1959 Cooper T-51 Formula One
Jack Brabham finished sixth at the 1957, Monaco Grand Prix in a Cooper Formula 2 car. This was an especially significant result as his Cooper, unlike any of the other cars in the field, had its engine mounted behind the driver. In 1958, Stirling Moss won the Argentine Grand Prix in Rob Walker’s rear-engined Cooper. Maurice Trintignant followed that up with another Cooper victory at Monaco. The rear-engine revolution had begun.
In 1959, Jack Brabham drove the new Cooper Type 51 to claim the Formula One World Championship. He did so with victories at Monaco, the Dutch Grand Prix, the French Grand Prix, and the British Grand Prix. This was the first ever World Championship for a rear-engined car. Every World Champion since has done so with the engine mounted behind the driver. The Cooper Type 51 was simply the first.
This particular Cooper Type 51 (also known as “T-51”) offered here is chassis number F2/23/59. It was constructed by the Cooper Works in 1959 and originally sold to Fred Tuck and Horace Gould, less engine. Noted historian, Doug Nye, refers to this car multiple times in his book Cooper Cars as a Cooper “works ’59 car” and an “ex-works car.”
The car was entered by Tuck for the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix. Unfortunately his driver, Bruce Halford, was not able to go quick enough to qualify the car. The car was next entered for Lucien Bianchi for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. Bianchi, who was later to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Pedro Rodriguez in a JW/Gulf GT-40 Ford, as well as the Sebring 12 Hours with Jo Bonnier, qualified F2/23/59 fourteenth out of nineteen cars. In the race Bianchi brought the car home 6th, right behind Phil Hill’s Ferrari and Jim Clark’s Lotus.
Bianchi next drove the car in the French Grand Prix at Reims. There he and Tony Brooks in his Vanwall had a coming together. Both cars soldiered on, with the Vanwall making it seven laps and the Cooper retiring after 18 laps with transmission problems.
At the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Bianchi retired with magneto problems. Interestingly at the same race Scarab builder, Lance Reventlow, and his driver, Chuck Daigh, raced a Cooper T-51, having been repeatedly unsuccessful with their front-engined Scarab.
Bianchi next drove F2/23/59 at the non-Championship F1 race at Brands Hatch. All the regular F1 pilots and teams were there as there was no World Championship German Grand Prix that year. Bianchi went out with a broken rod. However, Bruce McLaren, also driving a Cooper T-51, finished third, besting the likes of Phil Hill and Richie Ginther’s Ferraris, John Surtees, Dan Gurney, and others.
The final race of the 1960 World Championship season saw F2/23/59 at the U.S. Grand Prix at Riverside International Raceway in California. Roy Salvadori drove the car, qualifying it 15th. In the race Salvadori faired much better, finishing 8th, between Jim Hall in a Lotus and Wolfgang von Trips, also driving a T-51. At the conclusion of the U.S. Grand Prix, F2/23/59 traveled back across the Atlantic.
For 1961, the Formula One rules were changed to limit engine displacement from 2.5 litres to 1.5 litres. A 1.5 litre Coventry Climax Grand Prix engine was installed in F2/23/59. What races F2/23/59 competed in during the 1961 season are currently unknown.
In 1962, American Frank Dochnal, traveling in England, came upon F2/23/59, which was for sale. He fell in love with the car and bought it. Dochnal had raced midgets and sprint cars in and around Missouri, and later raced an Austin Healey 6 and Austin Healey Le Mans after he moved to California. But the Cooper was a big step, especially considering that he was already in his forties.
Frank had the Cooper shipped to the U.S. He received the car on a Thursday and by that Saturday was already racing it at Riverside, where it had run in the Grand Prix two years earlier. As he had not had time to qualify the car, Frank was required to start at the rear. Undeterred, he stormed through the field to win in his very first race!
Frank continued to race F2/23/59 into 1963. That was the first year of the Mexican Grand Prix, which was not a very long tow from Southern California. Frank contacted the organizers and was invited to race the Cooper at the inaugural Mexican G.P.
Once in Mexico, Frank found himself on the track with the likes of Jimmy Clark, Graham Hill, John Surtees, Dan Gurney, Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Phil Hill, Pedro Rodriguez and others. Interestingly he became quite popular with the F1 regulars as he was the only one in the paddock with a coffee grinder and pot to make fresh coffee every day!
While out running on the track for pre-qualifying it began to rain. Frank lost control and backed the car into a barrier, damaging the right rear suspension. They could not repair the damage as they had no facilities to repair broken magnesium, and Frank did not have spares. That evening Frank decided to retire from driving. That weekend he watched Clark win the Grand Prix and then towed the Cooper back to California.
Back in California, Richie Ginther was working on a building up a “special” race car. He acquired the 1.5 litre engine and gearbox from Frank. What Richie did with those pieces we do not currently know. However, Frank next sold the car to another Southern Californian, Ed Mackey.
Ed purchased the F2/23/59 from Frank in 1964. It now fell to Ed to get the car back into racing shape. Ed installed a 1400 c.c., double overhead cam, Alfa engine. He also needed a gearbox so he made an adaptor plate and installed a VW gearbox.
The Sports Car Club of America (“SCCA”)/Cal Club rules specified that a car with a double overhead cam engine with a displacement of 1400 c.c.’s must run in the Formula A division. This class also allowed for normally aspirated engines up to 3.0 litres. So to be competitive, Ed also installed a Paxton Supercharger on the car. As it turned out, the car was slower with the supercharger so Ed took it off and donated it to a school in Pennsylvania.
Despite being underpowered, Ed made the Cooper-Alfa very reliable. He raced it all over the Southwest, at tracks such as Tucson, Las Vegas, Riverside, Del Mar, Pomona, and others. It was his relentless determination, and the Cooper’s amazing reliability, that won him the SCCA Southern Pacific Division Formula A Championship in 1966.
Winning the SCCA Championship also qualified Ed and the Cooper for the season-ending American Road Race of Champions (“ARRC”) held at Riverside in November, 1966. There Ed and the Cooper finished second. Ivan Zaremba was a spectator at that race, watching Ed and the Cooper. At the time, Ivan was actively hunting for a new race car for the upcoming 1967, season.
A few weeks after the ARRC, in December, Ivan found the F2/23/59 for sale in Autoweek/Competition Press. He called Ed and they agreed on a price of $3,000 for the car. Ivan and Steve Griswold drove from Berkeley, California to Camarillo, California and picked up the car.
In early 1967, Ivan began his racing career by taking the Cooper to SCCA’s driver’s school at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, California. He successfully completed the school and raced the car the remainder of the season as a Formula A car.
For 1968, Ivan installed a new, Auto Delta, 1600 c.c., Alfa TZ engine in the Cooper to run in SCCA’s Formula B class. Nade Bourgeault (of Bourgeault formula cars fame) designed and built the straight pipe headers that can be seen in one of the period photos displayed here. Ivan ran the car in this configuration until the end of the 1969 racing season. It was then that the car slid off the outside of the carousel turn at Sears Point and wound up upside down in the soft, wet, mud. Neither Ivan, nor the car, were seriously damaged, but both were rather muddied.
Ivan took F2/23/59 home and began to repair the car. He realized at that time that the Cooper was never going to be competitive against the newer machinery becoming available. He sold the car to his friend and fellow race mechanic, Ron Fink in early 1970.
Ron was never able to get the car repaired and race it. He sold the engine and gearbox, but kept the remainder of the car. The Cooper was then stored in a garage in Crockett, California, approximately twenty minutes from Sears Point. There the car languished until the early 1970’s when the current owner, with help from Ivan, acquired F2/23/59 from Ron.
Over the next decade the current owner did a complete, ground up, restoration on the Cooper. He installed a two litre Coventry Climax engine and proper ERSA/Cooper gearbox. He managed to use virtually all of the original aluminum bodywork in the restoration. The bodywork was still in excellent condition, despite the roll over at Sears. The only exception was a hole in the engine cover cut by Ed Mackey in the early 1960’s to make room for the intake on the Alfa engine, which was on the opposite side of the intake on the Coventry Climax engine. The hole was expertly repaired. There is zero body filler in the car.
The car again appeared at the race track in 1984, for U.S. historic races. Since that time F2/23/59 has gone on to compete at no less than 15 Monterey Historic Automobile Races, winning many of them, and with only the 2 litre engine. The Cooper was also selected to appear at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Please see the photo of the car being driven across the main stage at the Concours.
In 2004 the Cooper was reunited with its proper 2.5 litre Coventry Climax Grand Prix engine. The car is now complete, correct, and ready for competition.
Cooper F2/23/59 has an all new, Crosthwaite and Gardiner, 2.5 litre Coventry Climax engine. It has dyno time only with dyno sheets showing 240 h.p. The car also has its correct ERSA/Cooper/Jack Knight, four speed gearbox. It is the later (better), correct style with the external oil pump. It has just been magna-fluxed and freshened.
The proper Armstrong shocks have recently been rebuilt. The combined radiator/oil cooler has also been serviced for the new engine.
The car has its original dual fuel tanks. The gauges are all the original, rebuilt, Smiths gauges. The car still has its magnesium handbrake, which was used to steady the car for the Grand Prix standing starts.
The car does come with its ORIGINAL CHASSIS TAG. A replacement tag has been fitted to the dash of the car, but the original tag does come with the car.
The owner has had this car for nearly 35 years. He has just now decided to hang up his helmet and retire. He has won many races, including the 12 Hour of Sebring, and multiple championships since the 1960’s. He has also enjoyed tremendous success in historic racing. He has received many prestigious driving awards as well as awards and accolades for his car preparation from some of the finest in the business. One of his restorations has even won at the Goodwood Revival meeting.
If you are interested in owning one of the most historically significant Grand Prix cars of all time, this is a true opportunity. This car is on-the-button, prepared by one of the most knowledgeable and thorough Cooper restorers anywhere. The engine is brand new from the finest builders available and the gearbox is like new. The original bodywork, raced by Bianchi and Salvadori, is still on the car and has absolutely no filler. How many old race cars can make that claim? Of those, how many have been invited, unsolicited, to one of the most prestigious Concours in the world? The car is beautifully turned out, with only a racing patina since its appearance at the Concours several years ago. It is also properly sorted, as evidenced by its highly successful racing record. The Cooper is truly race ready – no excuses.
In 1959, Jack Brabham and the Cooper Type 51 set the standard for all Grand Prix cars to come. All World Champion constructors, Ferrari, BRM, Brabham, Lotus, Matra, Tyrrell, Williams, McLaren, Benetton, and Renault have followed the lead of Charles and John Cooper and the Type 51.
You can now own this important historic Formula One Grand Prix car at a price that will seem a bargain in the not-too distant future. Enjoy it now at the finest historic racing events in the world. Enjoy it later as it continues to appreciate.
Chassis Number: F2/23/59