In the history of racing, there have been a range of impressive motors to take to the track. One of the most famous is the Cooper T51, as it was driven by Jack Brabham, and he became the first driver to win the World Championship of Drivers with a rear mounted engine. The T51 was built by the Cooper Car Company and we’re taking a look at how it was designed.
An unorthodox design
By 1959, Cooper had already established itself as a world class race car manufacturer. Previous models like the T43 and T45 had won in the past, so the T51 was developed to continue the company’s success. The T51 featured an unorthodox design with a rear mid-engine layout and aerodynamic shape. The engine placement meant the T51 was lighter than other cars, giving it a weight advantage. The T51 was powered by a 2.5-litre four cylinder engine.
The innovative configuration meant that a specific gearbox needed to be sourced, and there were very few rear-engined vehicles at the time. This need created a niche in the market that allowed British engineering company Hewlands to rise up.
The T51 was an instant success on the race track. Before it made its first World Championship appearance it had already won the Glover Trophy and Silverstone International Trophy. Eight T51s were entered into the 1959 Monaco Grand Prix, with Jack Brabham winning the race. Brabham also made history with the World Championship of Drivers, cementing the T51’s legacy,
The T51 competed in the 1960 Argentine Grand Prix and this turned out to be the car’s last major win. The new Lotus 18 had started to dominate, so Cooper needed to rethink their strategy. John Cooper built the lowline T53 and it debuted at the next championship race in Monaco.
Cooper utilised the T51 three more times, though drivers Chuck Daigh and Ron Flockhart were unable to match the previous heights of success. The T51 may have fallen off the racing radar, but it remains one of the greatest competition vehicles of all time.