The 2-Litre Gordini

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64

The name Gordini is invariably linked with that of Simca, for the entry of Simca-Gordini cars in all types of racing, from sports to Formula I has been one of the mainstays of post-war racing. The Simca prefix has been derived from the days before the war when Amedee Gordini raced modified Simca-Fiats and over the years the Simca parts have receded to be replaced by Gordini parts. With the introduction of the 1,500-c.c. four-cylinder twin-o.h.c. engine, run in supercharged and unsupercharged form last year, the only remaining link with Simca was the front suspension units, which were coil springs encased in an oil-filled tube as on the popular 1,100-c.c. Simca.

At the beginning of this year, after rumour had designed a V8 Formula I car for him, Gordini produced his latest model and having dropped the Simca suspension he also dropped the name and thus was created the first pure-bred Gordini. From the beginning Gordini has always built his cars to the principle of minimum weight with just sufficient power to justify the lightness and his new 2-litre follows this principle also. After modifying and developing an 1,100-c.c. Fiat engine to the limit he devised a special cylinder head with 90-deg. valves operated by pushrods, rockers and levers from the original Fiat camshaft position, but when this engine had reached the end of its development his next move was twin-overhead camshafts and while tackling this he designed the complete engine from scratch, all traces of Simca vanishing from the power unit for good. This engine was used in supercharged and unsupercharged form and the new 2-litre is a logical development of the four-cylinder engine. Of 2-litre capacity and six-cylinders the Gordini Formula II engine has an aluminium head and block with two valves per cylinder. From the front of the crankshaft, which is carried in Vandervell bearings a train of gears run upwards to the offside or inlet camshaft, the driving gear of which engages with a gear on the exhaust camshaft. The two camshafts revolve in opposite directions and each runs in six plain bearings; the shafts are mounted close in to the centre-line of the engine and operate the valves through short rockers mounted on shafts parallel with the camshafts. The six sparking plugs are situated centrally in the head and are recessed in tubes in the one-piece valve cover. Each cylinder has its own inlet and exhaust port and three “paired” DCO Weber carburetters are used and to each choke tube is added a bell-mouthed tube similar to a motor-cycle carburetter. These tubes protrude into a bulge on the side of the bonnet and thus draw from “still-air,” there being no outlet from the bulge. A straightforward six-branch exhaust manifold takes the gas away from the engine.

The chassis, which is also pure Gordini, is simplicity in itself, and consists of two large diameter parallel tubes that start behind the centre-line of the front wheels and finish in front of the centre-line of the rear wheels, there being no chassis overhang whatever. At the rear a fabricated arch joins the side-members forming a rectangle of four bearings for wishbones when seen from the rear. A one-piece simple axle casing is used and it is positioned sideways by single-armed levers and links, acting as wishbones, one above and the other below the axle, there being two to each side. The bottom ones are attached directly to torsion bars that run forwards inside the frame tubes. The top arms extend beyond the pivot-points, and operate vertical tubular shock-absorbers. At the front similar single-piece arms, two on each side, position the front hubs, acting as double wishbones, again with the bottom ones operating the longitudinal torsion bars within the frame hubs and the upper ones operating the vertical shock-absorbers by extended links. What Gordini has done is to design a system of suspension using double wishbones and replacing the wishbones by single bars.

The cooling radiator and oil radiator are mounted on brackets in front of the suspension and a water-pump is driven from the nose of the crankshaft. Hydraulic brakes with very wide and heavily finned drums are used both front and rear. The centre portion of the body is mounted on a tubular framework welded to the main chassis and the tail forms the fuel tank, the oil is kept beneath the driver’s seat.

In keeping with his lightweight policy Gordini invariably chooses drivers of small stature and this season his team consists of Robert Manzon, Jean Behra and B. Bira who form an admirable trio for the three 2-litres that Gordini has now built. It took his small works, situated in a Paris back-street garage, five months to build the first Gordini, which appeared at Pau at Easter; by mid-June two cars were running and a third engine was mounted in a 1951 sports chassis for Le Mans, and by the end of June three single-seaters started in the French G.P. at Reims, Behra finishing first with Bira fourth—a rapid and brilliant introduction of a new car. By the beginning of May Gordini was confident of the Reims victory, for after the car’s second appearance, at Marseilles, Manzon assured “le sorcier,” as Gordini is known in France, that the new car could beat the all-conquering Ferraris on sheer speed but was handicapped because he and his co-drivers were inferior in skill to the Italians. At Reims, where sheer speed counted, Behra won with ease.

Some idea of the new engine’s ability was seen at Le Mans, when Manzon and Behra led until nearly half-distance at a fantastically high average and when the car retired with lack of brakes the engine was as good as ever. In Le Mans form the Gordini was enlarged to 2.3-litres by the expedient of changing the pressed-in liners; in all other respects the power unit remains identical to the Formula II version. At present this enlarged engine is installed in a 1951 chassis with Simca front suspension units but is fitted with the enlarged brakes; some idea of the performance can be gained from the fact that it is much faster than an XK120C Jaguar. In sports-car form an all-enveloping two-seater body is used with right-hand drive and a new one is being built on the new chassis which will have alternative bodies so that it can be used in sports-car or Formula II events by merely changing the body, liners and pistons, and steering column. At present accurate figures are not obtainable but in Formula II form 160 b.h.p. and 10 cwt, will not be far off the mark.

The team of 2-litre Gordinis driven by Manzon, Behra and Bira will continue to carry the French colours in G.P. racing and such is the enthusiasm for this effort by Gordini that shortly after the first appearance of the new car a public subscription was started by French motoring journals to assist “le sorcier” to uphold French prestige.