Sweet but unsung sixteen

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

Current page

181

Current page

182

Current page

183

Current page

184

Current page

185

Current page

186

Current page

187

Current page

188

A last gasp for Britain’s premier engine maker – and it went almost unheard

The late, great Frank Gardner famously likened turbocharged racing engines to sounding “like ducks farting through long grass”. We have two ducks who regularly colonise our pond, but while I have never detected the auditory effect Frank cited it’s plain what he meant, and it is a concern in F1 that this year’s GP2 cars with their free-revving, four-litre V8s will actually sound more exciting than the turbocharger-muffled V6s of the premier class above.

Any year in which F1 technical regs produce entirely new-category engines is special, and 2014 is hopefully right up there with the best. The new 2½-litre unsupercharged Formula 1 launched 60 years ago in 1954 spawned the all-new straight-eight, desmodromic-valved Mercedes-Benz W196 and the Lancia D50 V8. The replacement and much-derided 1½-litre F1 of 1961 would be dominated by a new crop of British V8 engines from Coventry Climax and BRM after Ferrari cashed in with its early 120-degree V6, followed by 90-degree V8 and 180-degree flat-12. Then came 1966, promoted at the time as ‘The Return of Power’ (with full 3-litre engines). It produced the Ferrari 312 V12 followed by a second-generation flat-12, BRM’s H16 and V12s, further V12s from Maserati, Gurney-Weslake and Honda… and to trump them all the Cosworth-Ford V8 family.

But an engine that really intrigued me was Coventry Climax’s 1½-litre Type FWMW flat-16, stillborn in 1964-65 and never deployed in anger. Walter Hassan and Peter Windsor-Smith of Coventry Climax surveyed the potential remaining to their Type FWMV V8 engine after its World Championship-winning success in Jim Clark’s Lotuses through 1963. Anticipating a growing threat from BRM, Ferrari and Honda for 1964-65, Wally decided to enlarge his V8’s bore and shorten its stroke to raise rotational speed and provide space for four valves per cylinder. This was to be supported by a second design project of something completely new.

He sought even higher rotational speed, greater piston area and good breathing to produce substantially greater power than the V8 could offer. Minimum power target was 220bhp, and the former Bentley employee fancied a broad-arrow 12, with three banks of four cylinders à la Napier Lion aero engine so successful in the Napier-Railton, Golden Arrow and Blue Bird record cars pre-war. Its packaging was attractive, but Wally feared big-end and crankshaft problems. So he opted for 16 cylinders, shied away from BRM’s later coupled-crankshaft horizontal ‘H’ layout, and chose not a vee, nor ‘a droop’ (an inverted vee) but a simple flat-16. If the V8 output could be matched by the flat-16, its 200bhp at 10,000rpm ought to improve to 230/240 at 12,000rpm.

Four-valve heads were meant to feature on the flat-16, but the system remained unproven on the V8 in time to build for the 1965 season, so Hassan fell back on a two-valve design. His prototype FWMW flat-16 was not finished until late in 1964 and it became plain it had to work straight away or be shelved. The new engine was shown to the press in February 1965 and only four were laid down – one each for Lotus, Brabham and Cooper and one for development.

But during its very first run the prototype sheared its final-drive take-off quill shaft. Low-speed torsional vibration caused the failure. Making a stronger quill-shaft took time, while dyno running below 5000rpm was banned. Once freed to rev properly, power output disappointed, due to oil-drainage, pumping and windage power-loss. Meanwhile Jimmy Clark’s four-valve V8 still won the World Championship comfortably, producing about 209bhp – and that was as much as the flat-16 showed on the test-bed. And by mid-summer 1965, knowing that Coventry Climax would withdraw from F1 engine supply that December, the majestic little ‘Swiss watch’ flat-16 was abandoned, unused.

Walter Hassan was approached about the possibility of supercharging the 1500cc flat-16 unit for the new three-litre unsupercharged/1500cc supercharged formula, but advised against it. A turbocharger was considered, but no small turbos were available at the time. Climax built two 2-litre FWMV V8 engines to help Clark and Lotus into 1966 – combining the big 1965 bore with the longest available 1961 stroke – but then bowed out of racing, not even developing these units once built. One powered Jimmy to the 1967 Tasman Championship title in Lotus 33 ‘R14’.

Soon after, HRH Prince Philip made a royal visit to Coventry Climax and company head Leonard Lee decided to run the flat-16 for him. Prince Philip saw it screaming away happily on the dyno, but so lustily that conversation was impossible. Mr Lee indicated it should be eased back, but revs fell below the critical 5000 and a conclusive clatter promptly ended the demonstration as another quill shaft sheared. The notoriously outspoken consort to our Queen was quite a fan in those days, and I’m told he was suitably – and uncharacteristically – sympathetic.

Related articles

Related products