The first car, which was delivered in September, went to the Owen family and fulfilled a long-held ambition of one of the family’s oldest surviving members – to see and hear this iconic British racing car in action once again.
John Owen, now 81, was just ten years old when he first heard the unique wail of the V16 engine, which developed 600 horsepower thanks to its ability to spin at an incredible 12,000rpm – far beyond the range of many road and race cars even 60 years later.
He was also deeply influenced by its mission – it was a car built by Britain’s finest engineers for an expectant nation, to take on the might of the post-war Italian and German teams. Being raced around the grand prix circuits of Europe by legendary drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio and Jose Froilan Gonzalez, only added to the attraction.
John’s father was BRM’s team principal, Sir Alfred Owen, a leading industrialist and founding member of the consortium charged with building a world-class race car and bringing championship glory to the nation. It was a vision that was ultimately fulfilled in 1962.
Today, the only surviving V16 MK1 in existence is destined to remain a cherished museum piece, as it is far too valuable to race. With no other operational cars of this type in existence, it seemed that John Owen’s dream would never be realised.
‘Watching the likes of the Pampas Bull (Gonzalez) and, in particular, Fangio, master the power of the V16 was very special,’ says John. ‘And the fabulous noise of the engine still rings in my ears 70 years on!
‘In a selfish way, I have always dreamed of hearing that sound again but now I’d also love to share that sensation with others. To hear the V16 screaming at full tilt for the first time is something special – something you never forget,’ he adds.
Now, in a unique partnership, historic automotive restoration specialists, Hall and Hall, are using up to 20,000 original drawings to re-manufacture forensically authentic, new examples of the P15 V16 MK1 machine, piece by historic piece.
Founder, Rick Hall, is emotionally and professionally bound to BRM, having actually been part of their original Formula 1 team in the early 1970s, and together with his son, Rob, has since been providing authentic parts and technical support for the few cherished BRM machines still in private hands.
‘I have been passionate about BRM since I joined the team at the end of ’72,’ says Hall senior. ‘I have spent the last 50 years or so working with these remarkable pieces of British and Formula 1 engineering history and am delighted to be working with the Owen family and British Racing Motors to be their official historic racing partner – I only wish I was 20 years younger.’
The project has gathered momentum in recent years, when three of Sir Alfred Owen’s grandsons, Simon, Paul and Nick, first began discussing how BRM should be revived and preserved for future generations. The discovery of several chassis numbers which had been allocated by the BRM team in 1950, but never built due to a change in Formula 1 technical regulations at the time, presented a unique opportunity to realise John’s dream.
‘Growing up, I was very aware of the old man’s passion for the BRM V16, especially the sound it made,’ says Simon Owen. ‘Like most of my generation, I never had the privilege of hearing it race in anger but now we are all very keen to change that and bring the BRM experience to a new generation of fans.
‘We are in a unique position to sanction the build of additional cars using these original chassis numbers, and it has become our mission to make it happen,’ he adds. The cars will be constructed to FIA standards, and therefore will be fully eligible for historic racing.
In March of 2021, Hall and Hall, used the original ‘engine number two’ a V16 power unit dating back to the 1950s, to help engineers successfully overcome the technical challenges presented by one of the most complex Formula 1 engines of its day – each with more than 36,000 precision-engineered parts. Rick Hall remarked: ‘It is a phenomenally complex engine, and there are a great deal of highly engineered parts to get right. Rebuilding and re-engineering many of the original parts has proved to be a key stepping-stone as we gear up for the manufacture of three all-new power units which will be at the heart of the new project.
‘There is little margin for error with these parts, right down to 1,000th of a millimetre,’ he added. ‘For example, we had some earlier issues with the Rolls-Royce supercharger, which we had to rebuild from scratch, so through trial and error we are flushing out these issues and also learning a great deal about how this engine behaves.’
The re-built engine itself was cautiously tested at Hall and Hall’s dynamometer at RAF Folkingham, Lincolnshire, where the original BRM Formula 1 engineering team worked during the 1950s.
The first car, commissioned by John Owen, was completed in early September and made its dynamic debut at the Goodwood Revival event in front of packed grandstands at the Goodwood Motor Circuit near Chichester. Historic racing fan, sponsor, and racing car collector, Richard Mille, has been confirmed as the customer for the second BRM V16.
Mille, more famous for the exclusive global luxury watch business that carries his name, has the world’s most extensive collection of BRM racing cars including a recently restored original MK1 BRM V16 and a superb original P30 V16 MK2. The all-new P15 V16 will be added to his collection, when complete.
‘I have been a huge BRM fan for many years,’ said Mille. ‘Ever since I started collecting historic cars more than 15 years ago, in fact. I knew I was becoming serious about BRM when I invested in the wonderful P115 H16 – but there is something I find particularly fascinating about the V16. Not only is it, to my eye, the most beautiful Formula 1 car of its time, but it is also the most technically complex, particularly if you think about the technology of the day.
‘Anybody who knows my watches, will know that I admire technical complexity, attention to detail and quality,’ he added. ‘And for me, the V16 represents all of these elements in one beautiful package. I believe it’s our duty to preserve these incredible pieces of automotive art, and this is a unique opportunity to do just that.’
The new BRM P15 V16 commissioned by Mille, is already in production and will follow the same build process as the first. With the latest commission from Richard Mille, only one car now remains available. We wouldn’t even hazard a guess at the price though.
To find out more about British Racing Motors and their vehicles go to their website.