I very much appreciated your 27-page special feature on BRM. It sometimes seems a long while ago and yet, at other times, only yesterday.
BRM was born to turn a British-built car and, if possible, a British driver into winners of the Formula One championships. In 1962, BRM finally achieved its goal of winning both the drivers’ and constructors’ titles with Graham Hill. Every single part of the car was British-made, a feat I suspect is impossible to repeat with a global auto industry.
Many people may not know that my father, Alfred Owen, had to leave his engineering studies at Cambridge University at 21 to take charge of the Rubery Owen Group of Companies. He was never able to finish his degree, yet he had a deep understanding of engineering and understood how to give value for money in component manufacture.
Rubery Owen had many competing needs for its funds. We were committed to keeping up our investment within the Group to stay competitive. Many of our MDs supported BRM and wished it every success, but were conscious that they didn’t want it to starve them of funds, hence my father’s commitment to see if he could get BRM to contribute more revenue towards its racing programme.
Many people suggested after BRM’s success in 1962 that we should pull out having achieved our aims. I remember my father saying that it had taken us long enough to get there and, with a successful team and ongoing stability in Fl under the 1.5-litre regulations, that we should not pull out now. When Formula One changed to 3-litre cars for ‘66,1 think he felt we should have one last shot at regaining the championship. The one sacrosanct thing was that BRM should continue to build its own engine, gearbox and chassis, and each engine that was developed had at least one GP victory. In the early 1970s, Rubery Owen, as a family company, had to sell some assets to pay for investment in some of its fast-growing companies.
To compete with the ‘big boys’ who were starting to invest heavily in F1 technology, our projected budgets began to look thin. Facing a possible budget deficit of over 1,1m for the 1975 season, we reluctantly called it a day. It was time to let other British teams ‘have a go’. At least there were far more then than in 1949, when BRM acted as pioneers.
When we celebrated BRM’s 50th anniversary, in August 1999, we were so pleased to see 10,000 cheering people and to discover that BRM’s heritage lives on.
Long may British companies be at the forefront of grand prix racing — one of the most innovative and exciting sports in the world. We hope history will show that we played our part.
I AM, YOURS, ETC,
A David Owen, Chairman, Rubery Owen Holdings Ltd