Putting the Cart Before the Horse: The 1958 Argentine GP.

Mike Hawthorn drove his Ferrari at the 1958 Ar...The 1958 Formula One Season began with the Argentine GP.  Remember, in those days, this race was a two-week trip, by ship, in each direction, from Europe.  The big story, as is often the case at the beginning of Modern F1 seasons, was not the opening race itself.  Rather, the big story was the 1957 Cooper Climax T45 (although some reports suggest a T43 chassis was run at the Argentine GP, a moot point as the chassis were remarkably similar).

In the preseason, Enzo Ferrari called a meeting with Stirling Moss.  After traveling all the way to Maranello, Italy, Enzo Ferrari reneged and refused to offer Moss a Scuderia Ferrari factory drive.  Moss was insulted by this gesture and would not forget it for a great many years.  Consequently, Moss drove a Cooper-Climax for the 1958 season.  More on the specifics of the car later.  But, first, let’s take a look at the opening race of the season.  With Fangio only entering races as he pleased, having retired from full competition, Stirling Moss was the favorite.  And yet, the season is a close one.

1958 Argentine Grand Prix.

The following video is a 1970’s era (I’m guessing here) retrospective of the 1958 season.  I am going to be cutting up the video and posting it as it pertains to each race.  If nothing else, check it out for the host.  He’s got that epic 70’s coat game that keeps Macklemore thrift-shopping for the next score:

I wear your granddad’s clothes
I look incredible
I’m in this big ass coat
From that thrift shop down the road
I wear your granddad’s clothes (damn right)
I look incredible (now come on man)
I’m in this big ass coat (big ass coat)
From that thrift shop down the road (let’s go)

The 1958 Argentine GP:

The 1958 Cooper-Climax T45.

cooper-climax-1958 From the diagram, the car hides just how revolutionary it truly was.  It was powered by a small 1.9 four cylinder water-cooled engine, placed behind the driver.  It was underpowered.  However, as Colin Chapman would later say, the car was designed on a principal of “adding lightness.”  Not only was the car lighter than it’s competitor, the engine and driver were closer to the ground.  This meant a better center-of-gravity which improved handling and cornering speed.  Moreover, it sported modern coil springs and wishbone suspension.  No more of this transverse leaf spring and De Dion tube crap anymore.

The topic of this blog, in part, is evolution.  I recall the archeologists have noted gaps in the fossil record tending to suggest that evolution, at least on a micro level, occured in steps.  Suddenly a new trait would become so dominant that it became essential for survival.  Similarly, Formula 1 has gone through similar jumps.  Ridiculed at first for “putting the cart before the horse,” the critics were quickly silenced.  Putting the engine in the back of the car was so dominant that soon every car would be designed on this principal for the remainder of the history of Formula 1 racing.

And for a second bit of history, Stirling Moss gives a first-hand account of what it was like to drive a Cooper-Climax.  I really like this video in that it is the first in-depth view of what it was like to drive a Formula 1 car from the nineteen-fifties.