Legendary BRM V16 is back

Original chassis numbers to feature on three 'new' P15s – BRM will mark 70 in style

By Matt Bird / Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Any discussion of the greatest sounding engines used in motorsport will always feature the usual suspects: BDAs from Escort, the Audi five-cylinder, the Jaguar V12 and BMW M88 just for starters. There’s another, too, deserving of the list and often unfairly forgotten: the BRM V16. Its combination of tiny, 1.5-litre capacity, ferocious appetite for revs (with the ability to go beyond 12,000rpm) and supercharger ensured a spellbinding sound in Grand Prix racing like nothing else. With Fangio at the wheel in the early days of Formula 1, the BRM Type 15 with the 16-cylinder engine was apparently quite the thing to witness. Now just one remains, kept in a museum and very seldom seen or heard, a regrettable (if understandable) shame.  

Well, not for much longer. John Owen, son of original BRM team principal Sir Alfred Owen, along with his sons Simon, Paul and Nick, is to mark 70 years of the brand next year with the construction of three more P15s. Chassis numbers set aside in the 1950s but unused because of a rule change (isn’t it amazing how these keep turning up?) will be utilised to create three more V16-powered F1 racers, one set aside for Owen himself and two to be offered to customers. They’re being made possible by access to a quite extraordinary archive; there’s a digital catalogue of more than 20,000 technical drawings to help unpack the design and engineering, allowing the builders – Hall and Hall – to create vehicles as faithful to the originals as possible.

Speaking of which, the V16s won’t simply be designed as exhibits – they’re being built to race. They’re being assembled to FIA standards, with eligibility for historic competition. The reasoning is simple – to keep the V16 a living part of British motorsport history. BRM talks of preservation and growth, of “the ability for future generations worldwide to see, and above all, hear, the mighty V16 for years to come.” What more laudable aim could there be? 

Indeed, a desire to raise awareness of the BRM’s incredible engineering feat has been John Owen’s main motivation for a long time. Having been 10 when the original V16s competed, he describes watching the likes of Fangio compete in the cars as “very special”. He continues: “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.” Now that opportunity is going to exist once more for two lucky customers, as well as Owen senior who will get to experience the thrill of that wild engine for himself at last.

Beyond the involvement of the Owen family, the new V16 project is lent further credibility as Hall and Hall was founded by a member of the original BRM F1 team. Rick Hall joined them in 1972, and is quoted as being “delighted” to be involved. Appropriately, too, that company is based in Bourne, just as BRM once was – it all falls into place rather nicely. 

With the trio of V16s already in build, the plan is for on track demonstrations to commence in 2021 when the brand celebrates its 70th anniversary. As Nick Owen has said: “This is a story about how BRM and a few men in sheds, influenced Formula 1 and the wider motor industry”, and we can’t wait to see how that story is about to continue all these years later. Want one? Well, best hurry, because there will only be two once the Owen family have theirs, and best be wealthy – the two chassis “will be available on application” …

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