In 1950 (at the time of the Korean war) the specifications for fire-pumps, that the U.K. Ministry of Defence had set, were changed. Army fire-pumps had to deliver 35bhp at 3,500rpm. plus they had to be very light-weight. September of that year, Leonard Lee of Coventry Climax met his new chief engineer, Walter Hassan (1905-....) and they decided that their product needed an up-date.
Hassan took a close look at motorcycle technology (which at the time was ahead of cars), and in particular at the Sunbeam S7. The S7 engine was entirely of alloy, it had wedge-shaped combustion chambers, and an overhead camshaft.
Seven months later, in April 1951, the first 1020cc FW engine was ready, FW for Feather Weight. When started for the first time, it ran successfully, and easily produced 38bhp. They were rewarded with a Home Office contract.
As Mr. Lee thought that victories in races would influence prospective buyers, it was decided that the engine would be raced. Already the gentlemen of the racing business were knocking on his door since the engine had been on display at the Earls Court Motor-show, on the marine stand.
It was obvious that the engine was not developed with racing in mind. The awkward size of 1020cc needed modification and other changes had to be made to make the FW into a racing engine.
In 1953 the FWA was delivered to the market, A for Automobile. The block had been rebored, new pistons were fitted, as were a steel crankshaft and twin carbs, alterations to the valves and ports were made and the compression ratio was increased. Power output of the little fire-pump had been increased from 38 to 72bhp at 6100rpm.
The first car to use a Coventry Climax engine in a contest was a Kieft with a 1097cc FWA. The match being the 24 hours of Le Mans in June 1954. The Kieft did not finish as its rear axle broke.
The season of 1954 saw Coventry Climax-powered cars winning races. The company found themselves in a monopoly situation. Competition mostly used much modified Ford and MG units that were expensive and unreliable.
Leonard Lee did not sell any specials to anyone, not even the persuasive Colin Chapman of Lotus. Everyone was given an identical engine. And development marched on. Compression ratio was increased and later on so many changes were made that it was called the Mark II.
The absolute capacity limit for the block was represented by the FWB, of which only a few were made. These engines, that contained nearly 1500cc, were raced in 1956 by Coopers. And it was one of these cars that won the British Grand Prix in July of that year.
When Colin Chapman started thinking up the Elite in 1957, Coventry Climax agreed to provide the engines. But only if they could be garanteed a minimum order of 1000 units. The Feather Weight Elite (FWE) was produced from 1958 to 1963. It had a relatively unstressed output of 72bhp. The Lotus 14 (Elite) was winner of its class at Le Mans on 6 consecutive years from 1959 to 1964.
These engines were also sold to Jack Brabham who fitted them (as after-market extras) to sports cars of the day. And successfully so !
Mr. Chapman then convinced Coventry Climax to develop an ultra-short-stroke version of the FWA. He would like one to use in the 1957 'Index of Performance' class at Le Mans.
This FWC came alive and won with ease. It needed constant high revs, having no usable power below 6000rpm, but this was hardly a disadvantage during the race. Though of course it was unsuitable as a road engine.
It did lead to further modifications in the original FW unit, as it was clear that it didn't need 1020cc to provide 35bhp. Walter Hassan and Harry Mundy developed a new unit of only 653cc, which could do what the old FW did, but was 100lb (45kg) lighter. It was named FWM, M for Marine, as it was intended for marine use. This new engine was able to operate either horizontally or vertically for outboard use. The American market remained as uninterested as they had been in 1951, despite a later increase of capacity to 745cc and intensive development.
For 1958, Colin Chapman persuaded the company to develop an enlarged (745cc) racing derivative of this engine, for his cars to use at Le Mans, when it was dubbed FWMA (Feather Weight Marine Automotive). (That year, and in the future, it was not a lucky engine for Lotus).
It was this FWMA that Mike Parkes had in mind for his Imp.
|capacity||type||bore||stroke||compression||max. bhp||used in||carbs|
|FWA||1098cc||72.4mm||9.8 : 1||75bhp@6800rpm|
|FWE||1216cc||like FWB||like FWA||72bhp||Lotus Elite|
|FWC||750cc||like FWA||72.4mm||45.2mm||59bhp@8000||Colin Chapman |
Le Mans 1957
|FWMA||741cc||4 cil.||64.3mm||57.2mm||chosen by Mike Parkes to be further developed for the Hillman Imp|
|FWMC||742cc||twin cam||83bhp @ 8200rpm||ulta-lightweight Elite in the 1961 Index of Performance / Thermal Efficiency
(half of a new GP engine)
|FWMV||1500cc||V8||63mm||60mm||174bhp@8600rpm||Lotus 25 |
|FPF||2495cc||inline 4 |
|94mm||90mm||12.1 : 1||240bhp@6750rpm||Cooper T51 |
|Twin double |
|Coventry Climax is still in business, but they don't provide parts for long discontinued engines. They licensed other companies:
Another known address: Mike Brotherhood near Calne, Wiltshire
Mentioning these addresses does not imply recommendations.
In May of 1964 at the RAC Leonard Lee, chairman and managing director of Coventry Climax was presented with the Dewar Trophy for 1963. The trophy, dating back to 1906, which is awarded on the recommendation of the RAC's technical and engineering committee for the most outstanding British achievement in the automotive field during the year, is not necessarily annually awarded. Last time awarded: 1959 to Alec Issigonis, once a junior engineer with Coventry Climax.
The citation reads: "Awarded to Coventry Climax engines Ltd. for the design, development and production of engines which have brought British cars to the forefront in th field of Grand Prix racing."
They were working on four-valve heads for the vee-8 GP engine, and if they gave more power than the two-valve heads in use at that time (which they weren't at that moment) they would release them.
Autocar, 8 May 1964, p.896
1958 2 GP victories Cooper-Climax 1959 5 GP ,, Jack Brabham made champion 1960 6 GP ,, again Jack Brabham champion 1960 2 GP ,, Jim Clark in a Lotus 1965
1. Jim Clark (Lotus-Climax), 54 pts. 2. Graham Hill (BRM), 40 pts. 3. Jackie Stewart (BRM), 33 pts. 4. Dan Gurney (Brabham-Climax), 25 pts. 5. John Surtees (Ferrari), 17 pts. 6. Lorenzo Bandini (Ferrari), 13 pts. 7. Richi Ginther (Honda), 11 pts. 8. Bruce MacLaren (Cooper-Climax), 10 pts. Mike Spence (Lotus-Climax), 10 pts. 9. Jack Brabham (Brabham-Climax), 9 pts. 10. Dennis Hulme (Brabham-Climax), 5 pts. 11. Jochen Rindt (Cooper-Climax), 4 pts.
On January 1, 1965, Jim Clark made a clean break in his Lotus-Climax at the start of the South African Grand Prix. He led all the way to notch up his first of six consecutive GP wins. He came in nearly half a minute ahead of the Ferrari V8 driven by John Surtees. Clark never seemed to be pressing his Lotus-Climax 33 at any stage.
The 32-valve, 209hp Coventry Climax V8 engine was also used by Jack Brabham in his Brabham-Climax, as did J. Bonnier, D. Gurney, J. Siffert and R. Anderson. One Bruce McLaren was driving a Cooper-Climax, so were Jochen Rindt and John Love. The other Lotus-Climax V8 was Mike Spence's.
Lotus MkVIII - The third engine No. FWA ET515/6155, of 4 experimental FW engines for automotive use, was sold to Dick Steed through Racing Engines Ltd, one of Chapman's companies, for £250 - a great deal in 1954. This was installed in his Lotus MkVIII, first registered in July 1954 and carried the reg no. HUD 139
Lotus Mark 9 (or IX), 1955, FWA, Space frame sports racer
Lotus Eleven (or XI), 1956 - '59?, FWA, Space frame sports racer
Lotus 12, 1958, FPF, 1500cc/2000cc/2200cc
The first Lotus single-seater. First GP points.
It made it's racing debut on the Goodwood Easter Monday meeting of 1957. It was driven by Cliff Allison and it dropped out while being third in the field.
Lotus 16, 1958-59, FPF, 1500cc/2000cc/2200cc
First 'real' F1 Lotus. Motorcycle-type gearbox.
Lotus 18, 1960-61, FPF, 2500/1500
First GP win and pole position.
Lotus 18/21, 1961 FPF, 1500cc; FWMV V8 1500cc
RRC Walker team's car to Stirling Moss.
Lotus 21, 1961 FPF, 1500cc
First GP win for Team Lotus. (Ireland, USA 1961)
Lotus 24, 1962-65, 1500cc Coventry Climax FWMW V8
Lotus 25, 1962-65, FWMV V8, 1500cc; BRM V8 1500cc
First monocoque F1 car. Both championship titles.
Lotus 33, 1964-66, FWMV V8, 1500/2000; BRM V8 2100cc
Modified type 25.
FORIX: Formula One Results and Information Xplorer
Coventry Climax fame did not start with the feather weight fire-pump.
Morgan Aero, Great Britain 1921-1936
The Morgan was the best known three-wheeler, not only in Britain but throughout the world. The three-wheelers occupied an anomalous position in the motoring world, always being exhibited in motorcycle shows and exhibitons.
By 1933 the fiercest Morgan was called the Super Sports Aero. The air-cooled V-twin JAP engine was mounted in front of the bonnet, fully exposed to the elements. A year later this model gave way to a less sporting version with a water-cooled Matchless engine, and in 1934 came the first four-cylinder Morgan, a 1,122 cc Coventry Climax.
Prewar Coventry Climax engines were built by Triumph under licence and used in various Triumphs from 1932-1938, eg. a six cylinder Triumph/Climax ioe in a 1935 Triumph Gloria.
Lotus Elite (Type 14)
Production: approx. 1000, 1957-1963
Engine: Coventry Climax FWE 4-cylinder (1216cc)
TVR Grantura Mark I
Production: 100, 1958-1960
Bodystyle: Two-seater coup
Engine: Varying, 1216cc Coventry Climax FWE
Engine position: Front
Driven wheels: Rear
Feather Weight engine for an Imp
the original registration document for Dick Steed's Lotus Mk VIII chasssis no. MK6/2 - 4, engine no. FWA ET 515/6155 and first registered in July 1954.
a photograph of Dick Steed in his MkVIII at Castle Coombe, Aug 28 '54, clearly showing the Climax engine
Lotus the early years / Peter Ross. - Coterie, 2004. - ISBN-13: 978-1902351148. Photograph on page 130.
another photograph at another circuit with Graham Hill again clearly showing the Climax engine
Lotus the early years / Peter Ross. - Coterie, 2004. - ISBN-13: 978-1902351148. Photograph on page 142
The book has an extensive appendix with complete race results and specifications (1951-54)
the British Govt. Home Office Forensic Science Laboratory report on the recovery of the original chassis no after Dave Kelsey had overstamped it when he was forced to re-register the car in March 1955
Coventry Climax Engines Ltd sales record relating to FWA ET515/6155
Climax in Coventry : my life of fine engines and fast cars / Walter Hassan ; in collaboration with Graham Robson. - Coventry : Mercian, 1975. - 158p, xxxip plates ; 23cm
Originally published: Croydon : Motor Racing Publications, 1975
Of special interest to W.O. Bentley, Jaguar XK engine and Climax F1 racing engines enthusiasts.
Coventry Climax racing engines : the definitive development history / Des Hammill. - Dorchester : Veloce, 2004. - 190 p.
The Coventry Climax Engine
Portfolio of Unique Motor book.
210x290cm. Paperback. 80 pages
The Coventry-Climax racing engine
Portfolio Unique Motor book
210x295cm. Paperback. 80 pages
There is a copy in Southwards Museum of New Zealand of a poster by Coventry Climax. It has with a sectioned drawing of the FWA pump unit; it includes detail of the pump-priming scheme, which used manifold vacuum.