Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars! This Week’s Question: What was a single cylinder’s displacement from BRM’s 1947 Formula One V16? If you think you know the answer, jump on through and see if you’re right. British Racing Motors was founded in 1945 by Raymond Mays and Peter Berthon. Mays was a racer before the war, and Berthon was Mays’ business associate and friend. BRM was active in Formula One racing from 1950 through the ’77 season, and over that time they won a total of 17 Grands Prix. In 1962, they also won the constructors’ title and that same year Graham Hill, BRM’s driver, took home the World Championship. What was perhaps BRM’s most historically notable achievement came earlier than that however, in 1950 when they released the 600-horse at 12,000 rpm, V16 racing engine. The engine was designed and engineered in 1947 and was in reality a pair of V8 engines facing one another with the cam drives and related gearing in the middle. It was originally dropped into the Type 15 F1 racer and it met the standards for displacement as dictated at the time by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile. This standards required a 4.5-litre maximum displacement for naturally aspirated engines and 1.5-litres for those that were supercharged. BRM’s V16 featured a centrifugal supercharger. That meant that its displacement, across all 16 of its cylinders was 1,500-ccs. IF you’re good at maths, you’ll have figured out that means each pot was a meager 93.75-ccs. Now that’s not moped tiny but it’s still pretty small, and the spreading of displacement across more cylinders allowed the engine to achieve crazy-high revs. Neither the engine, nor the car however were seen as great successes. From SterlingMoss.com:
This BRM race car ran a 1.5 litre 16 cylinder super charged engine, which on paper could rev up to 12,000 rpm and push out over 600 bhp. Stirling however, considered this car to be one of the worst he ever drove during his racing career, a reflection that BRM were an under resourced team when compared to the Italian teams of the time, meaning that it suffered from a lack of development in all areas, including cooling and handling.
This proved true when Stirling encountered numerous problems with the car at its first testing session in Monza in 1951. He was therefore some what surprised to see the BRM’s entered for the Ulster Trophy at Dundrod in June of 1952 following further delays with the cars development, which meant they were still unreliable. They also had questionable handling, especially on the narrow roads around the Dundrod circuit, accentuated by the damp conditions. Stirling’s race prediction came true, with both his and Fangio’s BRM V16 retiring from the race, Fangio spinning out in front of him on the first lap which prompted Stirling to say that “I think Fangio was going faster backwards than I was forwards”.
The V16 wasn’t BRM’s only multi-cylinder folly either. In the sixties the company rode the rules changes developing a series of F1 motors that included V8s and an amazingly complex H16 that, like the earlier attempt, was a pair of eights shoved face to face.