F1’S GAME CHANGER
rear-engined approach was not the
product of some grandiose vision. If
anything, it was completely the opposite.
In the immediate post-war years, Charles
Cooper and his son, John, were doing a
nice line in building Formula 500 cars, a
predecessor to modern Formula 3. They
used a 500cc motorcycle engine which
drove the rear wheels via a chain, so
mounting it in the back was a decision
driven entirely by pragmatism.
In the mid-1950s, Cooper’s designer,
Owen Maddock, cooked up a small,
bob-tailed, rear-engined sportscar, the T39.
It was this car’s light weight and nimble
handling that prompted an open-wheel
version for F2 with a twin-cam version of
the Coventry Climax. After further
modifications, Coopers began to appear
in F1 races as well, eventually culminating
in that remarkable day in Argentina.
The events that led Moss to the top
step of the podium in Buenos Aires owed
something to good luck, and Ferrari’s
complacency did the rest. Moss qualified
seventh, gained a place almost immediately
when Peter Collins’ Ferrari dropped out with
Monaco followed Argentina in 1958.
Moss was back with Vanwall, and the
T43 that won last time out didn’t
even make the field – Ron Flockhart
was first reserve for the race. But
the result was the same: Maurice
Trintignant, who replaced Moss, took
advantage of some early retirements
to give the new T45 a commanding
victory over the pursuing Ferraris,
and ended the Scuderia’s hopes
that Argentina had been a fluke.
The T51, which arrived on the scene
in 1959, was a development of the T43
adn T45. Among the more significant
changes was the upgrade to a 2.5-liter
Climax, thereby removing one of the
big advantages previously enjoyed by
the front-engined brigade. By the end
of the season, Jack Brabham had
three wins, six podiums, and the
distinction of being the first rear-engined Formula 1 World Champion.
Trintignant scored his second and final F1 win
in the new T45 at Monaco in 1958, to the
chagrin of the front-engined establishment.
Jean Behra’s front-engined Ferrari has a
size advantage at Monaco in 1959, but it
can’t shake Stirling Moss in the little T51.
NO, IT WASN’T A FLUKE...