Grand Prix Cars in 1966

At the Monaco Grand Prix two more 1966 Formula 1 cars made their first public appearance, these being the V8 McLaren and the H16 B.R.M., both unsupercharged 3-litre cars. The McLaren took part in the race, whereas the B.R.M. was only used during the first two practice periods.

The change effected by Bruce McLaren, from being a works driver for the Cooper team to becoming a manufacturer, has been a gradual one, the idea beginning a few years ago when Brabham left Cooper to start up on his own and McLaren took over the leadership of the Cooper team. For the series of races held in New Zealand and Australia Cooper built two special cars, with 4-cylinder Coventry-Climax engines, and McLaren had quite a lot to do with the construction of these cars, employing mechanics who had been with the C.T. Atkins racing team when he drove for them. Although he was still leading the Cooper team he was becoming more and more independent as regards the Tasman cars and he began to set up his own workshop and mechanics. One of the first projects was the sports-racing Zerex Special Cooper which he bought from Roger Penske, and this ex-Formula 1 car that had been converted to comply with American sports-car regulations was the basis of McLaren sports-racing cars. He was gradually gathering mechanics and craftsmen together to form a small racing team and soon set about building a new sports/racer, using a V8 Oldsmobile engine and this proved so successful that he soon had people asking to buy replicas, so the Bruce McLaren Racing Team was launched. Later a tie-up with Elva and the Trojan Group was arranged and they took over the manufacture of the McLaren sports/racer, under the name McLaren-Elva-Oldsmobile. Bruce was still driving for Cooper in Formula 1 races but his sports-car project was taking most of his time, and during 1965 it was an open secret that he was going to launch out into Grand Prix racing in 1966, with the advent of the new Formula. With the financial backing of the Firestone Tyre Company and the B.P. fuel company, McLaren set himself up in a new factory near Slough. Already his team had built a single-seater car as a prototype, using a 4 1/2-litre V8 Oldsmobile engine, and this was used extensively by the Firestone technical staff to learn about road-racing tyre requirements. Not wishing for a lot of unnecessary publicity, this car was always referred to as the “tyre-testing car” and never the single-seater, so that nosey-parkers and “scoop” journalists were fobbed off when they came sniffing around for news of a McLaren Grand Prix car.

A lot of people bemoaned the fact that Coventry-Climax had given up building racing engines and saw the only prospect of a 3-litre engine coming from B.R.M. McLaren said nothing, for he was already well advanced with his own plans. He felt that if anyone did offer a 3-litre engine for sale he was going to be at the end of the queue, behind Lotus, Brabham and Cooper, for none of those teams seemed to have any engine projects in view. McLaren’s team reckoned that if they could reduce a 4.2-litre Ford V8, 4-camshaft Indianapolis engine down to 3 litres they could build sufficient units to keep two works cars racing and also have a spare car, and even if the power obtainable was not outstanding, at least they would be independent of any outside firm. During 1965 work went ahead with two engines, one reduced to 3 litres by using a shorter stroke, and the other by a reduction both in bore and stroke, the idea being to experiment with both versions and see which gave the best results. This engine work was not as simple as it sounded and by the time the prototypes were running on their borrowed test-beds in California, all that was left of the original Indianapolis Ford engines were the castings; crankshafts, connecting rods, camshafts, valves, pistons and so on had all been redesigned and made new.

The prototype car and a mock-up V8 engine were shown to the Press during the winter and, though the 1966 car is basically the same, the construction has been altered in the light of practical experience. It was hoped to have two cars at Monaco for McLaren and Amon but time prevented this and it was actually chassis No. 2 that was finished, this being McLaren’s own car. The chassis is formed from Maine, which is a sandwich material of a sheet of balsa wood compressed between two thin sheets of aluminium. This is a commercial material used in aircraft construction and it is very strong for its weight. The basic chassis is like a long bath with a wide ledge each side, the sectibn being like an inverted top hat, and this main structure is of Maine. Originally the outer side panels were to be of Malice also, but it was decided to make these of aluminium and rivet them to the Malite “bath” so that in the event of crash damage these panels could be replaced easily. In the spaces formed by the sides of the “bath” and the outer skins are carried rubber fuel tanks, though on the prototype, which was of all Malite construction, the joints were all sealed and the chassis structure formed the actual tanks. As it seems likely that FIA. rules for 1967 will demand rubber fuel tanks, these were put into the revised construction. Along the length of the chassis there are four fabricated steel bulkheads, the front one carrying the front suspension, pedals etc., the next one forming the instrument panel, then one behind the driving seat, and the rearmost one carrying the rear suspension. The allround independent suspension follows conventional Grand Prix practice, with an upper rocker-arm at the front compressing a coil spring/damper unit, and a lower A-bracket. A slight variation is the use of a short radius rod from the outer end of the rocker-arm rearward, to the chassis, in order to spread the braking forces. At the rear the suspension is conventional, with lower A-bracket, single top transverse link and twin radius rods each side.

The 3-litre McLaren-Ford engine is installed behind the cockpit and drives through a 5-speed and reverse ZF gearbox/axle unit, the engine being fed by enormous air-intakes and Hilburn fuel-injection, the inlet ports running down between the camshafts on each cylinder head, with the exhaust ports and pipes in the vee of the engine. The best results were obtained from the engine version that retained the Indianapolis cylinder bore dimension and used a short-throw crankshaft, and this was in use at Monaco, giving 303 b.h.p. at 8,750 r.p.m., although the engine is happy to run to 9,500 r.p.m.

The detail work and the finish of the McLaren is of a very high standard and a great deal of thought has gone into final details, making the car appear to have a “tool-room” finish, rather than having been hurriedly assembled in the back garden, like some racing cars. There are interesting details about the car, such as the use of the detachable rear cross-member above the gearbox as a catch-tank for the gearbox breather pipe, and the main cross-member being the catch-tank for the engine breathers. The radiators for oil and water in the nose of the car are ducted out through openings in front of the windscreen, and the water header-tank is formed into the crash bar behind the driver’s head.

The McLaren team look upon the modified Ford V8 engine as a stop-gap project to get them racing this year, with a development life of perhaps 18 months, and no doubt they are already occupied with serious thought for an engine for 1967/8. The present engine is far too strong and heavy, having originally been designed for 500 b.h.p. for 500 miles, but at least it should prove reliable as a 3-litre, and not fly apart too easily. After the initial try-out at Monte Carlo serious trouble with the bottom end of the engine was experienced, necessitating some redesigning, so a sports-type Serenissima V8 engine was installed for the Belgian G.P. For the 1966 season three Formula 1 McLarens have been built, for the use of the works team and these must not be confused with the single-seater tubular space-frame cars that can be bought by private owners. Three such cars have been built, being, in effect, single-seater versions of the McLaren-Elva sports/racer, and two of them have 4 1/2-litre V8 Oldsmobile engines for hill-climbs, and were bought by Patsy Burt and Harry Zweifel, while the third has a 4.7-litre Ford V8 engine installed and has been bought by Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer for use as a camera car in the making of the film “Grand Prix.”

As soon as the new limits for the 1966 Formula had been announced the B.R.M. design team, headed by Tony Rudd, began work on a 3-litre project and by the middle of 1965 it was known that it was no re-hash of any existing engine design, but a completely new layout. The object was not to put something together as a stop-gap in order to go racing in 1966, but to design an engine and a car that would have sufficient development life in it to last through most of the years of the new Formula. Even if the first year had to be spent ironing out teething troubles, it was the intention that the engine, in particular, would be more than competitive over two or three years, and by competitive B.R.M. meant ahead of their rivals. Last June it was known that the 3-litre engine was to be of 16 cylinders in the form of an H lying on its side, in other words two horizontally-opposed 8-cylinder units mounted one above the other, with the crankshafts geared together. Such a layout was going to prove rather wide but very short, and it was estimated that 400 b.h.p. should be available. Engine designers who heard about this new B.R.M. power unit shook their heads and suggested innumerable difficulties that would arise, not the least being the question of the firing order and getting rid of crankshaft vibrations that would tend to cause the two shafts to fight each other, while another forseeable problem was the question of accurate valve timing as the cranks were geared together, via an idler gear, at the back of the engine, and the four camshafts on each side of the engine were driven from the front of the crankshafts. However, the B.R.M. design team were not worried by the gloomy queries by rival engineers and solved most of their problems and had the first engine running well before this season began. The expected 400 b.h.p. was achieved but equally the expected vibration problems were experienced and they went through a period of internal breakages but one by one they overcame their problems and the first of the new cars appeared for practice at Monaco, though it was too new and untried to use in the race.

A B.R.M.-designed 6-speed gearbox is bolted on to the rear of the engine and at the back of the gearbox is a bell-housing containing the clutch, a layout used extensively by Ferrari a few years ago. The output shaft from the engine comes from the lower crankshaft and it runs right through the gearbox/rear axle casing to the clutch, which is operated hydraulically, and then the drive goes forward into the 6-speed gearbox. Incorporated between the engine and gearbox is a cast-alloy bulkhead to which the rear suspension members are mounted, there being no chassis below or alongside the engine. The chassis is a riveted aluminium monocoque structure which starts at the front cross-member carrying the front suspension and finishes immediately behind the driving seat, in a flat bulkhead. The engine, gearbox/axle unit and rear suspension are a rigid self-contained unit and by means of four long arms, two above the engine and two below, this aggregate is bolted to the chassis bulkhead in what is standard practice in aircraft design, but has yet to be proved in racing car design. Vittorio Jano tried it with the front-engined D50 I.ancia V8 and Ferrari tried it with his early rear-engined monocoque cars. The B.R.M. suspension is orthodox Grand Prix, with upper rocking arms and lower wishbones at the front, and lower A brackets at the rear with single transverse struts and twin radius rods on each side. The rear disc brakes are mounted inboard of the hub-carriers, but unsprung, and the brake pipe-lines run along the top radius rods. Front discs are radially ventilated, while the rear discs are solid.

With the cylinder heads having the same valve layout as the last of the 1 1/2-litre V8 B.R.M. engines, that is, with the inlet ports between the camshafts, the eight inlets for each bank of cylinders are horizontally on each side of the engine. The exhaust ports are above and below the engine and are coupled in groups of four, upper left, upper right, lower left and lower right, each group having a long tail pipe with slight megaphone end. The inlet ports are fed by Lucas fuel-injection, there being an injection unit mounted on each side of the engine, between the inlet ports, and driven by toothed-belt from an extension of an idler gear-shaft in the gear-train between crankshaft and camshafts, the left-hand shaft also driving an alternator by a second toothed-belt. Transistor ignition is used with a double-ended distributor mounted on the front of the engine with a single sparking plug per cylinder. Alloy wheels of 14 in. diameter are used and the body shape follows the lines of the 1965 B.R.M. with body panelling covering both the engine and gearbox, unlike most Grand Prix cars today on which the body finishes behind the cockpit, leaving all the machinery exposed.

The 6-speed gearbox is controlled by a left-hand lever which is coupled to the selector mechanism by a system of push-pull flexible cables and the four throttle-slide plates are coupled in pairs on each side of the engine, with Bowden cables running forward along each side of the cockpit. These cables are joined to a cross-shaft mounted on the scuttle, above the pedals, with the pendant accelerator pedal operating this shaft by a short linkage. At present the engine Is running. to 10,000 r.p.m., but no doubt this will be increased as the unit is developed.

A further development on the use of the B.R.M. H16-cylinder engine is the Lotus 43, a Chapman design to utilise the B.R.M. 3-litre engine until such time as Lotus can provide their own engine„ which it is hoped will be in 1967. Using the 16-cylinder engine/gearbox/axle unit of B.R.M. has of necessity forced the Lotus design to follow the main principles of the 1966 B.R.M. A riveted monocogue body/chassis unit forms the main structure and the power unit is attached to the rear bulkhead, as with the B.R.M. However, the method of distributing the stresses and anchoring the radius rods of the rear suspension differs in detail, while the four attachment arms that hold the engine are fabricated from sheet steel on the Lotus in place of the B.R.M. arms which are machined from solid duralumin. Lotus have managed to achieve a lower cross-sectional area across the cockpit, in spite of having the same bulk of machinery in the rear. The front suspension is orthodox Lotus Grand Prix, which most people have copied since the advent of the Lotus 25, and rear suspension is orthodox, except that whereas B.R.M. carry their suspension on the cast-alloy plate between engine and gearbox, and a small tubular subframe, Lotus use a fabricated sheet steel hoop that runs under the gearbox, but the principle of the engine/gearbox unit carrying the suspension is basically the same.

The Lotus 43 made but a brief appearance in the first practice for the Belgian Grand Prix, driven by Peter Arundell, but engine trouble developed. Whereas the B.R M. has two oil coolers for the gearbox oil, one on each side of the box, the Lotus has a single one built into the bodywork that is over the engine. The 6-speed gearbox is controlled by flexible push-pull cables, as with the. B.R.M., but the gear-lever is mounted on the right in the cockpit. Whereas B.R.M. have left the sides of their engine uncovered, with gauze covers over the air intakes, Lotus have fitted side panels held on by Dzus. fasteners.

A second new car to appear at Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand Prix was the blue and silver Eagle of Dan Gurney, and while not being very impressive due to having to use a temporary Coventry-Climax 4-cylinder engine, until such time as its proper engine is ready, at least it took part in its first Grand Prix race. At the end of 1965 Dan Gurney left the Brabham team and went to California, taking with him Len Terry, who was doing design work at Lotus, and some mechanics with European experience. Gurney formed a partnership with Carroll Shelby under the title of All American Racers Inc. and set their sights on two major projects, the winning of the 1966 Indianapolis 500-mile Race and the participation in Grand Prix racing with a new 3-litre car. Len Terry had been responsible for the successful Indianapolis Lotus-Ford that won in 1965, so the A.A.R. initial project was able to get away to a flying start. Like so many Indianapolis aspirants they planned to use the latest 4-camshaft racing Ford V8 engine and the car was naturally designed along Lotus lines, of riveted monocoque construction with orthodox Grand Prix-type suspension. The basic car was to be equally suitable for Indianapolis and U.S.A.C, track-racing, as well as for European Grand Prix racing, but for the Grand Prix cars a V12-cylinder, 4-camshaft, 4-valve per cylinder was put in hand by the Harry Weslake engine concern at Rye in Sussex. The Indianapolis project was tackled entirely from California, where All American Racers set up a factory at Santa Ana and not only did they build five cars, known as “Eagles,” that qualified for the 500-mile race, but one of them came within an ace of winning; Lloyd Ruby had a commanding lead at three-quarters distance in an A.A.R.-Eagle when his Ford engine let him down.

For the European Grand Prix project Gurney has set up a small workshop at Rye, next door to the Weslake concern that is producing the 12-cylinder Grand Prix engines, and he plans to run two cars with himself and Jerry Grant as drivers. In order to get racing experience with the “Eagle” the first car has been fitted with a 4-cylinder, 2.7-litre Coventry-Climax engine. coupled to a Hewland gearbox, for the 12-cylinder Weslake engine is taking longer to build than originally anticipated. An interesting feature of the “Eagle” chassis is that the rocker-arm suspension members at the front do not extend at right-angles to the chassis, as on Lotus, B.R.M. and Ferrari, but have a distinct “swept-back wing” attitude. The reason for this is that both the drivers are well over 6 ft. tall and have long legs, and by doing this Len Terry has gained a few inches of cockpit room by moving the front bulkhead forward without having an extra long wheelbase, or causing any drastic alterations to the general layout which stems front his original Lotus 38 design. The general finish of the “Eagle” is first class and could well be copied by some European racing car constructors. Until the “Eagle” has its proper engine it is not possible to evaluate its position in the overall picture of Grand Prix racing, but it would seem that this Anglo-American project could well enliven the scene, for as a fast and forceful driver Dan Gurney rates among the best.

There is some confusion over the naming of the Gurney project, for the original “All American Racers” is referred to in England as the “Anglo-American Racers,” while the car is called “Eagle” and the engine a “Gurney-Weslake,” but whatever the name, Daniel Gurney is the man who’s going to make it win races.-D.S.J.