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1959/60: Cooper-Climax T51/53

by

Antonio Eiras

Sixty years ago, a technological revolution was under way that would irreversibly change Formula 1 and all motor sport.

 

Strong of a long experience of more than 15 years in the production of rear mounted engines racing cars, mainly Formulas, John Cooper and his technical team, led by Owen Maddock, ventured into Formula 1. They were about show the world that, a Formula 1 vehicle with the engine in the rear center position could be more effective than the traditional front-engine cars.

 

The Cooper Car Company presented in 1957 Monaco Grand Prix, the Cooper-Climax T43. It was an evolution of the T41 of Formula 2, and its first victory in a Grand Prix race happened in the Argentina GP, the following year, with Stirling Moss driving the car of Rob Walker's private team.

 

A year later it was presented, also in Monaco GP, the Cooper-Climax T51.

 

The new model had a steel tubular chassis, with suspensions secured by double wishbones with coil springs and dampers at the front, and double wishbones with leaf spring and dampers at the rear. The brakes were disc on the four wheels and the tires provided by Dunlop.

 

The engine was a Climax FPF, 2.5L, straight-4, naturally aspirated, with 2 overhead camshafts and delivering 220HP at 6,500rpm. The original gearbox was from Citröen ERSA, although ZF, Hewland and Colotti gearboxes were also used. The fuel tanks were positioned on each side of the cockpit, which allowed for better mass centering and greater stability of handling throughout the races.

 

Although they were less powerful than their front-engine competitors, the Cooper-Climax were lighter and more aerodynamic and proved to be easier to drive, having surprisingly dominated the Formula 1 World Championship of 1959.

 

Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss, Bruce McLaren and Maurice Trintignant drove them, among others, and won 5 of the 8 races in which they participated. Jack Brabham was works team’s first driver and won the Drivers' World Championship, and Cooper became Constructor's World Champion.

 

Throughout his career, the Cooper-Climax T51 was powered with different engines and, driven by about 40 drivers, remained in competition until 1963!

 

In 1960 Monaco Grand Prix, Cooper presented the T53 model. Lower and more effective than its predecessor, it was powered with an evolution of the Climax FPF engine that delivered about 240HP at 6,750rpm.

 

With this model Jack Brabham set a record of 5 consecutive Grand Prix wins and Cooper won 6 of the 8 races in which he officially participated. Driver and Team thus consummated the technological revolution that began four years earlier, when they categorically won the Drivers and Constructors World Championships of that year.

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