Vanwall Racers Reborn
Photos by Peter Harholdt. Images are of an original Vanwall VM5, part of the Miles Collier Collections at the Revs Institute.
19 October 2020 - just a couple of weeks ago - marked 62 years since the legendary Vanwall motor racing team claimed the world’s first Formula One Constructors’ Championship following Stirling Moss’s win in Morocco.
What better date then for the newly-formed Vanwall Group to announce the rebirth of the historic name with plans to build six continuation cars based on the 1958 Championship-winning Vanwall Formula One car. The cars will be faithfully recreated in partnership with historic racing specialists, Hall and Hall, using original drawings and blueprints from the 1950s.
Iain Sanderson, Managing Director of Vanwall Group, says, “The Vanwall name is too important to consign to history. On this anniversary, we think the time is right to celebrate this great British success story.”
Five of the fully race-eligible cars will be offered for sale at £1.65m each plus taxes, with the sixth forming the core of a new Vanwall historic racing team. Hand-building each car will take several thousand hours and they will be fitted with an accurately-reproduced 270bhp 2,489cc engine to the original spec. The first cars are planned to be completed by early 2022.
The Vanwall Legacy
Created by industrialist Tony Vandervell - a former backer of BRM - in the early 1950s, his Vandervell company began in Formula One by entering Grand Prix cars purchased from Enzo Ferrari and renamed as the Thinwall Special. Following modest success and much frustration, Vandervell designed and developed their own F1 cars, named Vanwall.
The 1956 Vanwall benefited from the input of two men who would become motor racing legends: Colin Chapman who had begun making a name for himself in sports car racing, and aerodynamicist Frank Costin. Chapman designed the chassis and Costin penned the body design with its distinctive long nose and high tail.
Having finally prised Stirling Moss away from Maserati for the 1957 Grand Prix season, Vanwall achieved the honour of being the first British-built car to win the British Grand Prix with a British driver, when Moss and Tony Brooks shared the drive at Aintree that year. This was also the last time two drivers shared a Formula One race win.
Six victories in 1958 - three each for Moss and Brooks - gave Vanwall its eternal position as the first winner of the inaugural Formula One World Constructors’ Trophy. However, the victory was bitter-sweet as Vanwall’s third driver Stuart Lewis-Evans, who had crashed in flames at the Morocco track, died as a result of his burns six days later. Vandervell took the loss badly and, with failing health, Vanwall never returned to serious competitive racing.
Looking to the future
Having acquired the Vanwall name from Mahle Engine Systems in 2013, former World Powerboat Champion Sanderson has established the Vanwall Group to breathe new life into the brand.
As well as developing plans for the continuation cars, Sanderson has already commenced investigations into understanding how the historic Vanwall brand’s DNA could translate into the 2020s, with studies ongoing into future road and race car programmes.
“The Vanwall story is a great British tale of innovation and achievement and shows what happens when the right team come together and push themselves fearlessly to reach a clearly defined goal,” says Sanderson.
Let’s hope that history can repeat itself and we will see further successes bearing the Vanwall name.
'Tony Brooks was the perfect candidate to drive the Collier Collection’s 1958 Vanwall Grand Prix car. That year this British driver won three Formula One races for Vanwall: Belgian, German and Italian'. Video and caption Revs Institute
Other articles by Stewart Longhurst