The History of B.R.M. - British Racing Motors

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The History of B.R.M. - British Racing Motors


Front view of the 1950 B.R.M.Front view of the 1950 B.R.M.

Raymond Mays pictured at Crystal Palace driving his famous ERA R4DRear view of the 1950 B.R.M. Few parts extended beyond the shell. Aside from a bit of axle, only suspension linkage and multiple pipes projected at the rear of the car.

B.R.M. almost flat V16 reclined at a slight angleB.R.M. almost flat V16 reclined at a slight angle.

Raymond MaysRaymond Mays.

Motor Trend, June 1950



THE B.R.M. is the hottest news in racing since Germany dominated the speed scene in the Thirties. As a machine it is in a class by itself, some of its more interesting specifications being: 16 cylinders, two overhead cams per block, bore and stroke about an inch and a quarter each , 400 bhp at 12,000 rpm, bhp to weight ratio of about 1:4. And just as unique as its design is the way it has been produced.

Raymond Mays gets credit for most of the B.R.M. achievement. Mays is the holder of many English track, road racing, and hill records, and who, with Peter Berthon, conceived and built E.R.A. racing engines before the last war. Germany proved that enough money, combined with good engineering talent, could produce world-beaters.

Mays came up with the solution to the money problem in 1946, when he organized the British Motor Racing Research Trust. The visionary scheme was that manufacturers could band together and contribute components, according to designs laid down by a central planning board. Design, assembly, and operation of the vehicles would be handled by the board and the financial end of the operation would be floated on popular support.

Oddly enough, the plan has worked. One hundred and sixty of Britain's best machinery-makers have produced the parts, one car is assembled and running, parts for two more and plenty of spares are in the bins. There probably isn't one British motor club which hasn't voted funds to the B.R.M. experiment, and sport-minded Britons everywhere are rallying round the exchequer.

They'd better: it costs a large fortune to enter all the important races in a season, and the B.R.M. should begin to show its mettle this year. For Englishmen, whose ancestors practically invented the idea of sportsmanship, and for whom motoring can still be high adventure, the announcement of B.R.M. specifications came as food for the soul, and even to less partisan observers they look extraordinarily promising.

The car is small ... wheelbase is just 98 inches, and she stands 30% inches high at the cowl. Frontal area, a crucial factor, is lower than on any previous Grand Prix car ... 10 per cent lower than the super-fast pre-war Mercedes. Suspension smacks strongly of the same period in German design, Porche-type independent in front, de Dion at the rear. Springs and shocks are replaced by Lockheed oleo-pneumatic struts, each assembly weighing nearly four pounds. There's worm-and-nut steering, a ZF limited-slip differential. Frame side members are made up of 2Mi-inch steel tubes placed one above the other, joined by welded steel sheets pierced with flanged holes.

The blocks of the V-16 engine are so flat that their heads just clear the frame. Power plant amounts to two V-8 units coupled by a central drive gear, the power take-off for camshafts and many auxiliaries. This design traces back to the brilliant engineer, Sir Harry Ricaido, and was dabbled with by Maserati in the Thirties. Staggered blocks let the connecting rods lie side by side on the crank throws. There are ten main bearings, eight overhead camshafts, two valves per cylinder in domed combustion chambers. The valve gear has been run up to 18,000 rpm.

Two-stage centrifugal blowers, furnished by Rolls-Royce, provide a savage boost to the very high-revving 92 cu. in. engine, are lighter and more compact than positive superchargers. Ignition is by coils since magnetos are out at these rpm. And although carburettors are being used on the first-assembled car, it's expected that a fuel injection system will be adopted in practice, feeding fuel directly to the blowers. The little car will do over 200 mph.

Two major problems still face the B.R.M. controlling board. First: drivers. This will be one of the toughest cars of all time to handle and the men who get the job should be familiar with all important Grand Prix circuits. There are few of this class in England ... if the crisis creates the man. this crisis has a job on its hands. The second problem is the one of finance and here this "people's car" becomes a people's responsibility. Interested parties are welcome to contribute to the first car ever to represent the Empire in international Grand Prix racing. The address is 113 Park St., London. W. 1, England.

Autocar, 1950



Raymond Mays, a gifted driver, is the even-more-gifted organizer who created the BRM. It's clear that the English challenger will enrich the sporting scene for the duration of the existing formula. Also clear: it will add knowledge to many branches of the industry. And this, believe it or not, should eventually filter down to you and me.
The B.R.M., as first unveiled in glass-walled testing lab at Bourne, England
The B.R.M., as first unveiled in glass-walled testing lab at Bourne, England.

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