Posts Tagged ‘Brabham BT16 Honda’


Jack Brabham with his F1 Brabham BT11 Climax, F2 BT16 Honda and one of Ron Tauranac’s bare spaceframes Jack has borrowed from Ron’s production line.

The photo isn’t dated but it’s between mid-June and mid-September 1965 – works Brabhams used number 14 at the Belgian, French, British, Dutch, and Italian Grands Prix.

In some ways it was a bit of an investment year for Brabham. It was their first year using Honda engines and Goodyear tyres, not to forget the Repco Brabham Engines V8s being developed in Melbourne. All of these initiatives paid off in spades the following year. Mind you, investment year or otherwise, Dan Gurney made the BT11 sing in F1 with a swag of top three results, albeit no wins in 1965.

Jack worked with Honda engineers to get more torque from their peaky but powerful 1-litre four cylinder engines. The team partnered with Goodyear from the January-March 1965 Tasman Cup. Lots of work on compounds and profiles helped the Brabham Racing Organisation win the 1966 F2 (Trophees de France) and F1 World championships with Honda and Repco-Brabham powered cars respectively.


The boys – Tauranac (or not?) in front of the partially obscured Denny Hulme and Jack – ponder a Brabham Honda as it’s loaded onto the transporter. See here for a feature on these jewels of cars, and engines; ‘XXXII Grand Prix de Reims’ F2 3 July 1966: 1 Litre Brabham Honda’s… | primotipo…

The photo requires detective work as the Getty Archive caption has it as a Lotus 33 Climax V8, which it most assuredly is not! The caption reads “Motor Sport Formula 1. In July 1965, during a report on Motor Sport and Formula 1, the Lotus 33 returning to the back of a truck, men and a driver discussing outside.”

While it’s not the French Grand Prix, that year held at Clermont Ferrand in June, it could be during the British Grand Prix weekend at Silverstone during July, a meeting the photographer, noted Paris Match regular Jean Tesseyre, may have attended.

Does it look like the Silverstone paddock to any of you Brits? There was no F2 race on the program but it is possible that Brabham did some test laps during the meeting and/or had the BT16 Honda on display. Perhaps the car is being loaded up at MRD or BRO in Surrey?

I love solving these mysteries if any of you can assist, attendee identification in full would be a bonus…


Manuel Litran, Jean Tesseyre



Jim Clark’s Lotus 35 Ford Cosworth SCA 1 litre F2 car at rest in the Pau paddock on the 25 April weekend in 1965…

You forget what delicate little flowers these cars were. When I glanced at Ian Gordon’s wonderful shot I initially thought it was a ‘screamer’, a 1 litre F3 of the same era. Not so.

Remember the pantheon of single-seater formulae at the time was 1.5 litre F1 engines giving 205-215’ish bhp, 1 litre pushrod F3’s breathing through a single carburettor choke giving about 100bhp and 1 litre OHC race engine F2’s giving 115 initially towards 150 bhp plus by the formula change to 1.6 litres in 1967.

Jim won at Pau from Dick Attwood’s Lola T60 SCA and Jochen Rindt, also SCA powered in a Brabham BT16.

The engine in Clark’s winning Lotus is Keith Duckworth’s conception based on the production Ford 116E block. The SCA (single cam series A) was the dominant F2 engine of 1965. It won all of the ‘Internationals’- there was no European F2 Championship until 1967, with the exception of the ‘Autocar Trophy’ at Snetterton in May. Graham Hill took that win, BRM P80 powered, aboard a John Coombs Brabham BT16.

Hewland ratio change in Jacks BT16 in the Pau paddock- there were lots of them as Brabham tried to match ratios to the peaky 1965 variant of Honda’s S800 engine. Brabham raced much of the ’65 F2 season in SCA powered cars as Honda development continued (Gordon)

Ian Gordon became a well known and respected Australian race mechanic, later working for Alec Mildren Racing and Max Stewart amongst others. He was on a racing holiday in 1965 and snapped these fantastic photos of the ‘F2 Engines of 1965’ during the Pau Grand Prix weekend. The engines are the SCA, BRM P80 and Honda S800.

For Jim it was the first of five F2 wins in ’65- that amazing season of Clark domination (F1 World Title, Tasman Championship and Indy 500 win), the others were at Crystal Palace, Rouen, Brands Hatch and the Albi GP late in the season.

The real threat to Cosworth SCA dominance into 1966, not that it was necessarily apparent at the time, were the 1 litre DOHC, injected Honda 4 cylinder engines fitted to various of Jack’s works Brabhams during 1965. The peaky nature of the engines power delivery was the primary issue which was addressed in spades over the winter. Click here for my article on Brabham Honda dominance in 1966.

Duckworth’s First Cylinder Head Design…

By the beginning of 1963 new F3 and F2 categories were announced, the former to replace Formula Junior to take effect from 1 January 1964.

Duckworth, armed with 17,500 pounds of support from Ford set to work on the new ‘SCA’ engine which would use the Ford 116E block known so well to them.

Sitting atop it would be an aluminium cylinder head with a line of vertical valves, two per cylinder ‘It was really an overhead cam version of the last Formula Junior engine’ Duckworth quipped in Graham Robson’s wonderful ‘Cosworth’ book.

The engine was notable for its bowl in piston combustion chamber or ‘Heron Head’ design. ‘My simple argument was that at the compression ratios we could use, and the valve sizes needed to ensure good breathing, that a bathtub type of chamber ended up masking the valves. It was an awfully long way around their periphery. I argued with myself, that if I put the combustion chamber in the piston, then for most of the time the valves would be out of the way, and that they wouldn’t impede the flow’ Duckworth said.

The steeply aligned inlet port of the SCA owed much to the Mk XVII pushrod 1963 engine engine which was heavily modified by having tubular downdraught inlet ports brazed into the casting. It wasn’t easy to do or cheap to make but improved gasflow. The SCA in some ways mirrored that approach.

KD ‘The SCA was the first cylinder head that I ever designed, and now I think their was quite a lot wrong with it. We had all sorts of trouble with the combustion- we couldn’t make it burn- but it was still good enough to win a lot of F2 races. In the end there was so much spark advance, that it wasn’t reasonable. We ended up with 49 degrees. The SCA chamber suffered from a lack of circumferential swirl’.

Colin Chapman sub-contracted the running of his F2 team to Ron Harris, the two wheels of the car alongside Clark’s Lotus 35 in the opening photo are those of his teammate Brian Hart- Brians 35 is BRM P80 powered and is shown above. The story of BRM’s 4 cylinder P80 F2 engine is one for another time but its vital statistics are an all aluminium, DOHC, 2 valve, Lucas injected 998cc (71.88X61.6mm bore/stroke) dry sumped motor giving circa 125 bhp @ 9750 rpm. (Gordon)


BRM P80 1 litre F2 engine cutaway (J Marsden)

Duckworth- ‘It might not have been right, but we had to make it work. It won the F2 Championships of 1964 and 1965…and…until the Honda engine of 1966 with four valves and twin overhead camshafts, tungsten carbide rockers and torsion bar valve springs appeared in Jack Brabham’s cars. We’d run out of breathing at 11,000 rpm so we obviously needed more valve area. That’s what started me thinking about 4-valve heads’.

‘Mike Costin  and I exercised great ingenuity- we had ports that curved around, we had the piston of the week with every kind of shape, dint and odd hole- but the combustion was not good, the mixture never burned properly’.

All the same, the dominant F2 engine of 1964 and 1965 did so producing between 115 bhp @ 8700 rpm in its original Weber 40 IDF carburettor form and ultimate ’66 spec Lucas injected form 143 bhp.

Ford 5 bearing 116E block. Single, (train of seven gears) gear driven overhead camshaft, two valves per cylinder , Cosworth rods and pistons, Laystall steel crank. 997cc- 81mm x 48.35mm bore-stroke.

SCB variant 1498cc 175 bhp – 3 engines only built including the Brabham BT21B raced by ex-Brabham mechanic Bob Ilich in Western Australia

SCC variant 1098cc 135 bhp for North American sportscar racing


‘Cosworth: The Search for Power’ Graham Robson,, F2 Index

Photo Credits…

Ian Gordon, Peter Windsor, John Marsden

Tailpiece: Jim Clark’s Lotus 35 Cosworth SCA on the way to victory in the 80 lap, 221Km Pau GP on 25 April 1965. Its only when you look hard you realise that it is not an F1 Lotus 33!…




Start of the race won by Jack Brabham’s dominant Brabham BT18 Honda, the little 1 litre car was the winner of the F2 Championship that year…

Jack won the title, ‘Trophee de France’ 1966, awarded for results in six championship rounds, from teammate Denny Hulme, similarly mounted with Alan Rees third in another BT18 powered by the Ford Cosworth SCA engine.

Brabham won the 3 July, 307 km ‘XXXII Grand Prix de Reims’ F2 in a little over an hour and a half from Alan Rees BT18 and Jean-Pierre Beltoise’ works Matra MS5 Cosworth SCA.

In a pretty good weekend for Jack, he also won the 400 km French Grand Prix on the same day in BT19 Repco, and of course in so doing became the first man to win a GP in a car with his own name and manufacture- together, Brabham and Ron Tauranac were partners in Motor Racing Developments, the manufacturers of Brabham cars.


Brabham’s BT18 Honda takes the Reims chequered flag from Toto Roche (unattributed)

Jack’s business acumen is demonstrated by his ability to form engine partnerships with Honda in F2 and Repco for his F1 and Tasman engines simultaneously, victorious in both F2 and Grands Prix racing in 1966…

Brabham and Ron Tauranac collaborated very successfully with the Japanese engineers, Honda learning much about engine installation and the need for torque as well as top end power during the first season of the partnership in 1965.

The little ‘S800’ 4 cylinder, fuel injected 1 litre engine developed around 150bhp @ 10000 rpm at the time the Ford block Cosworth SCA developed circa 138bhp and comprehensively blew off the opposition that year. 150bhp per litre for a normally aspirated engine was about as good as it got at the time, apart from Honda’s motor cycle engines anyway!

Honda acquired a Brabham F2 chassis in 1964, so Jack was well aware of Honda’s F2 plans, he first tested the car at Honda’s request late in 1964 at Suzuka and again in January 1965 at the conclusion of the Tasman Series.

He reported his impressions of the car in his ‘Motor Racing’ magazine column.

‘The Honda F2 is an all-alloy 4 cylinder DOHC, 4 valve engine with fuel injection…alongside an F2 Cosworth SCA , it is quite a big looking unit and there are some difficulties getting it into the frame…Since then modifications have been made to the unit so it can be mated to a Hewland 6 speed gearbox and sit in its proper position in the chassis’.

honda engine

Honda 1 litre DOHC, 4 valve fuel injected 150bhp ‘S800’ engine. Jack’s Brabham BT16, Pau GP 1965, DNF in the race won by Clark’s Lotus 35 Cosworth SCA. Electronic ignition take off of exhaust camshaft clear, large size of engine, neat installation and Goodyear tyres suggests 1966. Hewland ratio change in progress, lots of this with the peaky little engine! (Ian Gordon)

‘It runs smoothly and sounds very impressive, makes twice as much noise as the average F2 engine..there is useful power from 6000-9500 rpm, which is a nice wide band and makes the car comparatively easy to drive…Honda agreed to send two of their mechanics to be responsible for maintaining the engines during the coming season’. (1965)

In fact 1965 was a learning year for the new partners with Jack impressing upon the Japanese engineers the need for a wider band of power and torque, gearing of the car in 1965 was particularly critical.

Jack stepped out of the Honda powered chassis in June, forsaking it for Cosworth SCA power as the engine was developed. He returned to it at Albi in September- Jack took pole, set the fastest lap and finished second to Jim Clark’s Lotus 35 Cosworth SCA by less than a second after 85 laps…the lessons were well learned by Honda for success, make that domination in 1966.


Ron Tauranac and Jack Brabham discussing setup changes to Jacks BT21 Honda, #2 Hulme’s sister car, Monthlery 9 September 1966 (Popperfoto)



Jack Brabham with the victors garland, Monthlery 1966. Brabham BT21 Honda. Thats Clark’s 2nd place #3 Lotus 44 Cosworth SCA behind, Denny Hulme was third in the other Honda engined Brabham BT18. Note the Honda badge on the nose of Jack’s car. (unattributed)

The FIA introduced a new 1.6 Litre F2 class for 1967…

Honda were focussed on F1 in 1967 and 1968 before their withdrawal from top level single seater racing, they did not build an engine for the new European F2 Championship, but returned with Ralt to 2 litre F2 in 1980- the partnership of Honda and their old friend and collaborator Ron Tauranac was rekindled after all those years.

They were successful again too, winning the European F2 Championship in 1981/3/4, the Ralt Honda’s driven by Geoff Lees, Jonathon Palmer and Mike Thackwell to the title respectively before they returned to F1 with Spirit in 1983. That formative partnership was replaced with a longer term commitment to Williams in 1984 and the rest as they say is history.



Modern Ron Tauranac/ Honda Partnership…

The successful Ralt Honda Team in 1981. They were victorious with the Ralt RH6 in the Euro F2 Championship, Geoff Lees won the title, he is to the right of teammate- the black-clad Mike Thackwell is on crutches thanks to a big testing accident before the 20 April Thruxton Euro F2 round, showing true grit he returned to the fray at Mugello on May 24.

Lees won the title with three wins, Thackwell took one, the season opener at Silverstone.

Ralt RH6/81- the aluminium monocoque ground effect car of the period used the Honda RA261E, 2 litre (1996cc) DOHC, 4 valve , fuel injected normally aspirated V6 engine as a stressed member, which developed circa 310bhp @ 10500rpm.

Ron Tauranc leaning on the wing of a Ralt at Silverstone during the obviously hot! British Grand Prix on 18 July 1981.

There was no F2 duties that weekend but rather an important F3 race to attend to- customer Ralt RT3 Toyota’s filled the first four slots in the race- Thierry Tassin won from Raul Boesel and Jonathon Palmer, the latter graduated to the works Ralt-Honda F2 squad. To underline the dominance of the RT3’s, they filled thirteen of the top fifteen places.

Ralt RH6 Honda (T Jufuku)


jb brabham honda 65

Jack not looking quite so happy with the car in its formative 1965 year with the new Honda engine. Here at Oulton Park for the F2 ‘Gold Cup’ in September. He qualified his BT16 with the peaky unit well, 6th, but clutch trouble meant a DNS in the race won by John Surtees Lola T60 Cosworth SCA. (Eddie Whitham)


jack and ron

Another Oulton shot, Geoff Brabham in the green jacket far left looking on, Ron Tauranac, Jack and the small team of Honda mechanics. (Eddie Whitham)


honda big exhaust

In the early stages much experimentation took place to get the power/torque mix right including exhaust lengths… 1965, paddock place and date unknown. (unattributed)


jack oulton

Jack preparing for the off in the Oulton paddock, 1965 Gold Cup. (Eddie Whitham)


jap techs b honda

Another unattributed paddock shot of the Brabham Honda. Roy Billington down the back. Conventional rear suspension and Hewland ‘box. Single top link, inverted lower wishbone, coil spring/damper unit, adjustable roll bar and rubber donut all in shot. (unattributed)


Brabham_Hulme BT18 Honda (F2) Pau GP 1966

Denny ahead of Jack at the Pau GP on April 17 1966. The tables were turned at the events conclusion, Jack and Denny in Brabham BT 18 Honda’s, Graham Hill 3rd in another Brabham, a BT16 BRM. The Brabham Honda 1/2 was achieved at Goodwood, Pau, Zolder, Crystal Palace, Karlskoga and Keimola, Finland that year. (unattributed)



Brabham victorious in the car at Pau with Graham Hill and Denny Hulme joining in the fun (INA)


reims f 2

‘Where’d they go?!’ Tailenders on the Reims ’66 F2 grid. (unattributed)


Eddie Whitham, Popperfoto , Stephen Dalton and Leigh McMullen for research assistance, ‘Motor Racing’ magazine May/June 1965, Ian Gordon, Takashi Jufuku