Saturday, 29 October 2016

Jowett and the Ferrari Boxer F1 engine

Well the title of this blog post may sound a little like an April fool’s joke, but dig a little further into the Jowett concern and they have significant links with one of the most famous racing engines ever built.
The Ferrari boxer 12 cylinder was unveiled in 1963. It was apparent that this was different to any Ferrari engine built before and even at the time nobody seemed to know who had designed it. Retrospectively the engine was often attributed to Mauro Forghieri who then had recently become Chief Engineer of the racing department. It was not surprising that Forghieri’s name had been linked to the 12 cylinder boxer engine given his role at Ferrari.
To give a little background on the Ferrari name, prior to WW2 Enzo Ferrari had successfully run the Scuderia Ferrari team on behalf of Alfa Romeo. In 1939 Enzo fell out with Alfa’s new head technician, Wilfredo Ricart, so he quit amidst much ill-feeling. A Contractual agreement prevented Ferrari from operating a business under his own name for four years. Instead he founded a company called Auto Avio Construzioni and started building racers to hit back at his former employers. Once the second World War was over, the Ferrari name could be used once more. It is worth noting that Auto Avio Construzioni still remained in being; mainly as a machine tool company.
In the early 1960’s, Ferrari was not in a good state of affairs and was in no position to develop a completely new engine. In November 1961, eight of Ferrari’s top management had walked out including three experienced engineers. – Bizzarrini, Chiti and Galassi. The former was immediately snapped up by Ferruccio Lamborghini who was looking to develop his own supercars.
Manpower shortages were not Ferrari’s only issue. Ferrari was being weakened by a long-drawn-out take-over attempt being made by Ford. Ford were determined to win the Le Mans 24 hour race and buying Ferrari was seen as the best way to achieve this. Although Enzo eventually rejected this bid, much energy had been sapped from the company during the process.
At the end of 1961 the Ferrari shark-nose had won the World Championship, but all was not well. Ferrari’s talismanic Taffy Von Trips had been killed at Monza and then Chiti, architect of that season’s success had left to start the rival ATS racing concern. During the season it had also become apparent that the nimble Lotus cars were becoming the dominant force, as they had won four races and run rings round the Ferraris at the twisty tracks.
Experiments by Ferrari had shown that their then current V-engines had shown that a lower centre-of-gravity was necessary for the cars to keep competitive. This meant that a horizontally-opposed layout was required.
The only previous Italian flat-twelve engine (Alfa Romeo type 512) had been designed by Wilfredo Ricart. As noted previously, Enzo Ferrari loathed Ricart. Given this bitter feeling it was inconceivable that Ferrari would authorise the design of a flat-12, with its inherent Ricart connotations, in his own premises. The new Ferrari boxer engine would therefore need to be the responsibility of an external consultancy.
The special Jowett Bradford as found in yorkshire

In the early 1990’s a Jowett enthusiast called Arthur Broadbent found a dilapidated Jowett-Bradford 10 cwt light-lorry for sale in Yorkshire. Being a fan of these twin-cylinder side-valve machines, Arthur made arrangements to visit it. He was immediately intrigued by an unusual engine modification; a twin-choke Weber carburettor sitting on top of a special manifold. There was also evidence that the cylinder heads had been modified in a very competent manner. The vendor knew nothing about the machine as he had acquired it at auction. A deal was struck for the machine.
Taped inside the windscreen was an envelope with the old log-book. Surprisingly, the van had been first registered in 1958; four years after the model supposedly ceased production and the first owner had been Jowett Engineering, the spares subsidiary which had continued in business for ten years after the 1954 liquidation of the parent company, Jowett cars Ltd. Due to the late registration date and plus the unusual alterations to the engine, Arthur wondered if he had stumbled across an unknown prototype Jowett.
The log-book also bore the name of the second owner; a F.W. Arkwright first of Bradford, then Huddersfield. Directory enquiries were contacted and amazingly Fred Arkwright was contacted.  Fred Arkwright had been a Jowett employee, so Arthur arranged for a meeting.  Fred of course knew the van and described it as “my special Bradford”. Fred went onto explain that it was not a prototype car, but was a standard CC model built up from spares when Joe Mackey wrote off the works delivery wagon. This is how Fred got the job as a driver, as Mr Benjamin would not let Joe Mackey drive the new lorry.
The widely held belief of Jowett Engineering Ltd was that they merely sold off a few Javelin spares. Frank confirmed that  this was not the case, as they were also tendering for important precision engineering contracts within both the public and private sectors. In March 1962 a “Hush-Hush” job started. Rumour said that it was for the Ministry of Defence, but Fred was sceptical of this. According to Fred, Jowett had done MoD jobs before; flat twin generator engines mostly. The engines for this job were different. They were incredibly complicated and being cast from special alloys which were very difficult to cast. Exceedingly tight tolerances meant that many of the initial parts ended up as rejects. To quote Fred, “God only knows how much those engines cost. Though they’d have been right powerful with all them pistons whizzing backwards and forwards. But the Ministry certainly never got them – and I should know, because I took them all the way to Italy”.
Fred went on to explain how he and the works Bradford truck, massively overloaded, set off to deliver the consignment of expensively engineered powerplants to Northern Italy. The van was in first gear for most of the journey due to the excessive weight it was carrying. The abused Bradford ground on, over the Alps towards the industrial heartland of Emilia. By the time the Bradford reached its destination, it was showing signs of the ill treatment it suffered. Unloaded and paperwork signed, Fred asked via an interpreter about repair facilities. He was directed round to an anonymous factory unit at the far end of the building complex. Frank explained “I was going to fix it myself – only needed the valves touching up – but them Italians took over. Had it stripped in no time. Next thing, they’re messing around with the camshaft and the heads, then they cut up the manifold and welded it back together with a dam great carb on it! Mind, they had some wonderful gear in there. Best engineering workshop I’ve ever seen. And I tell you what, it flew home afterwards. It went so well I made up my mind to buy that Bradford for myself when the time came”.
Twin choke Weber conversion done by the Ferrari competition department

Arthur Broadbent was keen to know if Fred could remember who the Italian benefactors had been. It was no problem; Fred had even kept the delivery slip as a souvenir of his adventure and promptly produced it from his wallet. “Auto-Avio-Constuzione” meant nothing to Arthur at the time, but it did not take long to confirm that he did own a unique Jowett Bradford van. Who else could claim they had a machine tuned by the Ferrari competition department!
Whilst the special Bradford van is significant, it is the cargo it dropped off at Ferrari’s competition department that is historically more significant. For the “parts and tooling” described on the delivery note could surely be nothing less nothing less than the jigs, tooling and prototype samples of the Ferrari Flat-12 boxer engine.
Delivery note for Ferrari

So why would Ferrari use Jowett? They had shown with the Javelin launched in 1946 that they were at the cutting edge of the motor industry. Gerald Palmer’s inspired design had brought the company international kudos, competition success and the services of the best people in the business. Professor Dr. Ing. Robert von Eberhorst, creator of the pre-war Auto Union GP racer, himself drew up the chassis for the Jupiter sports car. When Palmer was moved into a senior position with Nuffiled, his place was taken by Roy Lunn, who joined Jowett from Aston Martin. Jowett had also long been associated with the horizontally opposed engine layout. No other company in the world had the experience of Jowett with this layout, for they had not built any other engine configuration since 1910. Enzo Ferrari would have also appreciated Jowett’s completion pedigree, which included a hat-trick of Le Mans 24 Hour successes.
The final, conclusive proof, that the Ferrari boxer engine was in fact designed by Jowett in Yorkshire, comes from Ford. As mentioned previously, Ford were failed to take over Ferrari in their drive to win Le Mans. Ford’s aspirations were however undiminished and they launched a multi-million dollar project to win at Le Mans with their own car. Knowing that Ferrari would be their chief rival, who did Ford chose to head the GT40 design team? No other than Jowett’s former Chief Engineer, Roy Lunn.


  1. I'd never have guessed. Interesting. Thanks.

  2. I read a kids book years ago where the main character, a gifted young mechanic, builds a racing engine by coupling two Jowett engines to make a flat 8.