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Classic cars, defined by the human hand

Prototype Parade No. 77 | Model Maker October 1956 | Drawn & Described by Richard Collett

Vanwall 1956

ALTHOUGH Britain has produced a number of very successful racing drivers, she has not, until recent years, produced an equally successful racing car capable of carrying these drivers to all British victories in any Grand Prix, despite the numerous attempts which have been made at intervals to do this.

Probably the best known pre-war British racing car was the E.R.A., and the excellence of its design is testified by the large number which still run magnificently in club meetings up and down the country. Unfortunately, even this sturdy little car was incapable of effectively challenging the might of the State-backed German and Italian companies.

Since the war further efforts have been made to produce a British Grand Prix car, and during the last few months three types, Connaught, Vanwall and B.R.M. have shown considerable promise. One of these, the Vanwall, subject of this article, gave a great display at the Daily Express International Trophy Meeting at Silverstone in May, when in the hands of Stirling Moss it won the Formula One event at an average speed greater than the original lap record, and also equalled fourteen times the new lap record set up earlier in the race by the B.R.M. of Mike Hawthorn.

Vanwall 1956 side view

The Vanwall is the "brain child" of A. G. Vandervell, Head of the firm of that name, which produces the majority of the thin-wall bearings used by European motor manufac-turers. Mr. Vandervell entered motor racing after the war with a 41 litre V-12 Ferrari, which had been "breathed upon" by his staff and was therefore known as the Thinwall Special. This was probably the most potent privately owned Ferrari and at one time held both the Silverstone and Goodwood lap records. 1954 saw the introduction of the present Formula One which called for cars with supercharged engines of up to 750 c.c. capacity or normally aspirated engines of up to 22 litres, and consequently of a new Vandervell car, this time of completely British origin. The new car had a 2&rac12; litre engine fitted with fuel injection and the name was shortened to Vanwall Special. The most unusual feature of the car was the external radiator which was mounted on the curved nose. This model was replaced in 1955 by one with a normal internal radiator fed by an air intake in the nose and the name was again shortened, this time to Vanwall.

Vanwall 1956 top view

For 1956, further alterations were made; the new chassis which had been designed in co-operation with Colin Chapman, whose firm produces the Lotus sports cars, was fitted with an equally new, very smooth and high-tailed body, with a distinctive shape which makes it easily recognisable on the track. The driver is fully enclosed in the cockpit and protected by a deep, well-raked windscreen. The cars are all painted British Racing. Green while the black racing number is painted on white discs on the nose and both sides of the tail.

The engine, like those of most contemporary Grand Prix cars, is of conventional design with twin overhead camshafts and four cylinders. Since its inception the Vanwall has been fitted with fuel injection, which in this case is effected by pumping the fuel at high pressure into the bodies of four Amal carburetters with a Bosch fuel pump; this system is similar to that used by Maserati on their new models, but differs from the Mercedes-Benz method where fuel is injected directly into the cylinders. The suspension is equally conventional, unequal length wishbones and coil springs being used at the front and stiffened with an anti-roll bar; whilst at the rear a de Dion rear axle is used with a high-level transverse leaf spring. Hydraulic dampers are used on all springs. All four wire-spoked wheels are fitted with disc brakes; those at the rear being mounted inboard whilst those at the front are drilled radially; in both cases the unsprung weight is thereby reduced.

The principal dimensions are: Length, 13 ft. 8 in.; Width, 4 ft. 1 lin.; Height (to top of wind-screen), 3 ft. 7 in.; Track front, 4 ft. 54 in.; rear, 4 ft. 34 in.; Wheel base, 7 ft. 64 in.

Despite its apparently orthodox design the new Vanwall appears to have the potentialities of a world beater, and it was proclaimed as such after its sensational debut at the previously mentioned Trophy Meeting, especially in view of the retirement of both Lancia Ferraris. Sad to say the position was reversed at the British Grand Prix on July 14th which was won by the Ferraris, all three Vanwalls retiring with mechanical troubles of various sorts. If it is possible to build increased reliability into these cars, we may yet see an end-of-season sensation, or failing that, at least we can look forward to some fierce battles for World Championship in 1957, after the various Marques have spent the winter in preparation and redevelopment. It seems probable that Moss, who has always expressed a desire to race a British Grand Prix car, will be persuaded by his experience of these cars to sign a contract to drive Vanwalls in 1957, thus providing an apparently invincible combination and a worthy complement to our sports racing achievements.

Model Maker

Vanwall 1956

Vanwall 1956 technical drawings

Vanwall 1957

Vanwall 1956 cutaway drawing
Model Maker

Vanwall 1958

Vanwall 1958 technical drawings

Prototype Parade No. 93 | Model Maker 1956 | Drawn by J.H. Batchelor & Described by D. J. Laidlaw Dickson

Vanwall 1958

THOUGH the Vanwall made its debut under that name no earlier than 1954, its inception can properly go back to 1950, when Guy Anthony Vandervell parted company with the original B.R.M. group, taking with him the V-12 1½ litre Ferrari that he had bought to give them experience of modern racing machinery.

Starting as the Thinwall, this evolved into the Vanwall Special, which first ran at the Silverstone May, 1954, meeting. The marque's vicissitudes since that date have brought their share of joys and sorrows to British motor racing enthusiasts until the culminating achievement of 1958, when for the first time a British car, British driven, by Stirling Moss and his gallant team-mates, secured the manufacturers' world championship.

The familiar high tailed car that we know so well did not take shape until late in 1955, when Colin Chapman and Frank Costin were brought in to work on chassis and body that was to house the Vandervell engine, by that time bearing more and more of the master's features and having only coincidental resemblance to the original Ferrari from which it was derived. Chapman produced an ultra light multi tube space frame round which Costin draped the first of the aerodynamic bodies. With minor body changes only, the body design continued until its, we hope, temporary, retirement at the end of 1958. A super streamlined version was, in fact, prepared for the French Grand Prix in 1957, but used only in practice; while towards the end of 1958 an enclosed cockpit was tried by Moss, but new safety regulations published almost immediately made further experiment along those lines fruitless.

For the opening event of 1958 -the regular Goodwood Easter "Trial" G.P.- Vanwall arrived with a certain amount of new look features. The familiar four manifolds leading into a single slim exhaust had been replaced by two much thicker tubes, which in turn disappeared into a pipe of substantial diameter which appeared to have a venturi extractor effect. Wire wheels at the rear had been replaced with cast magnesium alloy pattern, very like those already in use by Colin Chap-man's Lotus Engineering Co. for their cars. This change provided substantial weight-saving without loss of strength, any loss of cooling being immaterial with the disc brakes fitted, though being centre lock Borrani type would not have been inconvenient, even if the length of G.P. races had not been reduced to nearer the minimum of 200 miles in place of the traditional 300 miles length. It became usual during the season to run the full distance on one set of tyres.

Another 1958 change which caused more concern and hard work than anything else was the change from alcohol fuel to hydro-carbon fuel, since the Bosch fuel injection system required radical overhaul to take care of change from 1:8 fuel-air ratio to 1:14. Throttle response became far more delicate and critical, change from alcohol led to overheating problems, and to top everything the engine required a weaker mixture at full throttle than at three-quarters, necessitating an additional movement in the already complicated throttle linkage. Happily these problems were all solved in due time.

Roll of honour for 1958 gives the Vanwall team as competing in nine "Grands Epreuves", registering six wins, one second, two thirds, one fourth and one seventh place. Moss,. their No. 1 driver, •failed only by a single point to achieve the double of individual and manu-facturers' world championship. Alas, ill-health has now caused Tony Vandervell to withdraw from racing. We wish him a speedy recovery and re-entry to this most rewarding of modern sports.

Here are vital statistics for the benefit of model makers: Wheelbase 7 ft. 64: in.; track,. front 4 ft. Si in., rear 4 ft. in.; overall length 14 ft.; body width (widest) 4 ft. 11 in.; height to top of fairing 3 ft. 94 in. Wheels, R. W. Borrani centre lock; tyres, front Dunlop 5.50 x 16, rear 7.00 x 16. Colour, of course, B.R.G. - not in the colour code, but best described as dark "Ireland" green, first adopted as a gesture to Ireland for permitting the earliest motor racing -or so the story goes.. Numbers, usually white on the green bodywork (no black discs) —favourite being 7, for Moss. Vanwall written each side of bonnet with large V and small italic letters for rest of word. (Bodoni bold italic would be the printer's description.)