BRM H16: 16 Cylinder Monster

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A Mighty Engine
In 1966, Grand Prix engine regulations changed to permit 3.0 litre atmospheric (or 1.5 litre supercharged) engines. This rule change allowed BRM to build a strange and very unique engine.

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Designed by Tony Rudd and Geoff Johnson, the H16 (BRM P75), was essentially two flat-8 engines (derived from their 1.5 L V8), one above the other, with the crankshafts geared together.

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The H16 was attractive because it was initially planned to share design elements and components with the successful 1.5 litre V8. While the engine was powerful, it was also heavy and unreliable. 

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When Lotus took delivery of their first H16 it took SIX men to carry it from the van to the workshop (Imagine that in today’s F1 world). Because of the poor reliability of the H16, BRM earned the nickname of "British Racing Misery".

BRM, Lotus, and various privateers had been using enlarged versions of the BRM 1.5 V8 of up to 2.1 litres in 1966, as competitive 3.0 engines were in short supply in this first year of the new regulations. Lotus also took up the H16 as an interim measure until the Cosworth DFV was ready, building the Lotus 43 to house it. 

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Jim Clark managed to win the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen with this combination. It was the only victory for this engine in a World Championship race. Lotus built the similar Lotus 42 designed for Indianapolis with a 4.2 litre version of the H16, but this combination never proved to be race worthy; the cars were raced with Ford V8s instead.

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The H16 engine was redesigned with a narrow angle 4 valve head and magnesium main castings to reduce weight and increase power, but never raced in a car as BRM decided to use the V12 unit which was being sold to other F1 and sports car teams with encouraging results. For 1967, The H16 was replaced by a V12; an interesting and bold Formula One idea came to an end.







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