While Ferrari needs no introduction, Brabham is a name some of you might not remember so well. Founded by Jack Brabham, who died earlier this year aged 88, and Ron Tauranac, Brabham spend three decades in Formula One , in which it won four drivers’ championships and two constructors’ titles. Its first successful campaigns, and the only ones to bring both the drivers’ and constructors’ championship, came in 1966 and 1967. Although it won two more drivers’ titles, Brabham failed to win the constructors’ championship for the third time. However, the Brits came close on many occasions. 1970 was an important year for Brabham. Although it only managed fourth position at the end of the season, the team lost its number one driver, Jack Brabham. The man that drove the race cars built by his own hands retired from racing following the Mexican Grand Prix. The 1970 Brabham-Cosworth Ford BT33 was the last F1 car he had driven during an official event, making it that much more important to the company, second to only the Repco-powered single-seaters that brought the 1966 and 1967 championships.
In this car, Brabham won one race and scored three more podiums, while teammate Rolf Stommelen added a further third-place finish. Brabham, one of eight teams to use Ford’s DFV engine that year, ended the season behind Lotus, Ferrari and March, but ahead of McLaren , BRM and Matra. What made the BT33 such a competitive racer? Read on to find out.
Click past the jump to read more about the 1970 Brabham-Cosworth Ford BT33.
Unlike previous Brabham racers, which took the tracks in British Racing Green liveries with either yellow, gold or white accents, the BT33 featured a rather uncommon color.
Unlike today’s Formula One cars, 1970s single-seaters had unique features of their own. Sure, they shared the same rear-mounted engine, pointy nose configuration, but each of them had different rear wings, front winglets and body shapes that made them instantly recognizable. Like most F1 cars that season, the Brabham too had a bare engine mounted in the rear. Based on the design introduced by Lotus on the 49 model in 67, the Brabham BT33 used its engine as an active structural element of the chassis.
The simple body wrapped around two thirds of the chassis, with the long nose highlighted by front wings on each side and an oval air intake. A low, wrap-around windshield lied on top of the cockpit area, with a rollover hoop mounted right behind the driver’s seat. Around back, a large and nearly flat, fixed wing covered the gearbox and the rear suspension area.
Unlike previous Brabham racers, which took the tracks in British Racing Green liveries with either yellow, gold or white accents, the BT33 featured a rather uncommon color. Finished in a light, Baby Blue-like hue with yellow-painted front and rear wings, the 1970 Brabham-Ford was a rather unique appearance at the race track. Naturally, the body is adorned by several sponsor logos and the mandatory white roundels. The chassis shown here, wearing No. 5, made its debut at the 1970 season opening South African Grand Prix at Kyalami, with Sir Jack Brabham himself behind the wheel.
A racing seat with five-point harnesses, a three-spoke steering wheel, three gauges, and a gear shifter are its main characteristics.
Early 1970s cockpits are rather spartan by today’s standards, and the BT33 is no exception to this rule. A racing seat with five-point harnesses, a three-spoke steering wheel, three gauges, and a gear shifter are its main characteristics. Yes, back in the day Formula One cars had a gear shifter and three pedals, making driving skills that much more important. There was no such things as a multi-function steering wheel or shift paddles, not to mention that safety features were quite scarce.
If you’re looking for Formula One heroes to hang on your wall, Sir Jack Brabham is definitely one of them. You might as well pick any driver from the 1970s, ’cause they all drove in similar conditions.
Although Brabham failed to win the championship, the winning team, Lotus, was also powered by the Ford-Cosworth DFV.
Like many Formula One cars of its era, the Brabham BT33 used a DFV engine to lap the world’s greatest race tracks. Devel oped by Cosworth for Team Lotus in 1967, the DFV went on to become the most iconic Formula One engine. It was retired in 1985 with 12 drivers’ championships and ten constructors’ titles to its name. The 3.0-liter V-8 scored 155 wins from 262 races as it passed through various F1 periods, including the ground effects and turbo eras.
Brabham was one of many teams that have used the DFV, including Lotus, McLaren, Matra, Tyrrell, Lola, Williams and Penske. In 1970, the naturally aspirated engine delivered 430 horsepower at 10,000 rpm and nearly 300 pound-feet of torque at 8,000 rpm. Power was routed to the rear wheels by a five-speed manual transmission. Although Brabham failed to win the championship, the winning team, Lotus, was also powered by the Ford-Cosworth DFV.
Full independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes were already the norm in Formula One by 1970, and this Brabham-Ford had both of them.
|Type||2,993cc DOHC DFV V8 Engine|
|Horsepower||430 HP @ 10,000 RPM|
Buying a Formula One car was out of the question unless you were a private racer. Acquiring a 1970 BT33 was impossible, as Jack had only built chassis for his own team. Now that these cars are no longer competitive, some of them can be bought at auction events. However, the sticker is never cheap, especially since most of them are restored to the last bolt and offered with complete documentation. The example show here, for instance, is estimated to fetch between $1 million and $1.4 million at Bonham’s Quail Lodge Auction on August 15th.
By 1970, Lotus had become Brabham’s main rival in Formula One. The Brits won the 1970 drivers’ and constructors’ championship by using no less than three different cars. The final iteration of the 49, known as the 49C, was retired during the campaign, making way for the newer 72A and 72B. Like Brabham, Lotus used the DFV V-8 engine in all of its cars.
Jochen Rindt won the drivers’ title with five wins in nine starts. The Austrian driver was awarded the World Championship posthumously, after he died in a crash at Monza. Four more races were run following Rindt’s death, but these weren’t enough for Ferrari driver Jacky Ickx to snatch the drivers’ championship.
Ferrari introduced the 312B for the 1970 season and kept it on the track, with several modifications, until 1975. In 1970, the 312B used a 3.0-liter, flat-twelve engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The naturally aspirated unit was known for giving the 312B a lower center of gravity, thus enabling the Italian racer to have better handling than the DFV-powered cars. However, that wasn’t enough for Ferrari to win the constructors’ championship following a poor start of the season with three consecutive retirements.
Scuderia Ferrari began the season with Jacky Ickx, while Ignazio Giunti and Clay Regazzoni joined in later in the season, sharing the same car. Ferrari finished second in the manufacturers’ championship, while Ickx took second place in the drivers’ championship. Regazzoni came in third, although he raced in only eight of 13 events.
Although it failed to win the championship against strong competition from Lotus and Ferrari, the Brabham-Ford BT33 is arguably one of the most important F1 car Brabham had built. Being the last car in which Brabham won a race makes it that much more important and a true collector’s piece for the many, wealthy F1 aficionados out there. Further increasing its value is the fact that this racer has been exquisitely maintained and actively campaigned during classic racing events. This BT33 is ready to take hit track at any given time and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it revving its DFV engine at the Goodwood Festival of Speed next year.
- Iconic F1 brand and engine
- Historic Grand Prix winning chassis
- Driven by Sir Jack Brabham himself
- The last car in which Brabham won a race
- Very, very expensive
- Not street legal