If there were an era of racing in which cars were about as distant from modern F1 as could possibly be, it would probably be this one. In the late 1950s, F1 was just a fledgling formula and this car right here provided the series with its first official constructors’ champion. Tony Vandervell’s Vanwall racing squad stormed to six victories that year with Stirling Moss, Mike Hawthorne, and Tony Brooks doing the driving. It was the last of the front-engine Grand Prix cars to be extremely successful, and now you can buy one of the six brand new continuation cars.
The Vanwall VW5 chassis was largely unchanged from its introduction in 1957, and with development and stellar driving was able to overcome the stronger Ferrari Dino-engined monsters. It made use of a Vanwall-developed inilne four-cylinder engine producing in the neighbourhood of 186kW versus the Ferrari’s 216-ish. With updated DeDion suspension, stiffer steel wheels, better nylon-cord Dunlop racing tires, better aerodynamics, and disk brakes, the 1958 Vanwall was a world-beater.
Sixty-two years later, and I’m pretty confident that I could beat this F1 car around pretty much any track in most brand sports sedans fresh from the dealership showroom. Hell, I bet some SUVs could run a quicker lap time than the Vanwall VW5, but that’s totally not the point and we both know it. This car is a throwback to a simpler racing era. A time when motorsports required a lackadaisical approach to survival and self-preservation.
Anyway, Vanwall didn’t last but a couple years beyond that 1958 F1 championship, entering just two races in the period 1959-1960, and not doing well in either of them. The front-engine car was dead, given over to the mid-engine era that continues on today. And now, it’s back with the same old same old. A familiar constructor’s championship-winning car is back in a new run of continuation cars.
Six new Vanwall VW5s will be built by historic F1 racing experts Hall and Hal in Lincolnshire, England. Each of these vehicles was engineered directly from original drawings and blueprints from the 1950s. Everything, down to the original 2,489cc engine, was meticulously recreated in original detail. That means 270 horsepower in a lightweight chassis, and all of the safety and handling that 1958 had to offer.
One car will be retained by the newly-formed Vanwall Historic Racing Team, and five further cars will be sold off as continuation specials to special buyers. If you want to know how fucking scary it was to race in 1958, this is your opportunity. It’ll only cost you £1.65 million plus VAT ($3 million).
Man, it would be pretty great if modern F1 just scrapped everything and put the current crop of drivers in a full field of these Vanwalls and let them loose. Sounds like it would be a wild time, and might find a better crop of entertaining races. How great would these bad mammajammas be at Spa or Monza? Oh man, I’m interested in this.