If these days a visit was made to the elaborate premises where racing cars are designed and constructed they would be notable for their almost clinical cleanliness, orderliness, and sophistication. Almost sixty years ago when these two shots were taken within the Cooper racing workshops at Hollyfield Road, Tolworth, in Surrey, the situation was, as can be seen, rather different, even the buildings with their corrugated asbestos roofing being fairly basic.
How it was arranged that a group of schoolboys were able to visit the garage on a Saturday morning is beyond recall, but complete freedom was given to wander around, sit in cars that were in the process of being built – indulge in personal fantasies about becoming a racing driver – and to take photographs. Memory says that it was in the early part of 1958 that the visit took place, and the single-seater in the foreground which looks to be a 1½-litre ‘T43’ Formula 2 car, as does the chassis beyond it, plus the shapes of the somewhat casually stored body panels, supports the recollection that this date is probably correct.
Although the Cooper Company ran works racers in events, its principal income came from selling competition cars to private customers, whilst a significant cost was the purchasing of the Coventry-Climax engines. The firm and some privateers did receive limited financial support from fuel and tyre suppliers, but these businesses made little of this matter, particularly compared with the situation today.
When Stirling Moss won the Argentine World Championship Formula 1 race in January 1958 driving Rob Walker’s Cooper-Climax there was not a single decal or any wording on the car from those who contributed to the cause, nor has any post-race advertising from, say, Dunlop, who almost certainly supplied the car’s tyres, been found. Considering that the 80 laps of the race were covered by the Cooper on the same set of tyres, admittedly through to the canvas by the end, one would have thought that this was worthy of making a bit of positive fuss about.
Whether Formula 1 was better in such an environment than that which it has become in the present era, has to be a matter of personal opinion.