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The fastest thing in the Fens – Duckhams and BRM

British Racing Motors (BRM) was founded just after the Second World War by Raymond Mays, who had built several hill-climb and road racing cars under the English Racing Automobiles (ERA) brand before the war, and Peter Berthon, a long-time associate of Mays.

Mays’ pre-war successes with ERA (and access to pre-war Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union design documents) inspired him to build an all-British grand prix car for the post-war era as a national prestige project, with financial and industrial backing from the British Motor industry and its suppliers channelled through a trust fund, including Duckhams Oils.

From 1950 to 1977, the team were entered in 197 Grand Prix starts resulting in 17 victories, 15 fastest laps, a drivers’ championship and a constructor’s championship. BRM join only Ferrari in the history books for being the only constructors to win a World Championship with a car purely built by themselves, including engine and drivetrain.

During the 1940s, BRM broke engineering records by producing the first engine to run at over 10,000 RPM and of course to achieve this, they needed a good oil partner in Duckhams! The engine was an incredible 1.5 litre V16 producing over 600 BHP – stratospheric power for the period.

They had some incredible names drive for them, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Jo Siffert, Pedcro Rodriguez, Stirling Moss, Niki Lauda, John Surtees, Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill, Mike Hawthorn, and the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio.  Ken Richardson, who was key to the success of the Triumph range also worked for BRM.

Aside from F1 and BRM had close links with Rover, building them a gas-turbine car for the 1963 and 1965 Le Mans 24 hours. They also entered events over the Atlantic with an eight-litre prototype sports car in the American Can-Am series.

A fine example of the grit and determination behind great British engineering, all this success was gained whilst working from their workshops in the sleepy Fenland town of Bourne, in Lincolnshire. The workforce never exceeded 120 people and the factory was situated on Spalding Road, behind Raymond May’s family home of Eastgate House.

Allan Challis worked as Chief Mechanic for BRM at their Spalding Road factory and travelled around the world supporting the cars. He appeared on a number of our advertising campaigns at the time, including this one the BRM P160 that raced in 1971 – 74 Formula One seasons. It was powered by a 3 litre V12 engine and driven by Howard Ganley, Jo Siffert, Vic Elford, Peter Gethin and Pedro Rodriguez. Sadly, it was to be the car that would tragically end Jo Siffert’s life when it rolled and caught fire on Hawthorn Bend at Brands Hatch in 1971.

 

 

 

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