View Full Version : BRM V16

Steve Holmes
04-21-2011, 11:06 PM
I was at Silverstone in 1993 for the Coys Historic Festival race meeting, at which Nick Mason had brought along the 1952 BRM V16 Project 15 from his extensive collection to compete in the pre-1960 Grand Prix cars race. Plenty of excitement surrounded the little BRM, and with good reason, as this was the first time one of these cars had been raced since 1955. It was even featured as the cover car for the event programme.

Witnessing this ambitious race car in action was an interesting experience, and obviously a memorable one, as it has left an impression that has lasted nearly 20 years. Of course, the true character of the BRM V16 is its engine. I was sitting in one of the Silverstone grandstands near the start-finish line when the qualifying session for the pre-1960 Grand Prix cars shattered the early morning silence at just after 10.00am on the Saturday. The weather was typical British summer, rain and a cool wind.

From my vantage point, the cars would burst into view as they blast through Bridge Corner, then weave their way through Priory, Brooklands, and Luffield, before winding up through the fast Woodcote and down the front straight. Despite the competing noise from the other cars, I heard the BRM before I actually saw it.

This fussy little machine popped out of Bridge Corner and noisily made its way towards me, but the experience was a mixture of excitement and confusion. The BRM sounded like it was travelling at 200mph, but it clearly wasn't. Not even close. It wasn't even keeping pace with those around it. It appeared the stroppy little 1500cc engine wasn't running cleanly, despite all the anger and rage screaming from the exhausts. Mason splashed about for a few laps, then disappeared back into the pits.

I reminded myself that in fact this car had an engine of only 1500cc, so why should I expect it to have been any faster than it was? But of course, those 1500cc were packing more than 450hp in a package weighing less than 700kg. Mason and his team were struggling to make the BRM run cleanly, but despite their best efforts, the little green racer wasn't playing ball.

But despite its issues, the experience was immense. Inside that tiny little engine there was a huge amount of action taking place, and it really sounded like it. The noise was incredible, very high pitched, high revving, almost a shriek. It was a physical sound, but not like one I've experienced before (or since), it was like having a tin can with a rock inside it shaken about vigorously inside your head.

Masons team never did get the BRM to run right that weekend. It did start the first race (of two), but lasted only two laps before it was sidelined by fuel-pressure problems, and wasn't seen again. Fortunately for Mason, he also had his Ferrari 250 GTO on hand for the '60s GT races, so the fact the cantankerous little BRM had had a tantrum didn't spell an early shower for its owner. But I felt privileged to have witnessed the car, an experience few have enjoyed, brief as it was.

The British Racing Motors company was established in 1945 by Raymond Mays, who'd headed ERA before the war. It was funded initially by a co-op made up of companies and suppliers within the British motor industry, before one of its shareholders, Alfred Owen, stepped in to take full ownership when the co-op sold out in 1952. BRM was based in the same building as that of the former ERA, and several former ERA staff were also employed. This was a proud time for Britain as it began its massive post-war rebuild, and rightly or wrongly, British Racing Motors set themselves the not-insignificant task of keeping their new racer 100% British, including materials, labour, and parts.

Post war Grand Prix engine regulations offered the choice of either 4.5 litre normally aspirated, or 1.5 litre supercharged, the latter option being the path BRM chose. Development began almost immediately on an ambitious V16 engine, although the car would not debut until 1951.

The 1.5 litre V16 engine was effectively two 750cc V8s in tandem, fitted with four cylinder heads, twin-SU carburettors, and a Rolls-Royce centrifugal supercharger. Each of the sixteen tiny cylinder bores measured just 49.53mm, less than 2. Compression was 7.5:1, while the supercharger ran at four times crankshaft speed. It revved to well over 10,000rpm, some reports suggesting as much as 12,000, with well over 450hp. Little wonder then that the noise it produced was so immense, that is a lot of very small parts moving about very quickly.

The BRM V16 was possibly too ambitious for its time. It suffered a raft of mechanical issues, as would be expected, but it also attained its share of success. And until the arrival of the turbo-era in Formula 1 during the 1980s, the BRM V16 remained the most powerful 1.5 litre GP engine ever built.

David McKinney
04-26-2011, 06:44 PM
I am too young to have seen the V16 BRM at Ardmore or Wigram in 1954, but have been lucky enough to see them demonstrated at Silverstone, Goodwood and elsewhere. They even had three out at the same time at one Silverstone meeting

But the memory that will always stay with me is the day someone let the late Gerry Marshall loose in one at Silverstone. Now I'd been reading about Gerry Marshall for years, and to me he was "just" a saloon driver. I later saw him in open historics and realised he was no mean pedaller

Demos in these priceless cars are usually pretty tame affairs - fast enough to give spectators an idea of what they must have been like, but no-one dared taken them anywhere near racing speeds

Until Gerry Marshall that day at Silverstone. Not only did the car sound like the old recordings you can hear of them in period, he flung it through the corners, playing tunes on the gearbox, and sawing away at the wheel, all accompanied by that once-heard-never-forgotten scream from the supercharger, gears and exhaust

It could have been Gonzalez:cool:

bob homewood
04-27-2011, 07:29 AM
I was lucky enough to have heard and seen the V16 BRM when it came to the 1954 NZ grand prix .Where we lived was probably 8-10 miles away from Ardmore as the crow flies bit the sound of the cars and especially the BRM could be heard plainly from our house ,of course there was not all the background noise there is today .I still have a old record with the sound of the BRM from that meeting on it

Lee Tracey
05-04-2011, 05:00 AM
Way too young to have seen the V16 out here and too poor to make it to europe to see them. However I borrowed the Mason book Into The Red from the library when it was first printed.The sound of those two laps at Donnington totally eclipsed anything else on the CD. The most amazing part being that someone is obviously working on a car nearby, but the only time you coul hear them was when the BRM was at the far side of the circuit. Fabulous stuff.


05-04-2011, 09:28 PM
Unfortunately I was a year too late to see the car at Ardmore. Dad went along and for years afterwards talked about the noise that the car made. I believe that the commentators had to turn the mike off as the car went past for fear of destroying the system. Rear tires never lasted very long as they could be smoked at any time whilst the car was moving.

If only BRM has concentrated on more sensible engines (not an H16) they might have had more success. Certainly the V12's gave them wins both here in NZ and overseas.

Cheers Mike

bob homewood
05-04-2011, 09:44 PM
Got me thinking ,I must see if I can make a CD of the old Ardmore record I have and see how it turns out ,from memory its got the V16 soundtrack on it ?

05-05-2011, 12:11 AM
Hi Bob,

Let us know if you succeed as I for one would like to purchase a copy.

Lee Tracey
05-05-2011, 03:35 AM
Hi Bob,

Let us know if you succeed as I for one would like to purchase a copy.



David McKinney
05-05-2011, 07:07 AM
X3 - it's starting to look like a viable commercial proposition:)

bob homewood
05-05-2011, 07:27 AM
Thanks for the interest seriously I will look it out on the weekend and see if its possible ,also check out what is actually on it and post it here

nigel watts
06-16-2011, 07:45 AM
My dad took me to my first motor racing event, the 1954 NZGP at Ardmore, and the shriek of the V16 BRM is probably what started my lifelong interest in motor racing and cars in general. A most memorable sound.

bob homewood
06-16-2011, 07:56 AM
Hey you guys that asked I have not forgotten the BRM sound track etc ,I have just got way laid a bit on other stuff

06-17-2011, 07:32 AM
I'm keen too Bob, x4.


06-17-2011, 10:26 AM
Some photos of the BRM at Ardmore 1954.

http://img542.imageshack.us/img542/6530/cc35.jpg (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/542/cc35.jpg/)
http://img37.imageshack.us/img37/5189/cc65.jpg (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/37/cc65.jpg/)

06-17-2011, 10:53 AM
Obviously not at Ardmore, but there's some yummy BRM noise at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZMPDCNyQxE

Steve Holmes
06-21-2011, 01:54 AM
Some photos of the BRM at Ardmore 1954.

http://img542.imageshack.us/img542/6530/cc35.jpg (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/542/cc35.jpg/)
http://img37.imageshack.us/img37/5189/cc65.jpg (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/37/cc65.jpg/)

Fantastic photos! That 3/4 rear angle was the best for that car. Looks great in the second shot.

Steve Holmes
06-21-2011, 01:56 AM
Even its video footage is damn-near deafening!


09-21-2011, 07:41 AM

bob homewood
09-21-2011, 07:48 AM
Yes and I haven't forgotten the CD ,I must chase the guy who is doing it up

09-21-2011, 07:54 AM

09-21-2011, 09:50 AM
I have this on a CD live at Goodwood in the day how do you post sound play this after a few beves for a thrill awesome!

09-23-2011, 06:57 AM
A couple of photos from Wigram... and the crowd is enjoying every decibel.

Cheers, Malcolm

nigel watts
09-23-2011, 07:21 PM
Great shots Malcolm. The spectators certainly dress a lot differently today!!

09-23-2011, 07:56 PM
I was at that meeting.....my first year at secondary school. My friend Barry Parsonson, of 'Jagnet' fame, [Y & Y] and I managed to get out of afternoon cricket, probably forged pass notes, and biked out to Wigram. We could actually hear the BRM in the morning, perhaps at practice, from the school grounds, several miles away, and we needed no further incentive to get there and see for ourselves. But goodness...didn't we dress "funny". Stetson hats for the gents, and the ubiquitous sports coat, probably black shoes!! Glad things are a bit more relaxed in that department now. The second shot is, I think, at the end of the back straight, and the first at the beginning of the straight.....the BRM really getting into it's stride....about 12,000 rpm at this point!!!! And yes, talk about decibels Malcolm, the old meter today would have them attaching mufflers. Think it is Frank Shuter in the white car back down the straight, with the inevitable Army Land Rover for communications in attendance.

David McKinney
09-24-2011, 05:15 AM
Think it is Frank Shuter in the white car back down the straight, with the inevitable Army Land Rover for communications in attendance.
I think you're right. And Whitehead's Ferrari at the apex of the corner which replaced the Hairpin that year