THE whole history of British Racing Motors (BRM) is one fraught with frustration and drama and one could rightly say that “never was so much effort expended for so little result”. After battling with the complexities of the centrifugally supercharged V16 of 1949, finally getting it somewhere near right by the time Grand Prix racing had abandoned supercharged 1 ½-litre cars, BRM went to the other extreme for the 1954 Formula, with a relatively simple car. This was the P25 and it used a 2 ½-litre 4 cylinder engine in the front of a tubular space frame, with unsophisticated ifs and de Dion tube rear suspension. The basic engine design was bought from Stuart Tressillian, but instead of following his concepts of a 4-valve cylinder head, BRM changed it to two valves per cylinder, with simply enormous valve head diameters as the bore was 102.87 mm. used in conjunction with the very short stroke of 74.93 mm. The original P25 was a very small light car, but before it worked properly it grew in size and weight. From 1955 through to 1960 the Bourne concern battled their way from one disaster to another, mostly of their own making, and in all those years they only won one major Grand Prix. Many times they looked the winning, only for mechanical disaster to disrupt their efforts. The engine went through a long period of valve trouble, crankshafts were changed from four bearings to five bearings, while the cars had their fair share of brake and suspension trouble. Over the years the team built eleven as the detail design concepts changed, usually running a team of two cars and occasionally three.
By 1959 it was clear that the future lay in rear-engined single-seaters for Grand Prix racing and BRM wasted no time. They took the existing front-engined P25 cars and literally chopped them up to use the major components to build the P48 rear-engined 2 ½-litre cars. They were about to apply the hacksaw and the oxy-acetylene cutter to the last remaining P25 when a directive arrived at Bourne from Sir Alfred Owen, whose firm Rubery Owen owned BRM, to request that the P25 that had won the Dutch Grand Prix in 1959, their only Grand Prix victory, be kept as a memento of that rare occasion. As luck would have it, car number 258 which Joakim Bonnier had driven to victory at Zandvoort was the last in line for the chop. With a gulp the execution was stayed and 258 was pushed into a corner of the Bourne works. It is this car we are featuring this month. In recent years three P25 BRM cars have been resurrected around new chassis frames and bodies, using original engines and gearboxes and various suspension components, taken from the P48 rear-engined cars, while two more have been made from spare parts. One eminent BRM engineer refers to these cars as the “electric light conduit specials” maintaining that the specification for the steel tubing of the recently-made chassis frames is not correct and not of high enough quality, as called for in the original specification.
The one remaining original P25 BRM stayed in the Bourne works from the day it was saved from the executioner, apart from brief outings to exhibitions and Trade Fairs, until 1981. David Owen, the son of Sir Alfred, decided to liquidate the assets of the now moribund BRM concern and everything was put up for auction by Christie’s of South Kensington last October. In same very spirited bidding Victor Norman bought 258.