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Vanwall logo.jpg
Full name United Kingdom Vanwall
Base United Kingdom Acton, London, United Kingdom
Founder(s) United Kingdom Tony Vandervell
Noted drivers United Kingdom Stirling Moss
France Maurice Trintignant
United States Harry Schell
United Kingdom Stuart Lewis-Evans
Argentina José Froilán González
United Kingdom Tony Brooks
United Kingdom John Surtees
Formula One World Championship career
Debut 1954 British Grand Prix
Races competed 29
Constructors' Championships 1
Drivers' Championships 0
Race victories 9
Pole positions 7
Fastest laps 6
Final race 1960 French Grand Prix
The fourth, and last, Thinwall Special. Used between 1952 and 1954.
The winning Vanwall VW5 before the 1957 British Grand Prix.

Vanwall was a Formula One team in the 1950s. The Vanwall name was derived by combining the name of the team owner Tony Vandervell with that of his patented Thinwall bearings, which were produced at his Vandervell Products factory at Acton, London.

Tony Vandervell was one of the original backers of British Racing Motors. In the early 1950s, he entered a series of modified Ferraris in Formula Libre races under the name "Thinwall Special".

The first actual Vanwalls were known as Vanwall Specials and were built for the new Formula 1 regulations in 1954 at Cox Green, Maidenhead. The chassis was designed by Owen Maddock and built by the Cooper Car Company.

Intended as a backstop to the BRM V16.[1] the 2.0 L engine was designed by Norton engineer Leo Kuzmicki, and was essentially four Manx[1] single-cylinder 498 cc (30.4 cu in) (86.1 mm × 85.6 mm (3.39 in × 3.37 in)) engines with a common waterjacket, cylinder head (a copy of the Norton's) and valvetrain,[1] with induction by four AMAL motorcycle carburetors.[1] This combination was fitted to a Rolls-Royce "B"-engine crankcase, copied in aluminium.[2] Designed for Formula Two, which was supplanted before it appeared,[2] the car debuted in a Grande Epreuve in the 1954 British Grand Prix. Against 2½ liter Formula One competition, it was at a decided disadvantage, though the Goodyear disc brakes (built by Vanwall) proved successful,[2] though front suspension and fuel and cooling systems were troublesome.[2] Development continued with a switch to Bosch fuel injection (thanks to Vandervell's "persuading" Daimler-Benz, a major Bosch customer, to allow it),[3] while retaining the AMAL throttle bodies; they were plagued with throttle linkage trouble, due to vibration from the big four-cylinder.[2] Vanwall also increased the capacity of the engines, first to 2,237 cc (137 cu in) (91.0 mm × 86.0 mm (3.58 in × 3.39 in)) for Peter Collins at Monaco 1955, and then a full 2,489 cc (151.9 cu in) (96.0 mm × 86.0 mm (3.78 in × 3.39 in)). Vanwalls then ran for a season in F1 without much in the way of success. At the end of the 1955 season, it was plain the engine was sound, but the Ferrari-derived[2] chassis needed improvement. It was suggested to Vandervell that he should hire the services of a young up-and-coming designer to improve their cars. The designer was Colin Chapman.

The new 1956[2] cars designed by Chapman (along with the aerodynamicist Frank Costin) were of space frame construction, the De Dion rear axle's unsprung weight reduced and front torsion bar added.[2] (None of these ideas were revolutionary, but Chapman was happy to simply be meticulous.)[4] Furthermore, a fifth gear and Porsche synchromesh were added to the transmission.[2] The driving seat was placed above this and could not be reduced below 13 in (330 mm) above the road, making the height very problematic (the top of the driver's helmet was fully 50 in (1,270 mm) from the road surface, while the vertically-mounted engine made a reduction impractical in any case),[2] and the handling was suspect despite Chapman's best efforts.[2] The solution which today is obvious, mounting the engine behind the driver, would take two more years to be accepted. Costin made the most of it, and produced a car "much faster in a straight line than any of its rivals".[5]

They showed early promise in 1956 by winning a non-championship F1 race at Silverstone against strong opposition. It set the lap record at Syracuse[5] Stirling Moss drove the car to victory in what was his only drive for Vanwall that year, as he was still contracted to drive for Maserati in F1. Talented drivers Harry Schell and Maurice Trintignant were the full-timers for the season. However, neither of them had much success although the car showed obvious potential.

With the car developing and becoming ever more competitive, Moss eventually decided to drive for the team in 1957. He was joined by two Englishmen, Tony Brooks and Stuart Lewis-Evans. As the 1957 season unfolded, the cars became faster and more reliable. Moss and Brooks duly shared Vanwall's first Grand Prix victory in Britain at Aintree, and Moss went on to win both the Italian (where only being piloted by Fangio enabled the the Maserati to run with the Vanwalls, for Moss finished with 41 seconds in hand even after a pit stop)[5] and Pescara Grands Prix.

At the end of 1957, alcohol fuels were banned and replaced by a compulsory 130-octane aviation gasoline. This caused problems for Vanwall and BRM with their large bore engines that required methanol for engine cooling. As a result, the Vanwall's power dropped from 290 bhp (220 kW) at 7,500 rpm[5] (308 bhp with nitromethane) to 278 bhp (207 kW) on the test bed. During the race, where revs were reduced, only 255-262 bhp at 7,200 - 7,400 rpm was available. This put them at a disadvantage to the new Dino Ferrari V6 cars with a claimed 290 PS (286 bhp) at 8,300 rpm. The Vanwall's superior road holding (thanks to suspension changes, new steel wheels, and new nylon-cord Dunlop R5 racing tires),[5] streamlining, 5-speed gearbox, and disk brakes helped offset this.

All three drivers stayed with the team in 1958, and Moss (wins in Holland, Portugal and Morocco) and Brooks (wins in Belgium, Germany and Italy) each won three championship races that season. Vanwall became the first team to win the Constructors' Championship, held for the first time that season. However, Moss lost out to Mike Hawthorn in the drivers' championship by a single point. Their triumph at the end of the season was sadly marred when, during the final race of the year in Morocco, Lewis-Evans was fatally injured in an accident.

The 1958 season was the last one in which Vanwall entered every race. Vandervell's health was failing and he had been advised by his doctors to rest. The team continued half-heartedly. Brooks made one appearance in a lower and lighter Vanwall at 1959 British Grand Prix, proving less successful against the new mid-engined Coopers, and the team tried again with another car in the 1960 French Grand Prix. These efforts lacked the seriousness of the past however and they were unsuccessful.

The last racing Vanwall was an "unweildy"[5] rear engined machine produced for the 1961 3.0 litre Intercontinental Formula. Although showing promise when campaigned by John Surtees in two races, development was stopped short when the formula did not find success in Europe. The engine was enlarged to 2,605 cc (159 cu in) (96.0 mm × 90.0 mm (3.78 in × 3.54 in)), rated at 290 bhp (220 kW) on 100 octane petrol.

The Donington Collection has a complete example of each model, including the rear engined car.

In 2003 Vanwall Cars was formed, producing the Vanwall GPR V12, a single-seater road-legal car bearing a strong resemblance to early Vanwall racing cars, and the Sports Racer, a two-seater of a similar style.


  1. ^ a b c d Setright, L. J. K. "Vanwall: The End of an Era", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Vol. 21, p.2461.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Setright, p.2462.
  3. ^ With a threat to withhold Thinwall bearings. Setright, p.2462.
  4. ^ Setright, L.J.K. "Lotus: The Golden Mean", in Northey, Volume 11, p.1230.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Setright, p.2463.


External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Formula One Constructors' Champion
Succeeded by


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