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1958: Vanwall

by

Antonio Eiras

Vanwall was the first British team to succeed in modern Formula 1, but had a short existence, due to the impulsive temperament of its creator.

 

Son of a wealthy industrial of London, Tony Vandervell had a careful education and followed his father's footsteps, growing the fortune he had inherited with the manufacture of bearings.

 

In the early 50s he was invited by a founder of BRM, to sponsor the Team. This made Tony to regain contact with motor racing, which had made the delights of his youth, but, disillusioned with the collective team management, he decided to buy a Ferrari 125 and invest in his own project.

 

Enthusiastic about the new challenge, he ordered a chassis to Cooper and built a 4-cylinder engine with the fusion of four 500cc single-cylinders Norton (brand that he was Director) and who were making, by the time, huge success in competition.

 

And so has been made the first Vanwall (name that resulted from the merger of Tony surname with the name of his “ThinWall” bearing brand) which debuted in 1954. The engine, with 2-liter capacity, did limit its competitiveness in a Championship with new technical regulations which allowed normally aspirated engines up to 2.5 liter.

The restless spirit of Tony Vandervell led him then to order a new chassis to the young engineer Colin Chapman, who commissioned his friend Frank Costin to draw a superb tear drop bodywork for the car. The new 2.5-liter engine derived from the original of 1954 and adopted a Bosch injection system.

 

The result was presented in 1956, with the new Vanwall to surprise everyone, by the elegance of its lines and the effectiveness of its performance. To this contributed the lightweight multi-tubular chassis with classic suspensions, with rigid Pont De Dion on the rear and torsion bar on the front, also exquisitely designed by Chapman, and also the disc brakes, the high specific power of its engine, the 5-speed gearbox and the tires, supplied by Dunlop.

 

It was not until the following year´s British Grand Prix, to see confirmed the high potential of the new car. Indeed and after multiple evolutions of the original vehicle, particularly in the design of the rear suspension, which began to use coil springs, the first victory of the team took place in its home GP, held at the Aintree circuit, by the hands of Stirling Moss. The engine delivered, by then, a generous power of 275 hp at 7.250 rpm.

 

In 1958, at the wheel of the Vanwall, Moss would fight until the final race, for the Drivers World Championship title, who lost by just one point to the rival and fellow countryman of Ferrari, Mike Hawhtorne. As a consolation, Vanwall would be the first team to win the newly created Constructors World Championship. Of the 17 Grands Prix raced in 1957 and 58 seasons, the British team won nine.

 

The victory of Stirling Moss at the last GP of the 1958 season, held in Casablanca, Morocco, was, however, overshadowed by the death of the young Stuart Lewis-Evans, as a result of an accident caused by his Vanwall VW4´s engine explosion.

 

This incident deeply shocked Tony Vandervell, who had never had any other serious accident with one of his cars, and led him to withdraw from competition. His team still sporadic and occasionally participate in GP races until 1960, having also failed in the experiment with a GP rear engine vehicle, in 1961.

 

The splendor finished in Casablanca, in the last GP of the 1958 season, but the strong brand, which is a combination of quality, elegance and performance, left by Tony Vandervell and his team, in the world of motor racing, remains, today and in all fairness, the pride of the British people.

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