Brabham BT44B Race NO. 7 (1974)
The 1973 season had been a massive learning curve for Gordon Murray. Considering the BT42 was his first full Formula 1 car, it was remarkably successful and a good base on which to move forward, applying the lessons learnt from that fledgling.
In his own words:
‘The BT44 was a direct design evolution from the BT42. I fixed all the things I thought were bad with the 42, and kept all the good things. The 42 had conventional front suspension but by the time of the 44 I had designed the 750 Formula car with the pull-rod suspension. I incorporated that into the 44 and that transformed the handling of the car. I found a little weakness on the front of the monocoque on the 42—so I stiffened that up a little bit on the 44.’
The radical BT44 was the shape of an upturned saucer for aerodynamic reasons: it forced most of the air over the top surface of the body.
‘One of the most radical parts of the car was the fact that up until then all Formula 1 cars had all the suspension attached to the gearbox at the back. The engine had been stressed since Colin Chapman had invented that on the Lotus 49. But everybody had these great ‘Forth Road Bridge’ fabricated steel things over the back of the car, reaching out to pick up wishbones, links and stuff, and take the spring and damper loads. So the torsional stiffness was created through this frame and the transmission casing. I thought that this was all a bit messy and I watched many, many cars fail to finish Grands Prix with the fabrication cracking and failing. On the 44, there was no frame on top of the gearbox; therefore nothing to go wrong. It was lighter and stiffer, and a lot less of the chassis involved torsional stiffness.’
‘One really important feature on the BT44 was that it was the first car to run a semi-dry-sump gearbox. I made a special casting for the back that collected the oil under acceleration, filtered it and then pumped it back through the gearbox. It was the first car to do that – that was a very big first. To a small extent on the 42, I decided to do away with all that and I made a special casting for the back of the cylinder head on the DFV and attached the springs and dampers and the suspension directly on to the engine.’
So for 1975, Gordon had evolved the BT44, and the revised car looked stunning in its white livery with the added charismatic colours of its sponsor Martini.
‘Fundamentally, the BT44B was just an updated version of the BT44. I looked at the 44 and decided on where it could be improved; [in the end] it was just myriad small improvements, some of them for reliability, some for weight, some for stiffness.’
During the 1975 Grand Prix season the 44B proved very competitive and had a very good chance of taking the title. [Brabham was runner-up that year to Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship.]
IGM-T1, Race No. 47 — Orange (1967)
The young Gordon Murray wanted to be a racing driver. Being right at the start of his career, he had no money with which to buy an existing racing car, of any description. And certainly no-one was going to provide an unknown and unproven enthusiast with such a car. The only answer was to build one.
Being of a practical bent and rapidly acquiring the necessary knowledge through work, college and experience, he was far better placed than many impecunious enthusiasts to bring this dream to reality.
His first consideration was what type of car should he build and for what class. There were no junior formulas for single-seaters in South Africa at that time – so sports cars were the obvious choice. There was also another small, or not so small, matter to take into account: Gordon had now grown to 6ft 4in.
Sports cars were split into classes, with Class A being for cars with engines up to 1,100cc. There was the added attraction too of a national sports car championship. So Class A it was to be.
In his own words:
‘I looked around and the quickest cars at that time were either a Lotus Seven or a Mallock U2. And they were pretty quick. You had to have lights and all that sort of stuff and you had to have the wheels covered. I went around photographing them both and then I looked at my books and I thought, right, that’s what I’m going to build. I’m going build something that looks like that, but I’m not going to copy the Lotus Seven.
The Lotus Sevens at the time weren’t very well triangulated. They were quite crude because they were a bit of a production car. Chapman left out tubes to make them cheaper. I was looking around at those cars but there was no way I would fit in either one of them.
So I started from scratch and designed my own car based on something that would be eligible for Class A sports car racing. This meant I could do hillclimbs, sprints, national races, local races — in fact I could enter anything if I stuck to those regs.
Then of course there was the problem of money because I couldn’t afford much. You could actually go and buy an imported Cosworth engine or a Holbay engine — but it was silly money. So I decided I would do the engine myself, and everything pointed towards the little three-bearing-crank Ford 105E engine. People in England, even the Formula Junior screamers, were using that power unit and were getting massive horsepower out of it.’
The car took two years to complete. Then Gordon campaigned the car in 1967 and 1968 in local hillclimbs and sports car races with some success.
Both Vehicles Displayed courtesy of Prof. Gordon Murray from Monday 13th May to Sunday 19th May 2019.