This British team of the 1950’s got its title as an amalgamation of the name of its owner Tony Vandervell and his London based company, Thinwall bearings. Racing under the name “Thinwall Special” in the Formula Libre races, the team got enough experience in modifying Ferraris.
The very first Vanwall built cars were known as the Vanwall Specials as they made a grand entry in the 1954 British Grand Prix. Its chassis was designed by Owen Maddock and built by the Cooper Car Company. Although they could participate in just three races that year, Peter Collins flaunted the potential that the car had when he finished seventh after starting 16th from the grid.
Developments on the engine continued for the 1955 season and Vanwall, having amplified the engine capacity to a full 2500 cc had a satisfactory run in eight races of that season. It was clear to the team that the newly acquired engines were sound and a change in the chassis design could turn fortunes for the team. Colin Chapman was hired to design the chassis after the 1955 season.
The change worked in 1956, just before the F1 season commenced and legendary driver Stirling Moss raced the car to victory in a non-championship race at Silverstone. He was committed to Maserati for the season and Maurice Trintignant and Harry Schell drove just below the mark of the cars’ potential.
A lethal combination of drivers like Stirling Moss, Tony Brooks and Lewis-Evans was hired for the pumped-up 1957 Vanwall cars – the 2.5 L4’s. A shared victory between Moss and Brooks came calling in the British GP. It was the team’s first and they were elated with their early success. Moss went on to win the Pescara and the Italian Grands Prix to add to the party.
At the end of 1957, new FIA rules pertaining to banning the use of alcohol in fuel meant that the methanol-cooled Vanwall engines would lose a lot of power. The Dino Ferrari V6 had already tested better than the Vanwalls but great road holding, disc brakes, superior streamlining and a 5-speed gearbox helped compensate the power loss. The start of the 1958 season saw both Moss and Brooks racing impeccably. Moss won the Dutch, Portuguese and the Moroccan GPs while Brooks won in Belgium, Germany and Italy. The emotion in the paddocks was dreamlike when Vanwall won the very first World Constructors’ Championship that season.
With a decline in Vandervell’s health, The Blue Comet never really participated in the following two seasons of the F1 Championship as seriously as they once had. The team raced in its last Grand Prix in France in 1960 and it marked the end of a 28 Grands Prix long learning curve that brought enough achievement to bask upon.