1952 Dutch GP Redux and The Rise of BMW

1952 Dutch Grand Prix

The 1952 Dutch GP at Circuit Zandvoort was a rain race.  Ascari took pole and won the race.  Take my word for it; the ’52 Dutch Grand Prix was a boring affair for about everyone, but Ascari himself.  About the only notable thing that happened is that a Cooper-Bristol qualified in third place.

The Cooper-Bristol Story

A Cooper Bristol Mk1 enters the pit lane durin...

“The [Cooper]-Bristol engine was actually a BMW straight-6 wearing a British Scooby-Doo mask” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“And, why is this important?” you might ask.  You would be justified in asking this.  But, there is a story behind the Cooper-Bristol.  Cooper tries Formula 1, under the ‘current’ F2 regulations.  Cooper, eventually, fails.  He leaves Formula 1 and decides to make a tiny little car that would come to be the “mini.”  But, as far as I am concerned, that is not the interesting story here.  Rather, the Bristol portion of the Cooper-Bristol equation has the more interesting story.  Bristol, of course, refers to the British engine maker.

“Why would I care about the Bristol engine?” you may also ask.  Again, you would be justified in asking this as well.  But, stick with me.  It’s coming… The Bristol engine was actually a BMW straight-6 wearing a British Scooby-Doo mask.

The Bristol engine is, fundamentally, a BMW 328.  Now, you are probably not thinking of the same Bimmer I am right now.  The 328, in this case, was the original one, built between 1936-1940.  It was an inline six.  I’m thrilled to know that the lineage of my E82’s N54 traces it’s roots back to the original engines challenging Ferrari in 1952 Grand Prix racing.  Oh whoa, don’t let me overstate it.  So, how did the BMW 328’s i6 powerplant make its way into Cooper chassis’?  Because Germany started, and lost, the second world war.

Deutsch: BMW 328 DAMC 05 Oldtimer Festival im ...

BMW 328; produced 1936-1940 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following WWII, technology shifted hands as a form of reparations.  Essentially, Britain got the blueprints to the 328’s powerplant as part of the spoils of war.  Essentially, the Bristol engine incorporated modern (early 1950’s) reliability into the basic platform they received from Germany.

Thus, although BMW did not officially become involved in Formula 1, you can actually trace their technology to the very first seasons of the Formula 1 championship.