In the Postwar era B.C. – Before Cooper – Formula 1 cars (like the Vanwall on display) were large,
heavy, beautifully built, super-expensive leviathans. Because of the desire for predictable handling, these
cars were designed to understeer and thus gobbled up engine power through curves. Moving the engine to
the rear would mitigate that understeer and reduce frontal area at the same time. It would also allow the
Coopers – father Charles, son John – to build light, efficient, somewhat crude but comparatively cheap race
cars…and enjoy phenomenal success. Their small factory in Surrey was the largest manufacturer of
thoroughbred racers in the world.
The display car was one of three purchased on October 28th, 1959 – at ₤980.5s. 10d. each – by the
Yeoman Credit Racing Team which had been formed by Ken Gregory and Alfred Moss (Stirling’s manager
and father respectively). Six weeks earlier Cooper had clinched the Formula 1 Championship.
Although these Yeoman cars would see occasional Formula II use, the trio had been bought
principally for the 1960 F-1 circuit. A 2nd and 4th in the French Grand Prix was the team’s best effort that
season. Behind the wheels of the team cars in 1960 were some rather spectacular drivers: Tony Brooks at
Monaco (4th), Zandvoort (d.n.f.), Spa (d.n.f.) and Silverstone (5th); Oliver Gendebien at Oporto (7th,
unclassified) and Riverside (12th); Henry Taylor at Reims (4th); Dan Gurney at Brands Hatch (7th).
Cooper won the Formula 1 World Championship again in 1960, effectively turning the frontengined
leviathans into dinosaurs, but also ending the era of the Surrey factory’s dominance. In their
execution, the Coopers have been likened to blacksmiths. Now the engineers – aware of the brilliance of the
Cooper solution – took over. The Coopers had fired the first shot, Colin Chapman and others would
complete the revolution.
Photos – Peter Harholdt
Most race cars were non-competitive after their first campaign — the 1927 Vauxhall was competitive for 23 years (1927–1950) and you can see it in person. Learn more