Welcome to my world, my world of turbos, tyre smoke, and tuning...
Tuning cars, driving cars, testing parts, and complaining about everything. It's my job, and a the majority of my non-work life too...
Brian Hart isn't a name many know of these days, but from the 70s to the 90s he was a bit of a legend in the UK tuning world, especially the Ford world, and this feature is about the wildest engine he and his small company produced, the Hart 415T.
While Cosworth famously initially produced the legendary Ford BDA engine, what most don't realise is that is was Brian Hart that made is the success it was, producing the 2ltr BDG version that dominated the World Rally Championship (and practically every other rally worldwide) in the 1970s, and it was also him who developed the full crazy Group B rally version of the RS200 BDT engine, the BDT-E.
Anyhow, what was known in the Ford Motorsport world as the BDG was initially developed by Brian Hart as a Formula 2 engine, firstly as the 420S, then in full developed, kick ass, practically nothing left of the original BDA (not even the block) version, as the 420R. Hugely powerful for it's size and weight, and there's versions right up to 3ltr that's been made, and still are to this very day.
The Hart 420 kicked ass Formula 2 from 1976 on, and it was so good that the Toleman F2 team agreed in 1978 to help finance development, which clearly worked, with the engine taking Toleman to a 1-2 in the 1980 championship.
And this is where shiz gets interesting, as for 1981 Toleman decided to step it up a notch, and despite being a small team vs the big manufacturers, they decided to enter Formula One, which by now allowed either three litre naturally aspirated engines (the Cosworth DFV still powered most F1 cars by then, though Alfa and Matra both had versions too- 14 out of the 17 teams used non-turbo engines), or 1.5ltr turbo engines, which Renault, Ferrari, and Toleman chose to use in 1981.
As Brian Hart showed his amazing talent for mental 4cyls, it was decided that was going to be the new format for their 1981 F1 1.5ltr Turbo engine. Bear in mind this is a small team, and a small tuner, producing his own engine from scratch, to compete against engines built by some of the biggest companies in the world. A serious David vs Goliath battle, it seems and insane plan, but they did it...
The Hart 415T engine looked similar to the 420R, and they were both 4cylinder 16valve engines, but the 415T was another ground up development by Hart, a 1.5ltr purpose built turbo engine that was actually a monobloc, ie the head and block are cast as one piece- No head join = No head gasket to blow!
According to an old issue of MotorSport magazine at least, until this engine Hart had never seen a turbo in the flesh, didn't understand intercooling (might explain the chargecooler- reality>theory!), and the original 1981 engines were NOT monobloc either, though how true that is I don't know (Maybe just test engines weren't mono? that'd make more sense, but I've not found that info out).
Unfortunately, as with all this old F1 Turbo stuff, most the truth is lost because of both secrets and age...
Anyhow, here's some bare engine pics you can click on to check out the construction of this all-alloy monobloc lump. Note no head to block join, 4x throttle bodies, and individual external water ports above and below each exhaust port.
The 1981 and 1982 seasons used a single Garrett (I've heard KKK mentioned too, but never confirmed this to be true) turbocharger mounted on top of the engine, and an alloy chargecooler under the inlet manifold to help keep temps down. Here's a 1981 engine, which made a touch under 600bhp in the race, and I think 700odd in qualifying...
This is a 1982 engine I'm fairly sure, much the same basic setup, but a nicer manifold, especially for the wastegate take offs. These were also, as per all F1 Turbo engines of the era, a little more powerful than the previous year, as development progressed.
Here's a few more early spec 415T pics showing the chargecooler etc, before we get to the big change and where things get really interesting...
ANYHOW, the 415T engine so far, while getting a lot of praise for being a pretty amazing and strong engine considering it was developed from scratch by a very small UK firm with an absolutely tiny budget (in Formula 1 terms at least), it was still down on power versus the others, and while it often showed flashes of it's potential, the results so far didn't really materialize.
With bigger sponsors and therefore bigger budgets appearing for 1983, the layout changed a little, with the engine looking a bit more conventional; a big intercooler, and the turbo mounted to the side on a long runner tubular manifold. Power was up, and the car overall was better, scoring points in the last 4 GPs of the 1983 season- Finally starting to show what this clearly very strong and capable engine can do.
And then came 1984, and the appearance in Formula One for the first time ever, of the now legendary, and then reigning Formula Three champion, Ayrton Senna.
Unfortunately things did NOT go well for Senna or his Toleman teammate in the first race of the season in Brazil, as BOTH cars retired with blown turbos, a problem that has always held the team back from the beginning, Senna after just 8 laps, his teammade Cecotto 10 laps later. Senna was pissed off, everyone was pissed off, but they had a solution, and rather than write it myself, here's it straight from one of the team...
In yet another fantastic example of "Most famous names sure as fuck don't mean the best stuff", they fucked off the Garrett turbos that had held them back all these years, and went to the Holset turbos that they only really knew about due to their sponsor using them on their trucks.
Holset knocked them up some suitable spec turbos in FOUR DAYS (More proof, if you need it, that the BS about 'truck turbos' not being made of the right materials for cars is bollocks- You think they magically fashioned them some stronger custom stuff in 4 days? Not possible. They were 100% off the shelf Holset parts), and lo and behold suddenly Toleman's unreliable turbo days were over.
In fact, from what I understand, the one time a turbo did blow (unsure if it was 84 or 85), once inspected it turned out it was because a bit of valve seat (supposedly a weak point on these engines) went through it.
These 1984 Holset boosted engines made 800bhp at 4bar boost, pretty insane for a 1.5ltr 4cyl engine, and while only about 50bhp down over the top cars at race boost, they were still around 200bhp down on the top cars at qualifying boost, simply as they didn't have the budget for special grenade-spec qualifying engines like some top teams did. Aside from that though, if it was BHP per £££ spent, they would've been the top by miles.
These engines were 6.7:1 compression and revved to 11,000rpm in 1984.
The actual Holset turbo used I'm unsure, but looking at pics, especially the compressor side and the compressor back plate, it looks to be a HX50 of some description.
Unfortunately, despite the engine finally showing it's full potential in 1984, with 3 podium finishes for Senna, the following season didn't go well.
While the engine was no longer an issue, Senna left for Lotus, and as the Toleman team had a habit of pissing off tyre manufacturers, first Goodyear, then Pirelli, meant they could only use Michelin, which massively backfired when Michelin withdrew from F1 after 1984 too, leaving them with no tyres at all for the start 1985.
They missed the first three races due to having no tyres, and by the end of 1985 Benetton fully took over the team, which then became the works Renault team, and that was the end of the badass little Hart 415T engine.
The last thing worth mentioning is the majority of the modern pics in this feature have been taken at Geoff Page Racing, who is pretty much the god of Group B and Formula 1 turbo engines, and looks after pretty much every legendary car from that era you can think of. I'd love to go there and do a feature on the place, as there a whole crapload I've yet to learn no doubt, but as yet it's never happened.
Christ, if I could go back in time (this time armed with a decent camera) to about 2000-2001 when Joe Stevens from Bluesprint built my Cossie engine, I'd be able to show you some amazing F1 Turbo stuff- That place, both the actual workshop and warehouse, was full of BMW/Hart/Zakspeed/etc F1 turbo engines, manifolds, wastegates, all sorts, it was pretty incredible.
Anyhow, that's all I know, I wish I knew more, but it's a pretty amazing story considering how much of a (in F1 terms) shoestring budget they were on!
Hi, I'm Stav...
You may or may not have heard of me, but I've spent the last 15 years working full-time in the tuning scene, and the last decade or so writing for various car magazines.