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The Vanwall Grand Prix engines
Part 7: Finality and Overview


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When the racing department was disbanded, some of the nine Vanwall race engines were put to use on the Maidenhead test beds, doing endurance running for bearing and bearing material development work until 1962. In this use they were run at 6,500rpm and some completed more than 60 hours of running.

One of the cars, VW10, was rebuilt as a 1958-configuration 'demonstration' car using engine V3 (presumably resurrected as the original was destroyed in a 1958 air crash), incorporating parts from engines V1, V5, V6 and V7, which was later bench-tested and developed 260bhp at 7,400rpm.

Tony Vandervell died on 10 March 1967, and by the end of the year his company Vandervell Products Ltd. had been acquired as a wholly owned subsidiary of the GKN Group.

Vandervell had achieved his goal to produce a winning British Grand Prix car. This was quite an achievement, as although he had the resources of his bearing empire to fall back on, the company had no experience in designing and building racing cars. They did have the experience of running a racing team from campaigning the Ferrari 'Thin Wall Specials' though.

What he did have were research facilities and skilled tool-room staff in his company and this ensured that any work was to the highest standard. He was astute enough to call upon the help of people and companies with race winning experience. In respect to the engine, this included Harry Weslake and Norton's talented designers Joe Craig and Leo Kuzmicki as well as his own designers, Fred Fox and Eric Richter, and companies such as Rolls-Royce, Daimler-Benz and Bosch.

The Vanwall engine was an interesting mix of proven racing motorcycle practice, pioneering fuel injection and the adaptation of quality commercial components. It took time to develop and achieve a degree of reliability but without question, when it was running on alcohol-based fuels, it was one of the most powerful engines to race in the 2.5-litre formula.

Once it had to run on AvGas, the big four-cylinder engine was highly taxed, not helped by Vandervell's insistence on having the large inlet valves sodium-filled, but nevertheless, it was sufficient to power the car to the Manufacturers Championship in 1958. Its drivers praised its low-speed torque and very good mid-range punch.

The Vanwall four-cylinder engine compared favourably with the opposition as detailed below, particularly in respect to the performance parameters of bhp/litre/1000rpm (reflecting bmep) and bhp/sq cm of piston area. However, it generally operated at higher stress levels, as shown in the comparative mean piston speeds at maximum power.

piston area
max bhp
max mean ps
Vanwall V254 4-cyl 96 x 86mm 2490cc 289.5cm2 270@7300rpm 14.85 0.93 20.93m/sec
Connaught/Alta 4-cyl 93.5 x 90 2470cc 274.6cm2 240@6400rpm 15.18 0.87 19.2m/sec
Maserati 250F 6-cyl 84 x 75mm 2494cc 332.5cm2 240@7000rpm 13.75 0.72 17.5m/sec
Ferrari Tipo 107 4-cyl 94 x 90mm 2498.3cc 277.6cm2 250@7200rpm 13.94 0.90 21.6m/sec
M.Benz M196 8-cyl 76 x 68.8mm 2496cc 362.9cm2 290@8500rpm 13.67 0.80 19.49m/sec
Lancia D50A V8-cyl 73.6 x 73.1 2488cc 340.4cm2 250@8100rpm 12.41 0.73 19.74m/sec
Gordini T23B 6-cyl 80.1 x 82mm 2479cc 302.3cm2 225@6500rpm 13.96 0.74 17.77m/sec
Vanwall V254 4-cyl 96 x 86mm 2490cc 289.5cm2 275@7350rpm 15.03 0.95 21.07m/sec
Ferrari-Lancia V8-cyl 76 x 68.5mm 2486cc 362.9cm2 265@8000rpm 13.32 0.73 18.27m/sec
Maserati 250F 6-cyl 84 x 75mm 2494cc 332.5cm2 260@7300rpm 14.28 0.78 18.25m/sec
Connaught/Alta 4-cyl 93.5 x 90mm 2470cc 274.6cm2 240@6400rpm 15.18 0.87 19.2m/sec
BRM P25 4-cyl 102.87x74.93 2491cc 332.5cm2 270@7500rpm 14.45 0.81 18.73m/sec
Gordini T25 8-cyl 75 x 70mm 2474cc 353.4cm2 230@7000rpm 13.28 0.65 16.33m/sec
Vanwall V254 4-cyl 96 x 86mm 2490cc 289.5cm2 285@7300rpm 15.68 0.98 20.93m/sec
Maserati 250F 6-cyl 84 x 75mm 2494cc 332.5cm2 270@8000rpm 13.53 0.81 20.0m/sec
Maserati 250FT2 V12-cyl 68.7 x 56mm 2491cc 444.8cm2 310@9300rpm 13.38 0.70 17.36m/sec
Ferrari Tipo 801 V8-cyl 80 x 62mm 2493cc 402.1cm2 275@8400rpm 13.13 0.68 17.36m/sec
BRM P25 4-cyl 102.87 x 74.93 2491cc 332.5cm2 285@8250rpm 13.87 0.86 20.61m/sec
Connaught/Alta 4-cyl 93.5 x 90mm 2470cc 274.6cm2 250@7000rpm 14.46 0.91 21.0m/sec
Gordini T25 8-cyl 75.1 x 70mm 2480.6cc 354.4cm2 250@7000rpm 14.40 0.71 16.33m/sec
Coventry Climax FPF 4-cyl 86.4 x 83.82 1964cc 234.5cm2 176@6500rpm 13.79 0.75 18.16m/sec
Vanwall V254 4-cyl 96 x 86mm 2490cc 289.5cm2 265@7500rpm 14.19 0.92 21.5m/sec
Ferrari Tipo 143 V6-cyl 85 x 71mm 2417.3cc 340.5cm2 280@8500rpm 13.63 0.84 20.12m/sec
Maserati 250F 6-cyl 84 x 75mm 2494cc 332.5cm2 260@7500rpm 13.90 0.78 18.75m/sec
BRM P25 4-cyl 102.87 x 74.93 2491cc 332.5cm2 270@8000rpm 13.55 0.81 19.98m/sec
Coventry Climax FPF 4-cyl 88.9 x 88.9mm 2207cc 248.3cm2 194@6300rpm 13.95 0.78 18.67m/sec

Engine bhp is representative for each given year and for simplicity metric values have not been converted.