Power To The People

British Post-War Competition Engines

With the resumption of peace after World War II and even with shortages of vital materials swallowed by the war effort, many minds turned to the well deserved use of their new freedom.

In engineering terms, World War II was a double-edged sword, bringing the cessation of motorsport for the duration, but seeing huge leaps in technology around the world in the period 1939-1945.

Immediately after the war, enthusiasts throughout the UK set about a revival which led to one of our most successful post-war industries, respected throughout the world — the building of world-class competition vehicles, the heart of these being their engines.

At club level, Ford 1172cc and Austin 750cc engines from "budget" road cars were tuned to give amazing performance (and cheap spares!) by a band of men who helped establish the British motorsport industry; names such as Chapman, Broadley, Terry, Costin, Duckworth, Marsh Bennett, Heseltine, Tojeiro, Lister, Cooper, Butterworth and many, many more, built new and innovative vehicles for, initially, club racing and beyond.

At the grass roots a number of basic road-going engines were breathed on and modified to give startling performance, after which the luxury of "a blank sheet of paper" gave life to new designs. Formula Junior, introduced from Italy by Count "Johnny" Lurani, 500cc Formula 3 with cars by Cooper, Kieft and Emeryson (and names like Moss, Tyrrell and Ecclestone) all provided budget racing and a fertile base for innovation.

In mainstream British motor racing names such as A C, Alta, Aston Martin, B A M, Bristol, Coventry Climax, Cosworth, E R A, Frazer Nash, Jaguar and Lea Francis all fielded units for the evergrowing range of teams, all looking for a power advantage.

Here follows a list of some of the keynote engines of the period in question — in many cases, due to the brevity of this article, the full range of engines or their changing specifications cannot be listed. No slight is intended to those missed or not fully expanded upon; all have earned their place in motorsport industry.


1952 specification: Six cylinders, 65mm x 100mm, 1991cc, Overhead valves. Single camshaft. 6.75:1 c r, 76bhp at 4500rpm. Three S U carburettors. These engines were used by A C and others prior to the period when the company bought in large American engines. A C being around both pre and post-war saw their engines in a number of vehicles, and a number of vintage specials enjoy A C Power.


1952 Specification: four cylinders, 83.5mm x 90mm, 1990cc: also 93.5 x 90mm, 2470cc. These engines were used principally by Connaught and H W M, and produced good power but had something of a reputation for being fragile. A well-sorted Alta engine in an Alta car or others often embarrassed the opposition.

Aston Martin

1952 Specification six cylinder, 78mm x 90mm, 2580cc, 107bhp at 5000rpm, c r 6.5:1, or, in Vantage specification, 123bhp at 5000rpm, c r 8.16:1. This engine followed by one of 2992cc, 84mm x 90mm, 244bhp at 6000rpm. Subsequent engine developed by Tadek Marek powered both road, racing and sports-racing cars with Aston Martin claiming well-deserved victory at Le Mans in 1959. V8 engines followed that powered both Aston Martin sports racing cars and also Lola-Aston Martins.


1952 Specification: six cylinders, 66mm x 96mm, 1971cc. 85bhp at 4500rpm, c r 7.5:1. Overhead valves. Three Solex downdraught carburettors. These engines were progressively developed and powered cars by Bristol, Cooper, Lotus and others — a powerful and generally reliable engine giving good performance.


After E R A, B R M is a very British concern, initially with Raymond Mays and Peter Berthon and later Tony Rudd. The company made 1.5litre, 2.5-litre and 3-litre engines, some of startling complexity, in particular the V16 1.5-litre engine (1949-1955) of 1496cc, 600bhp at 12000rpm, 49.5mm x 47.8mm. Twin overhead camshafts. 2 x 3in S LY carburettors with Rolls Royce two stage supercharging. Also, in the BRM P25, a four-cylinder engine, 2497cc, 288bhp at 8250rpm, 102.9mm x 74.9mm. Twin overhead camshafts, two Weber 58 DCOE carburettors. In 1962 BRM won the manufacturers World Championship, the late, great, Graham Hill driving.

Coventry Climax

1954 Specification. FWA (Feather Weight A): 72.4mm x 66.7mm, 1098cc, c r 8.8:1, 72bhp at 6100rpm.

1956 specification: FWB: 76.2mm x 80mm, 1460cc, 100bhp at 6000rpm.

FWE (E for Elite — Lotus): 76.2 x 66.7mm, 1216cc, 101 c r. With single S U carburettor, 72bhp at 6100rpm; sports-racing version with twin S U carburettors — 83bhp at 6300rpm.

FPE (2.5 Litre V8): 76.2mm x 67.94mm, 2477cc.

FPF, 1.5 litres. Probably the first "production line" racing engine built in the U K. 81.2mm x 71.1mm, 1475cc, 141bhp at 7300rpm, or 1960cc, 86.4mm x 83.8mm, 176bhp at 6500rpm, or 2495cc, 94.00mm x 89.90mm, 240bhp at 6750rpm.

FWMV V8: Mkl. 63mm x 60mm, 1495cc, c r 10.41. Four Weber carburettors, 118bhp at 7500rpm. MkX: 72.39mm x 60mm, 1974cc, Lucas fuel injection. 158bhp at 7500rpm. FWC was an engine for Lotus, built to take the Index of Performance at Le Mans. FWD was a diesel application. Coventry Climax had the considerable expertise of Walter Hassan, whose engines powered a whole host of racing applications, bringing championships to, amongst others, Lotus.


Keynote Engines

From 1959-1965 there were various engines from Mk1 to Mk17, mostly based on Ford 105E/109E/ 116E engines, ranging from 997cc to 1594cc and fitted to vehicles as diverse as Formula Junior racing cars and Lotus Ford Cortina road cars.

MAE (Modified Anglia Engine): 997cc/100bhp: mostly used in 1-litre Formula 3.

SCA (1964): 997cc/115bhp: first Cosworth engine to use Cosworth-designed cylinder head. (SCA for Single overhead Cam.) Based on Ford 116E cylinder block, designed for new 1-litre Formula 2 of 1964; bhp eventually pushed to around 140. FVA1598cc/218bhp (1966). The first Cosworth designed twin-cam engine to go into production. Four valves per cylinder, based on the five-bearing Ford 116E cylinder block. Gear drive to cams. The dominant engine in the 1.6-litre Formula 2 of 1967-1971, and direct ancestor of the DFV V8.

DFV 1967. 2993cc/405bhp. First engine to be designed totally by Cosworth (DFV — Double Four Valve.) A legendary Formula One engine which won 155 World Championship Grand Prix races between 1967 and 1983. Power eventually rose to around 500bhp.

DFX (1975): 2645cc/840bhp. Short stroke turbocharged version of DFV for CART/INDY racing in the USA.

DFL (1981): 3995cc/540bhp. Enlarged Endurance version of the DFV, developed for use in Group C sports cars, with larger bore and stroke dimensions. A short stroke version of the DEL of 3298cc/490bhp was also made.

DFY (1982): 2993cc/500-520bhp. Derivative of the short-stroke DFV for use in Formula 1 racing from 1987 when capacity limit rose to 3500cc for normally aspirated engines.

16-valve BDA group (1969). 1601cc/120bhp. Belt drive to twin overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder. Evolutions from 1970-1986: BDB-BDT-E (2137cc/500bhp).

GBA (1986): 1497cc/750bhp. 120 degree V6 twin turbo engine for Ford in Formula 1 racing, used in 1986 and 1987: 1000bhp available with special fuel.

HB (1989): 3500cc/600 + bhp. All-new V8 design with no carry-over parts from DFV family. Used by Benetton, Jaguar and McLaren.

AC (1993): 3000cc/450bhp. All new purpose built unit for Formula 3000.

Ford Zetec R Formula 1 engine (1994). 3500cc/750bhp. Successor to HB.

Ford ED. Formula 1 racing engine (1995). 3000cc/650bhp. New V8 to conform to new FIA regulations bringing engine size from 3500cc to 3000cc, using many features of the HB. (Cosworth also created or modified a number of road car/rally car engines which, due to lack of space, can not be covered here).


Originally sketched out by the Hassan/Heynes/Baily team in 1944/1945, the XK engines proved to be an instant success on launching in 1948 and particularly in competition (XK-powered Jaguars won at Le Mans five times: 3.4-litre engines in C-Types in 1951 and 1953; in D-Types in 1955, 1956 and 1957, the last with a 3.8-litre engine. XK-engined cars also won a variety of sports racing car events (Lister, HWM, Tojeiro, Lightweight E-Types etc).

Sample C-Type engine specification (1951): six cylinders, 83nnm x 106mm, 3442cc. Overhead valves, twin overhead camshafts. 8.00.1 c r, 200bhp at 5800rpm. Twin horizontal S U Carburettors. Jaguar went on to make a V12 engine (Walter Hassan's swangsong at Jaguar) and variety of engines for sports racing categories, with almost countless successes for "The Big Cat".

Lea Francis

These engines started life in the well-made Lea Francis cars, and were then modified and developed by Continental Cars (Connaught) in a variety of forms, namely 1767cc and 1484cc (75mm x 84mm), eventually having very few of the original engine components present, and performing surprisingly well. Principally used by Connaught with great success, but also powering other racing and sports racing cars of the 1950s period.

This article was prepared by Michael Williams of Beaufort Restoration Services (U K) Ltd and Beaufort Motorsport.