When the 1958 season of Grand Prix racing begins, cars will be forced to run on 130 octane petrol, instead of free fuel, and it is likely that in the next year tor two the basic design of Formula I cars will undergo a change to smaller and lighter cars. Since the present Formula I was introduced in 1954 the 2½-litre Grand Prix car has undergone four years of steady development,unhampered my subsidiary rules, and in various forms has reached a high state of efficiency. We can now look upon the years 1954-1957 us being Part I of the present Formula for Grand Prix racing, and as we begin Part II let us look briefly at the development of those makes that stayed the pace and cost of Grand Prix racing until the end of 1957.
On the left, reading from top to bottom, are seen stages in the Vanwall development, from the original “Special” of 2-litres, with its surface radiator and Cooper chassis, through the 2.3-litre at the end of 1954, the cleaned-up 1955 version, to the aerodynamic 1956-57 car with Chapman chassis and Costin body, which achieved three major victories during the past season. The four-cylinder engine was developed steadily throughout the years, final perfection with fuel injection giving about 280 b.h.p. On the right, at the top, is the Type 625 Ferrari four-cylinder, a development from the 1952-53 Ferrari, which was used by the Maranello concern in 1954 and 1955, while below it is the Type 555, or “Super Squalo,” Ferrari design to supersede the earlier four-cylinder. This car was never a great success and was finally abandoned when Ferrari took over the Lancia team.
The 250F Maserati went through four years of steady development, keeping the same basic six-cylinder engine and other mechanical components, and the lower two pictures show a 1954 car and a 1957 car, a steady improvement in line, weight, power and roadholding. It won the first race in 1954 and the last race in 1957, and can be considered the most all-round successful car of the era.
The Lancia firm started Grand Prix racing in 1954 with a revolutionary V8-cylinder car and began a development programme in 1955, but this was cut short by bankruptcy and all the cars and designs were given to Ferrari, who continued the development, to his own ideas, up to the end of 1957. On the left, from top to bottom, are shown the original 1954 Lancia, the 1955 with modified cowling and air intake, the 1956 Lancia/Ferrari with the pannier-tanks removed and full-width body, and the 1957 Lancia/Ferrari with new front suspension and narrow bodywork. The V8 engine was retained throughout, and though it underwent continual development it had distinct limitations as regards power output, but proved very reliable.
It was not until 1955 that B.R.M. appeared with their small and extremely light four-cylinder car, full of technical innovations, especially in the realm of weight saving, the use of a single rear brake and small oil and water capacities being amongst attempts to design to light weight rather than “adding lightness afterwards.” On the right is seen the 1955 car on its first outing at Oulton Park and, below it, the 1957 version with stressed-skin cockpit panels and completely revised suspension back and front. Most of the B.R.M. development was on detail mechanical work rather than major changes, and though at all times fast, its reliability did not stabilise itself until the end of 1957.
During 1957 two entirely new designs appeared, shown lower right, the bottom picture being the V6 Ferrari designed around many of the Lancia/Ferrari features, and, above it, the V12-cylinder Maserati, an entirely new power unit fitted into a chassis which was a 250F development. The V6 Ferrari shows the trend towards smaller and lighter cars for the future, and the Maseratis the interest towards a high number of small cylinders to reap the benefit from the less potent fuels to be used in the future. Next month we shall review the cars that started Formula I, Part I, but which did not stay the pace and disappeared. — D. S. J.