Listen to God’s Own Engine, the BRM V16, Scream Up a Hillclimb Course
Since August 1905, the Midland Automobile Club has held annual hillclimb events outside the village of Shelsley Walsh in Worcestershire, England. The course has remained entirely unchanged for over a century, making Shelsley Walsh the oldest motorsport course still in use today. Last weekend, the course hosted the club’s annual Classic Nostalgia event, where a ton of top motorsport machines took turns climbing the hill. Among the stars of the show was a particularly special British racing icon: the BRM V16.
For those unfamiliar with this part of motoring history, the BRM V16 is a Formula 1 racer built by British Racing Motors from 1947. Despite some initial problems, the car would race until the end of the 1954-55 season, with riders like Juan Manuel Fangio and José Froilán González taking the helm in different races. As the name suggests, the car is powered by a 1.5 liter V-16 engine, which was said to have produced 600 hp at 12,000 rpm at the time. BRM was a brand new company in 1947, and it was decided that such a technical engine would do wonders to showcase the power of British engineering at the time. Some of that immense power output from such a tiny displacement came from the engine-mounted two-stage centrifugal supercharger, which was designed and developed by the guys at Rolls-Royce. As you may recall, the luxury automaker had fairly recent experience building this type of fan from service of the Merlin V-12 in WWII aircraft. In fact, former BRM employee and restoration specialist Rick Hall said Top of the line that the BRM V16 engine is largely a scaled-down variant of that monstrous Spitfire powerplant.
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The small displacement engine combined with this supercharger provides a fairly full aural experience, which was on full display at Shelsley Walsh. Septuagenarian status aside, the BRM V16 stormed the course in appropriate anger. Thanks to the number of gearheads in attendance for the festivities, we’ve got a few snippets of the action to peruse. If there’s one thing these old race cars are certain of, it’s that motorsport has lost something special in the modern era. The engineering and speeds may be more extreme than ever, but there’s nothing in motorsport today quite like it.
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