PEOPLE: TONY VANDERVELL
Name: Tony Vandervell
Nationality: Great Britain
Guy Anthony "Tony" Vandervell came from a wealthy background, his father having made a considerable amount of money by founding the CAV (his initials) electrical company. This was sold to Lucas in 1925. In the 1920s Tony raced Norton motorcycles and Talbot and Wolseley cars at Brooklands but then gave up the sport to concentrate on making his fortune from a closed bearing business which he called Vandervell Products. This manufactured precision bearings under license to an American company. He became a very wealthy man in the 1930s and, after World War II ended, he became one of the original backers of British Racing Motors alongside Alfred Owen of Rubery Owen, Bernard Scott of Lucas and former ERA founders Raymond Mays and Peter Berthon.
In 1949 he became fed up with BRM's bureaucratic and political atmosphere and decided to build his own cars with the aim of beating the dominant Italian teams. He acquired a 4.5-liter Ferrari 125 and this was reworked to become the Thinwall Special, named after Vandervell's best known product Thinwall Bearings. There were four Thinwall Specials between 1950 and 1953 but as the World Championship was for Formula 2 cars in 1952 and 1953 these appeared only in Formule Libre events, although they were quite successful.
The first actual Vanwalls (the name came from putting Vandervell and Thinwall together) were known as Vanwall Specials and were built for the new Formula 1 regulations in 1954. The chassis was commissioned by Vandervell from the Cooper Car Company and was designed by Owen Maddock . The Vanwall engine was designed by Norton engineer Leo Kuzmicki, under the guidance of the company's chief development engineer Joe Craig, and was essentially four Norton 500cc engines combined into one 2-liter unit. Vandervell was able to use Norton because his father C A Vandervell was chairman of Norton at the time.
The first car appeared in the hands of Alan Brown at the International Trophy in May 1954 but was then not seen again in Formula 1 until the British GP where it was driven by Peter Collins. It registered its first finish at the Italian GP in seventh place and a couple of weeks later Collins finished second to Stirling Moss's Maserati 250F in the Goodwood Trophy. In October Mike Hawthorn was second to Moss at Aintree. For the 1955 season Hawthorn and Ken Wharton were hired to drive the cars, although Hawthorn later joined Ferrari, leaving Vandervell to sign up American Harry Schell and he won a couple of minor British events. At the end of 1955 one of Vandervell's team in Acton, west London, Derek Wootton, suggested that Vandervell approach a young designer called Colin Chapman to try to improve the cars. Chapman recommended that the cars been substantially rebuilt and rebodied and suggested that Vandervell use a young aerodynamicist called Frank Costin. Former Jaguar engine designer Harry Weslake was called in to work on the engines.
The resulting cars were raced for the first time at the International Trophy by Moss (a contracted Maserati driver) and Schell and Moss won the race. Thereafter Maurice Trintignant took over the drive. The cars looked promising but failed to deliver any other major results that year. In the autumn they were modified and Stirling Moss did a comparison test between the Vanwall, Connaught and BRM and decided to drive for Vanwall in 1957. Tony Brooks was signed up to drive the second car. Brooks finished second at Monaco but it was not until the British GP that the team won its first event with Moss and Brooks sharing the winning car. Moss won again at Pescara and - much to Vandervell's delight - at the Italian GP in Monza while the team's third driver Stuart Lewis-Evans finished second in the Moroccan GP at the end of the year.
In 1958 the Vanwall team won six of the nine rounds of the World Championship it contested. Moss and Brooks won three apiece and the team won the Constructors' Championship. In the Drivers' Championship, however, Moss was pipped by Ferrari's Mike Hawthorn. Vandervell's triumph was tainted however at the final race when Lewis-Evans suffered serious burns from which he later died.
At the end of the year Vandervell announced that the team would not be continuing due to his ill-health. One new car was built for the 1959 season and was raced on occasion by Tony Brooks that year and in 1960 but without success while Lotus tested a Vanwall-engined car. A rear-engined Vanwall was built for the Intercontinental Formula in 1962 and driven by John Surtees but the series was a flop and the Vanwall name disappeared from motor racing.
Tony Vandervell died in 1967.