-stage supercharger. Little wonder it also became the first F1 car to use disc brakes. Juan Manuel Fangio described it as "the most fantastic car I ever drove – an incredible challenge in every way". It was also raced in its day by Stirling Moss, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Peter Collins and Peter Walker. Sadly the rules for which it was designed, and would potentially have dominated after early reliability problems were ironed out, were abandoned for the 1953 season.
Having started as government-backed consortium, BRM was sold to the Owen family and the first car will be delivered to the son of Sir Alfred Owen on its completion next spring. John Owen was just ten years old when he first heard the car run and this recreation was the brainchild of Sir Alfred’s grandsons Simon, Paul and Nick.
Now 81, John said: “Watching the likes of the Pampas Bull (Gonzalez) and, in particular, Fangio, master the power of the V16 was very special. And the fabulous noise of the engine still rings in my ears 70 years on!
“In a selfish way, I have always dreamed of hearing that sound again but now I’d also love to share that sensation with others. To hear the V16 screaming at full tilt for the first time is something special – something you never forget.”
Despite winning the championship with a home grown V8 and Graham Hill behind the wheel in 1962, it is the V16 for which BRM is possibly most famous. We are already dreaming of hearing that engine echoing around the Goodwood Motor Circuit where the original car won its first race in the hands of Reg Parnell