The trend of Formula Junior
At the end of this season Formula Junior comes to an end, to be replaced by Formula Two and Formula Three. Has the formula been a success? As a training ground for drivers wishing to step into Formula One it has undoubtedly been an unqualified success but as a cheap formula designed for production car parts it has been a failure. Originally started in 1958 in Italy as a National affair it quickly developed, with F.I.A. sanction, into an International Formula, with the inevitable result of spiralling costs as each manufacturer struggled to keep ahead. Many Formula Junior builders came into business and quickly succumbed, including Stanguellini, who could not stand the pace when the British moved in on the Formula.
In an article in Motor Sport in October 1959 that noted racer of home-built "specials" Arthur Mallock said: "By next year the Junior Formula should have really caught on and this looks like the opportunity for which I and many others have been waiting. Running and capital costs should be no greater than the 1172 Formula but material returns should be much greater."
Today this statement sounds ludicrous but at the time there was a chance that the genuine amateur could buy or build a car for a modest amount and run it for a season, perhaps making a little money from starting and prize money. However, development rocketed along at such a pace that the amateur was left behind in no time at all. In late 1959 Elva, Lola and Gemini were on the scene, all with front-engined designs like the Stanguellini which was dominating affairs on the Continent.
I remember being invited by Graham Warner, the sponsor of the Gemini, to try the car at Snetterton. The first front-engined Gemini was developed from the Moorland and had a simple space frame with the B.M.C. engine and 4-speed gearbox driving via a normal prop.-shaft below the driver's seat to a transfer box in front of the B.M.C. final-drive unit to give a reasonably low driving position. All independent suspension with wishbones at the front and a system similar to the Chapman strut at the rear gave good handling properties and the engine, which was tuned to give about 65 b.h.p. with twin S.U.s, gave a satisfactory performance, while the Alfin drum brakes coped admirably. I thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to single-seater driving and saw no reason why hundreds of other budding racing drivers should not gain the same pleasure. The Gemini cost £985 in kit form and when Graham Warner placed an advert. in Motor Sport he was inundated with inquiries and eventually obtained some 50 or so firm orders. Unfortunately component suppliers were loath to give priority to small orders and by the time deliveries were starting to be made the rear-engined cars had begun to make their mark and the Gemini, along with all the other front-engined cars, was no longer competitive in the more important events.
In the Boxing Day meeting at Brands Hatch in 1959 front-engined cars gained a brief respite as the new Lotus and Cooper Juniors were not really raceworthy, and it was left to Peter Arundell in an Elva-D.K.W. to beat Peter Ashdown's Lola-Ford. Orders poured in for the Elva but when the 1960 season commenced Lotus and Cooper had things under control and disillusioned Elva owners watched the rear-engined car disappearing round corners, knowing that they had backed the wrong horse.
Not a great deal of attention had been paid at that time to engine development although some people were claiming 90 b.h.p. for the D.K.W. 3-cylinder engine. As the Ford engine of the Lola was only giving about 55 b.h.p. at the Brands Hatch meeting it was obvious that the Elva which beat it by a car's length had nothing like 90 b.h.p. Very shortly it became obvious that the new short-stroke Ford 105E engine had by far the greatest potential and it very soon became almost universal wear although Coopers, who had very good reasons for so doing, kept to the B.M.C. unit they started out with. With chassis design settling down into a set pattern obviously more power was the answer and dynamometer facilities soon became essential to get the last few important b.h.p. out of individual engines.
Of course as power went up so were potential weaknesses discovered and soon the really serious racers had to have special con.-rods and cam-shafts, dry-sump lubrication, then steel crankshafts became necessary, and it was almost essential to get your engine from Cosworth if you wanted to be up with the leaders, although Team Lotus undoubtedly received engines which were just a little better than production ones. Now, of course, an engine capable of winning a major F.J. race can cost more than the Ford Anglia from which it is taken. Gearbox design has also had to move in tune with engine development and as the revs were pushed up and the power concentrated into a narrow rev. range so it became evident that the converted 4-speed Fiat 600, Renault Dauphine, Citroën and Volkswagen gearboxes were inadequate and specialists began designing 5-speed conversions, while the latest Dauphine box for the Gemini is available with six speeds. A customer will have to lay something like £300 on the counter to get one of these special boxes.
At the end of last season it was obvious that costs could not be held down with the present regulations so the C.S.I. made a move to provide Formulae to suit everyone's pocket by reintroducing Formula Two and Three for 1964. On the instigation of the interested British parties Formula Two is to be for cars having engines of 1,000 c.c. with a maximum of four cylinders and a minimum weight of 420 kg. (925.9 lb.). There will be no restriction of the number of camshafts, the type of gearbox or any of the mechanical components so that the "sky's the limit" boys should naturally graduate to this Formula while the less experienced and certainly the less wealthy should be catered for by the new Formula Three.
This is similar to Formula Junior with the 1,000-c.c. engine restricted to that from a production touring car but only one carburetter is allowed with a washer inserted between carburetter and manifold giving a maximum orifice of 36 mm. Gearboxes are limited to four forward speeds and the minimum weight is to be 400 kg. (881.8 lb.). Just what effect these changes have only time will tell but it may be that Formula Junior will peter out before its time is run, just like the 1 1/2-litre supercharged/4 1/2-litre unsupercharged Formula One did, especially as some race organisers are already planning for F.2 races in 1963. Certainly it is poor economics to buy a car for a Formula which will finish within a year, although the car could be converted down to Formula Three or up to Formula Two for 1964. But by then there will undoubtedly be new designs on the market despite the assurances of designers who say they will "freeze" their 1963 designs.
What of the 1963 Formula Junior cars? Certainly the Lotus 27 seems to have the edge on all the others as usual with its monocoque chassis taken from the Formula One Lotus 25. This is slightly simplified but retains the aluminium side boxes with glassfibre outer skin as the lower half of the bodywork, with steel box sections at each end for the mounting of suspension and gearbox.
The suspension is very similar to that of the Formula One car, the front being of the cantilever type and the rear having double wishbones and parallel radius arms. In anticipation of the new Formula Two the engine is mounted almost vertically, the standard unit being a Mk. IV Cosworth 1,100-c.c. unit, mated to a Hewland 5-speed VW gearbox. With the standard engine a Lotus 27 kit of parts costs £1,890. The Mk. XI Cosworth engine with steel crankshaft costs a further £110, or the twin-cam 1,500-c.c. Lotus-Ford engine an extra £150. As yet no price is available for the twin-cam 1,000-c.c. Lotus-Ford engine being developed by Cosworth for Formula Two. It can be seen that the basic price of a race-winning Formula Junior car has gone up by 100% since Britain first entered the lists in 1959, while maintenance costs and prices of replacement parts have gone up proportionately.
Perhaps the car that will be watched with most interest this season will be the Cooper with Hydrolastic suspension, the suspension units being linked fore and aft as on the Morris 1100. The theoretical difficulties appear to lie in the lack of adjustment available with these units although adjustment of the pressure in the fluid pipes will have some effect. Once again only circuit testing will provide the answer, something most teams have been sadly missing these past months. Cooper, of course, have the B.M.C. engine, which cannot approach the Ford unit for maximum power but the Ken Tyrell cars have never been far behind the works Lotuses and sometimes ahead, and if a much-rumoured new cylinder head becomes available in 1963 they may well be the team to watch.
The Brabham Junior is quite conventional by present-day standards but if Dennis Hulme's form at Brands Hatch on Boxing Day is anything to go by the Brabham may well spring some surprises. Hulme uses a Holbay-Ford engine but Ian Walker, who has forsaken Lotus for Brabham, will use Cosworth engines in his two cars. It seems fashionable for factories to delegate private teams to run official Formula Junior teams for them. In some cases the teams no doubt have to buy the cars but with better engines and preferential treatment probably stand much more chance of winning. Ron Harris will run the Lotus team, Ken Tyrell the Cooper team, Ian Walker the Brabhams, and the Midlands Racing Partnership will take over the Lolas, having previously raced a team of Coopers with some success. The 1963 Lola has a much stiffer frame with the cockpit area considerably stiffened by the welding in of a drilled steel plate between the two closely positioned top frame tubes. Somehow the Lola, although being fast, has never quite caught up the Lotus despite some very fine drives by John Fenning.
Another interesting car is the Gemini, which looks very sleek in its Mk. IVA form. This has cantilever front suspension operating the springs within the body and also has the front disc brakes mounted inboard, braking torque being transferred to the wheels by universally jointed half shafts. The rear brakes are also mounted inboard next to the 5- or 6-speed Dauphine gearbox, while the standard engine supplied in the £1,650 kit is the Cosworth-Ford giving 100 b.h.p. at 8,200 r.p.m. Graham Warner hopes to run a works team for the younger up and coming drivers in 1963.
Another British make which has done better on the Continent and in the U.S.A. than at home is the Merlyn. The latest version has similar front suspension to the Lola with coil-springs mounted inside the bodywork, but the remainder of the specification is relatively conventional with a Cosworth-Ford engine mated to the Hewland 5-speed VW gearbox. It has the additional advantage over some of the other juniors of being cheaper; at £1,475 it costs £400 less than the Lotus.
Having mentioned the major British Formula Junior contenders one has practically covered all the successful marques for the Continentals have fallen by the wayside and the Italians, who created the Formula, seem to have lost most of their interest. As the accompanying list shows, many British Formula Junior builders have also dropped out of the struggle, even such notables as Kieft and Elva having given up building Formula Junior cars, although Elva are now concentrating on their successful sports/racing car. As the imposing list opposite shows, the Formula has had the effect of stimulating many different people into building racing cars and although most of them gave up fairly quickly the experience may encourage them to have another stab in some future Formula.
As to drivers, one only has to cite the names of Arundell, Baghetti, Bandini, Clark, Love, Maggs and Taylor as people who have come to the forefront as a result of their exploits in Formula Junior and who have already or will very soon make the grade in Formula One. There are many others who are almost on the brink of moving into the premier Formula and from this point of view it can be said that Formula Junior has been an unqualified success.—M. L. T.
This list gives some idea of the many marques which have taken part in Formula Junior racing. It does not pretend to be complete and no doubt readers could provide many more.