Brought to you by TJ13 contributor Oddball
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I have a a confession…’my name is Oddball and I’m an addict’
The sun is blazing down and my arm is thrust deep into the bowels of my latest purchase. Behind me are once unloved machines of yesteryear, bought back to life by me but for now cast asunder as the new addition needs some love.
You see like many people, I have a passion for machines. If it makes a bang and moves then its a must have and this latest fume belching monster is making my day.
She – BTW why are all my toys called girls?.. I told you I had a problem.. – had a drinking problems but after a rebuilt fuel pump, she’s now purring like a kitten; but a kitten weighing in at 4 tonnes and smoking twenty a day. Yes TJ13 is about F1, bear with me and I’ll get to the point – eventually.
She – is a David brown 995 tractor from 1971, I pulled her out of a life of shifting pig swill into a nice heated garage and now she is gleaming in the sun.’oh sh#@ is that oil?’
Bow this isn’t my usual kind of purchase as most of my ‘girls’ normally have more sculpted bodies and are less field pluggers and more movies stars. But there was something I need from Mr. Brown’s creation because under her rather thick skin is hidden a secret. This particular lady shares some habits with older Aston Martin’s – drinking heavily and occasionally wetting herself but all this aside – David Brown of Aston fame had a knack of making fantastic gearboxes my latest pride and joy is a fine example of his designs and ideas. This box changes cogs like nothing I have seen, even the Ferrari of this year would be hard pressed to beat the shift in this agricultural machine and now it’s getting the attention it deserves.
Currently in Formula One, we have 21st century state of the art gearboxes that mostly last a whole 5 races – some 1500 miles give or take 100. By contrast, I have a 40 year old machine that’s spent its life outside, probably never even had a change of oil change, and been abused at the uncaring hands of a Derbyshire farmer – yet she still she moves like a Swiss watch.
Old Mr Brown would be proud but he wasn’t the proprietor of the only tractor company to enter into motor sports, given Lamborghini’s heritage and the mostly forgotten work done by Ferguson. Yes, the maker of the red machines you see out in the fields today also dipped their toe into the world of high octane fun.
Fred Dixon and Tony Rolt considered the possibility of using 4WD in circuit racing, and with Ferguson keen to promote the transmission systems of his tractor firm work began on the P99 in 1960. With a 50–50 torque distribution front to rear the car, Claude Hill’s design was built to have an even weight distribution over both axles. This meant the positioning of the gearbox necessitated a front-engined design but inn F1 Coopers and Lotus were beginning to have success with the now normative mid-engined car design.
But the real killer for the 4WD project, which was nearing its completion, was a decision by F1’s governing body to reduce the size of F1 engines by 40% making the extra weight of the 4WD transmission a much bigger penalty. Nevertheless the team persevered and fitted a standard 1.5-litre Climax 4-cylinder engine, mounted at a slant to make room for the front drive-shaft. In addition the driving position was moved slightly off-centre to accommodate the gearbox and rear drive shaft to the driver’s left hand side.
The car was first raced in the 1961 British Empire Trophy, where Rob Walker put Jack Fairman in the car, but this turned out to be a bad move as Fairman crashed on lap 2. In the British GP at Aintree, Fairman drove the car again, but in act which to modern drivers would appear absurd, Fairman surrendered his car to Stirling Moss after his Lotus 18 failed. The car was unfortunately disqualified for outside assistance on lap 56.
The P99’s last major F1 outing was a fitting end as Moss drove it to victory at Moulton Park. In February 1963, the car, having been fitted with a 2.5-litre Climax engine, was driven by non other than Graham Hill in the Australian GP and the Lakeside International placing sixth and second. This unique racing machine’s final racing action came in the form of a hill climb event in 1964, which she ended by winning the title.
So next time you pass a forgotten machine left rotting in a hedgerow, why not jump on the seat and give the stick a little time. Your heart may beat a tad faster and you will most likely inhale the fumes that are every engineers drug. As I’ve said before, if it moves and makes a noise – we will probably try to race it and even the at the pinnacle of our gazzilionaire sport, we remember it was blue collared at heart.
See also TJ13’s Jenny Mowbray article on the P99: Fergusson’s futuristic F1 four wheel drive