The ex-Works, ex-Bill Morris 1954 Kieft-Climax V8 Formula 1 Racing Single-Seater Chassis no. GP1 Engine no. EXP1
Very rarely we have the privilege to offer a competition car that embodies not only perfect provenance, but also unique historic interest. This very handsome, technologically advanced and amongst its peers extremely competitive Historic Grand Prix car embraces all these attributes.
It was in 1953 that Cyril Kieft's racing car manufacturing company began design work upon an all-British contender for the FIA's forthcoming new 2½-litre Formula 1 category qualifying for the Drivers' World Championship competition. The proprietary engine manufacturer, Coventry Climax, had declared an interest in designing and producing suitable racing engines for purchase by interested chassis constructors. They offered their brand-new 'Godiva' Climax V8 power unit in which several established teams, including HWM and Connaught expressed interest. They already had a record of contesting World Championship-level Grand Prix racing with their unsupercharged 2-litre Formula 2 cars from 1950-53. In such company Kieft Cars were a newcomer, but they had established a very good reputation for their products in 500cc motor-cycle engined Formula 3 racing, and had been driven with great success most notably by Stirling Moss.
The new Formula 1 Kieft-Climax was to use the Armstrong-Siddeley built 'Wilson' pre-selector gearbox that was extremely popular amongst specialist British sports and racing car manufacturers of that era. Coventry Climax produced their prospective Formula 1 contender, the 'Godiva' FPE V8 power unit, but company chairman Leonard Lee was not happy about unleashing it upon such a public platform if it should prove uncompetitive against the contemporary standard-setters. In particular he had an eye upon double-World Championship team Ferrari and their compatriot rivals, Maserati. It was known that Mercedes-Benz would also be returning to Grand Prix racing, doubtless in overwhelming strength, during the 1954 season, but for Coventry Climax's prospective customers the prospect was of earning appearance, start and potentially prize money in the myriad non-Championship motor races then prevailing. Therefore, when early tests of the Godiva V8 engine yielded some 240bhp against Italian-sourced press reports announcing as much as 260-270bhp from the rival Ferrari, Maserati (and later Lancia V8) power units, the Midlands manufacturer began to develop intense reservations about continuing with the programme. Primary potential customers John Heath of HWM and Geoffrey Clarke of Connaught developed doubts of their own about the wisdom of investing in the new V8 engine should it prove to be utterly outclassed by "the crack Continental teams". Against this background little surprise was expressed, therefore, when Coventry Climax abruptly abandoned its immediate Formula 1 racing ambitions, and the V8 project was closed, un-raced, which left Cyril Kieft's ambitious project high and dry...
Indeed, the Kieft company was unusual in having a tailor-designed chassis so far advanced, poised to accept the 'Godiva' engine. He had, in fact, produced not just one chassis but two, with a spare sitting ready alongside the prototype. Both these frames are now offered here, the prototype assembled into the fully-finished car as raced in Historic events over the past ten years.
Cyril Kieft decided that his commercial future lay in alternative areas outside the motor racing world, and he sold his car company to Merrick Taylor, the stillborn Formula 1 frames and associated components being included within the sale inventory.
Merrick Taylor later sold the F1 project hardware to Birmingham-based hill-climb specialist 'Podge' Dealey. He had maintained and prepared the famous ex-works/Raymond Mays ERA 'R4D' for owner/driver Tom Norton and had raced Mini saloons with considerable success. Mr Dealey planned to install a large-capacity American V8 engine in the chassis frame for hill-climb use but, again, the project was stillborn.
Vintage racing car enthusiast Bill Morris first saw the Kieft project at 'Podge' Dealey's premises in the mid-1960s, when he called there to buy an ERA oil pump. However, Mr Dealey subsequently sold the Kieft components as a project to another Vintage and Historic racing car specialist, Gordon Chapman of Kineton, Warwickshire. He had located another never-raced British Formula 1 V8 engine that was available for purchase, the Brooke-Weston V8, in the Birmingham Museum. That more bulky 2 ½-litre V8 had only been run once and on that occasion it had blown up on the test bed. Gordon Chapman acquired it together with an ENV 150 pre-selector gearbox that he intended to install in the Kieft chassis. Bill Morris called upon Mr Chapman and mentioned that the correct Coventry Climax 'Godiva' V8 power unit had long-since been in the ownership of Climax engine specialist Bill Lacey, whose preparation business was based at Silverstone circuit. Gordon Chapman bought the 'Godiva' material from Mr Lacey, but the Kieft remained a long-term project as other work upon such cars as the 'Monzanapolis' Lister-Jaguar single-seater and E-Type ERAs took precedence.
Sadly, Gordon Chapman's health then failed and after his death, Bill Morris bought the complete Kieft-Climax project from Mr Chapman's widow, Jeannie.
Bill Morris later wrote: "On inspection it was generally thought that all we had to do was to fit the engine and a gearbox but nothing is as simple as that, and therefore a complete rebuild and general assembly was put in hand..."
The Coventry Climax Type FPE 'Godiva' V8 was the first purebred motor racing engine produced by the eventual four-time World Championship-winning company. Although its design had begun as early as 1952 its spasmodic development would run on into 1955 the second season of the new Grand Prix Formula to which it had been built. The unit was described in great detail in 'The Autocar' magazine edition of August 7, 1953, and copies of this article can be viewed with the car or upon request from Bonhams. In its final form the FPE V8 was intended to use an SU fuel injection system and running on alcohol fuel and with stub exhausts it developed some 264bhp at a lusty 8,600rpm.
Once the project had been shelved, Coventry Climax's entire FPE stock had survived in storage until the mid-1960s when it was sold to enthusiast Andrew Getley. As part of his purchase agreement he was permitted to employ the power units for any purpose so long as the 'Coventry Climax' brand name would be ground from the assembled engines' cam covers. Initially, in time for the 1966 British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, Mr Getley permitted inveterate special builder Paul Emery to rebuild one 'Godiva' V8 into 3-litre form and install it in the rear of the one-off Shannon single-seater chassis. The Shannon-Climax was then driven by Trevor Taylor briefly in that British GP. The car was not raced again in Formula 1 and was eventually sold in the early 2000s to Peter Morley in Belgium.
Meanwhile, in 1968-69 Mr Getley had sold his remaining 'Godiva' stock to saloon car owner/driver 'Doc' Merfield who entrusted it all to leading Coventry Climax engine specialist Bill Lacey at Silverstone. The idea was to build a series of 3-litre V8 FPEs for special saloon car racing use. The first unit went into 'Doc' Merfield's Cortina but unfortunately threw a con rod. Mr Merfield subsequently experienced cardiac problems that ended his racing career. Bill Lacey stored the remainder of the project at his Silverstone works, from where they were acquired by Gordon Chapman.
The project employed the later-type two spark plugs-per-cylinder heads found amongst the stock, though with only one plug being fitted initially, the other drilling blanked. Coil-type valve springs were used in place of the original heads' hairpin-type springs. The original Lucas 'laydown' 8-cylinder magneto was replaced by a Scintilla magneto in interests of reliability and spares availability. Four downdraught Weber twin-choke carburettors were adopted with 40mm chokes to IDF specification. While the original SU fuel injection system appears to be entirely extinct, it provided no metering in period. Bill Morris located drawings for the system that showed no enrichment device to meet acceleration demands. It seemed the system was intended for more constant-speed aero engine use - and Greg Snape recommended that Weber carburettors would be preferable to an unproven injection system that threatened huge driveability problems. Bill Morris wrote at the time: "It's appreciated that these carburettors are ten years too modern to be used with this engine, but we had no choice...". However, by 2004 a basically 40mm choke Weber DCNL set-up - with 32mm venturis - had been adopted which was both "of the correct period" and would permit easy modification to run on methanol fuel.
As the project progressed in Mr Morris's workshops it was found that the Kieft's fuel tank had been divided approximately 70:30 with the smaller section intended for use as the engine's dry-sump oil tank. Instead, a separate dry-sump oil tank was made and mounted in the left-side of the frame, while the fuel tank was repaired and dedicated to fuel alone. A larger, deeper sump was provided by inserting a sandwich-plate between the crankcase casting and the sump pan. Oil temperature is tapped from the sump. Oil filters were installed in the lines running from the engine scavenge pump back to the dry-sump tank as there was no provision for filtering the oil between the pressure pump and the engine. The 'Godiva' V8 features an integral pressure pump feeding lubricant directly through the V8's oil galleries.
During all this work, Mr Morris realised that since several components of this Coventry Climax Type FPE V8 engine had been passed on to the eventual World Championship-winning FPF family of four-cylinder racing engines, there is a degree of interchangeability between the charismatically-rare V8 Grand Prix racing engine and the FPF. For example, some new parts, and most notably 1500 FPF stock valves and valve-springs etc, could be obtained from the specialist Crosthwaite & Gardiner company who had remade them as part of its Climax FPF support endeavours.
It was found that the transverse leafspring included too many leaves and was far too stiff, so leaves were removed to soften its rate. Rear suspension had been set-up square, but from experience Mr Morris preferred to remake the system's unequal-length wishbones to provide the rear wheels with a small degree of negative camber and toe-in. Suitable Spax telescopic dampers were identified and adopted. While the differential housing had been missing, it was found that an ENV unit as used upon early postwar Jaguars would fit within the original Kieft magnesium housing, and so one was acquired and installed, together with the Kieft's unique specially-made ZF plunger-type limited-slip differential mechanism.
GKN supplied a new propeller shaft plus both drive shafts and universal joints. Excess oil breathed from engine, gearbox and differential was piped into a new catch tank fitted to the right-side of the chassis frame. As V8 engines in general are notoriously difficult to scavenge adequately, a new larger scavenge pump was made which collects oil not only from the middle of the sump chamber but from its front and rear as well to accommodate surge during racing acceleration and deceleration.
New Fasset 12-volt fuel pumps and a small 12-volt battery were mounted in the frame's tail to supply the engine's induction. A new onboard fire extinguisher system was fitted to the chassis nearside with nozzles directing extinguishant when triggered into the engine compartment and cockpit.
The initial Armstrong-Siddeley Racing Pre-Selector gearbox caused considerable heart-searching early in the revival project since it was thought "not to be man enough" for the V8 engine's torque, and since internal speeds would have been extremely high with the system in neutral. The racing Pre-selector had a third gear/top gear drum revolving at 4.7 times engine speed (backwards) in neutral and since the engine was considered safe to as much as 8,600rpm this would have been excessive. Consequently, a larger Armstrong-Siddeley Pre-sector gearbox of the correct period was adopted, featuring specially-made close-ratio gears.
This gearbox is driven from the clutch by a short Cardan shaft using specially-supplied GKN universal joints. A specially-made clutch housing carries an AP racing clutch. Kieft's original cast-magnesium wheels which were acquired as part of the project were considered suspect on grounds of their age, so new patterns were made and replacement magnesium wheels machined from fresh castings. To meet contemporary VSCC regulations 5½-inch wide rear rims replaced the 5-inch originals, while the new front wheels matched original specification.
Another, similarly advanced, original technical feature had been Kieft's use of Dunlop disc brakes. Amongst the stock of original components acquired from Gordon Chapman, the original brake discs were found to have been hard-chromed, and over time they had deteriorated with some of the plating detached. Consequently new brake discs were machined from cast iron to the original Kieft/Dunlop design. The car's original Dunlop experimental brake calipers were mounted at the front but none had been preserved at the rear. Jaguar specialist John Pearson kindly provided a D-Type pair, and both the front-mounted originals and the Jaguar D-Type rears were then modified to accept Brembo brake caliper pistons and seals. New brake pads were cut from original Ferodo pads.
The original unequal-length front suspension wishbones had been manufactured in cast magnesium, and were considered unsuitable since they were not adjustable, and probably after time - unsafe. Consequently they were replaced by new wishbones fabricated from seamless tube, with the lower wishbone providing camber-change adjustment. These were to be locked at one size once track testing produced the optimum result.
It was also found that the original front hub design featured welded-on steering arms. This was considered unacceptable on safety grounds and so fresh wartime Ford V8 front hubs were obtained from the Allard Owners' Club, to which brand-new steering arms were bolted. An anti-roll bar was also added to the front suspension, being discreetly tucked away as far as possible out of sight. Both the steering rack and the steering wheel Bill Morris described as original, while a new steering column was fabricated with new GKN universal joints.
Appropriate period dashboard instruments were acquired, rebuilt and fitted while the majority of the car itself was rebuilt and completed by Australian engineer and driver Greg Snape, overseen by Bill Morris who was experiencing the early stages of what proved to be his tragically fatal illness.
Most significantly, the complete original bodywork had survived with the prototype and spare chassis frames, although the panels still required final finishing. This work was carried out by panel specialist (and prominent ERA owner/driver) Duncan Ricketts who cut the car's distinctive cooling louvres into the tail, side and bonnet panels. He also provided an air collector box to feed induction air to the in-vee Weber twin-choke carburettors.
Considerable input to the project was provided by Cyril Kieft himself, and the finishing touch was for him to specify the shade of metallic green who, by Bill Morris's own account: "...told us this was the colour intended for the car". The panels were then sprayed by specialist Ken Horne.
On September 21, 2002 as Bill Morris said at the time, "only some 48 years late..." - the revived car was driven by Greg Snape in its first-ever motor race, at the VSCC Silverstone Meeting attended by a delighted 89 year old Cyril Kieft. This Formula 1 Kieft-Climax V8 was rapturously received by Historic racing enthusiasts worldwide, and it has since featured very strongly against its peers in several editions of the Goodwood Revival Meeting, Monaco Historique and several VSCC events and has won in Greg Snape's hands at Mallala circuit in South Australia.
The car is offered here as last run in the Goodwood Revival Meeting last year and ready to be freshly prepared for the resumption of racing. It is accompanied within this Lot not only by a mass of Climax FPE 'Godiva' spares and alternative components, but also by the spare chassis frame which similarly dates from 1954-55 and which would form the basis of a sister team car project. Very substantial documentation includes a full register of every Historic race outing and a virtual 'workshop manual' for the car and engine, accompanies this Lot, all of which is available for detailed viewing by a prospective bidder.
In period, the Formula 1 Kieft-Climax V8 and its sister frame were destined for an extremely long slumber, through decades of storage. Through the extreme enthusiasm, dedication and technical talents of the late Bill Morris and his chief collaborator, Greg Snape, this all-British Grand Prix contender was finally completed not just in running but in full-blooded racing order. It is a tremendous story, and here we offer this magnificent front-engined Formula 1 contender accompanied by perhaps the most comprehensive range of associated parts (and that second chassis) that we have ever been able to offer. This stock includes the second chassis comprising the main tubular structure and front-suspension mounting structure, plus no fewer than three Climax FPE V8 cylinder blocks, a quantity of unmachined cylinder heads, many assorted power unit components, original Kieft magnesium road wheels, three pre-selector gearboxes to provide parts or for overhaul, the original magnesium front wishbones and the original oil tank.
This is far from being "your ordinary Historic racing car". It is a highly publicised and within the Historic racing world an extremely high-profile and popular multi-cylinder to match the supremely charismatic Lancia D50. It is provenly of great interest to Historic race meeting organisers and promoters. It has been absolutely welcomed wherever it has been run, or displayed and it offers the extra cachet of combining original engine, chassis and body paneling too... Here, ladies and gentlemen, is a V8-engined 1950s Formula 1 racing car which ticks all the boxes, in a most distinctive and unusual manner......