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1952 F1 Articles

HWM-Alta 52   By Jeremy McMullen

In 1951 HW Motors entered one round of the Formula One World Championship with their HWM-Alta 51, with its 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. Against the likes of Alfa Romeo and Scuderia Ferrari it would have taken an act of providence just for the team to finish in the points…it nearly did. Then, in 1952, providence provided HW Motors its best chance to fight amongst the elite for the World Championship. The car to take on the fight was HW Motor's latest update of the 51. It was the HWM-Alta 52.

Years prior, the company, started by George Abecassis and John Heath, had successfully built racing cars for the Formula 2 category. The decision to focus on Formula 2 was primarily the result of the extravagant costs of Formula One. The pair wanted to build an inexpensive car that had a chance to compete. This led Abecassis and Heath to basically abandon the higher-level of grand prix racing. Ironically, Formula One would come to them.

It was known throughout 1951 that Alfa Romeo would not return the next season. This left Ferrari alone at the top in the very expensive Formula One World Championship. In an effort to increase competition, reduce costs, and save the brand-new racing series it was decided that 1952 and 1953 would be run to Formula 2 specifications.

Formula 2 had proven to be quite competitive at a fraction of the cost of Formula One. The move to run to Formula 2 specifications was a stop-gap move, but it provided HW Motors the opportunity to go down in the annals of World Championship grand prix racing history.

Prior to 1952, HW Motors had the chance to purchase Alta's cars. Alta had been providing the team with very successful engines, and it was thought the team may have wanted the cars as well. This was not the case. The team wanted to make their own cars, especially since the Alta chassis were considered extremely difficult to drive.

In 1951, HW Motors took part in the first round of the Formula One World Championship. Stirling Moss was able to take the small 2.0-liter HMW-Alta 51 to an 8th place finish in the only round the team contested. Given the might of the 4.5-liter Ferrari 375 and the Alfa Romeo 159 Alfetta, the HMW 51 proved it could have a chance were the field to be leveled a little. Heading into 1952 the regulations did level the playing field. Therefore, HW Motors had a car from which to start. Modifications were only needed, it was thought, to help make the car truly competitive.

To start with, HW Motors had their engine. They would stick with the 2.0-liter Alta four-cylinder they had used to great success. The longitudinal four-cylinder engine was capable of producing 150 bhp and had been able to push the HWM chassis up to 60 mph in under eight seconds. The main concern for the 1952 season would be endurance.

Should engine reliability be of concern, a good handling, nimble car could prove capable of making up some of the performance shortages, should it be necessary to back off a little. In the case of the handling and stability of the HWM-Alta 52, the team stuck closely to the design of the 51.

The 52 retained the 'O'-shaped grille at the front of the car. However, from the familiar grille backward there were a number of changes. One major aesthetic difference was found in the overall design of the chassis. The bodywork on the 52 was wider and sturdier looking. The majority of the wishbone suspension was hidden by flared bodywork. The flared bodywork was meant to direct outflow out around the nose of the car, making a narrow passageway between the body and the front wheels.

Overall, the same tear-drop shape was utilized on the 52, only it was widened a far bit. The wide base and narrow; rounded top of the chassis actually aided in the car's stability and handling. The wider base reduced the rolling effect of the car. It also helped to stabilize the higher center of gravity caused by the upright four-cylinder engine.

Similar to the 51, the exhausts for the four-cylinder engine protruded out of the right-side of the engine cowling. Instead of long exhaust pipes extending all the way back past the cockpit, four small exhaust pipes extended out the side. Being that the engine was run to Formula 2 specifications, a supercharger was not allowed. This meant the engine would have to be normally aspirated. The induction pipes for the cylinder extended out the left side of the chassis through a rounded, box-like bulge in the engine cowling bodywork.

The engine cowling bodywork also featured other bulges that were necessary to fit around the carburetors and other engine components tightly squeezed into the car's small frame. Because of the car's small size, and the tight fit around the engine, both sides of the car featured numerous louvers. These louvers, or slits, were meant to help draw out the heat within the bodywork. The passing air acted like a suction and pulled the hot air out and allowed cooler air, flowing through the radiator at the front of the nose, to also be pulled in over the hot engine.

Some of the 51 chassis featured little wedged-shaped bodywork to hide the rear-view mirrors. This was abandoned on the 52. Small round mirrors flanked the equally small one-piece windscreen.

Being such a small car, the driver sat high above the top lines of the car. The driver would, therefore, be greatly exposed to the elements and the dangers. In fact, many of the drivers sat so high the top of the bodywork covering the gas tank sitting behind the driver only extended up near the middle of the back.

Despite sitting up rather high, the cockpit of the 52 remained small and cramped. As was usual during the day, the driver's immediate world in front of him was dominated by the large steering wheel. The four-speed manual transmission ran down through the floor and to the rear wheels.

At only about 1230 pounds, the 150 bhp engine could accelerate the 52 with a very decent pace. Its small design made it nimble, and yet, stable, especially when compared to Alta's chassis designs. To control the performance and the stability, the car was dependent upon drum brakes for its braking power and wishbone suspension for handling and comfort.

HW Motor's 52 was a relatively economical race car compared to Ferrari's 500. All-in-all, it would also prove to be a very capable race car, though not capable of competing with Ferrari and its Formula 2 chassis.

Over the course of the 1952 season, the 52 would wane in its promise. It started out with good promise. It would even prove to be a top-five finishing car when Paul Frere would finish the Belgian Grand Prix 5th. However, as the season wore on, the performance seemed to wear down. The car's ultimate low point came when both Peter Collins and Lance Macklin failed to qualify for the Italian Grand Prix in September of '52.

However, for a team that usually focused on Formula 2, HW Motors, and its 52, performed rather well against the other Formula 2 competitors. Unfortunately, Ferrari; and its 500 F2, was in another league all its own.
United Kingdom Drivers  F1 Drivers From United Kingdom 
George Edgar Abecassis

Jack Aitken

Henry Clifford Allison

Robert 'Bob' Anderson

Peter Arundell

Peter Hawthorn Ashdown

Ian Hugh Gordon Ashley

Gerald Ashmore

William 'Bill' Aston

Richard James David 'Dickie' Attwood

Julian Bailey

John Barber

Donald Beauman

Derek Reginald Bell

Mike Beuttler

Mark Blundell

Eric Brandon

Thomas 'Tommy' Bridger

Thomas 'Tommy' Bridger

David Bridges

Anthony William Brise

Chris Bristow

Charles Anthony Standish 'Tony' Brooks

Alan Everest Brown

William Archibald Scott Brown

Martin John Brundle

Ivor Léon John Bueb

Ian Burgess

Jenson Alexander Lyons Button

Michael John Campbell-Jones

Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman

Max Chilton

James 'Jim' Clark, Jr.

Peter John Collins

David Marshall Coulthard

Piers Raymond Courage

Christopher Craft

Jim Crawford

John Colum 'Johnny Dumfries' Crichton-Stuart

Tony Crook

Geoffrey Crossley

Anthony Denis Davidson

Colin Charles Houghton Davis

Tony Dean

Paul di Resta

Hugh Peter Martin Donnelly

Kenneth Henry Downing

Bernard Charles 'Bernie' Ecclestone

Guy Richard Goronwy Edwards

Victor Henry 'Vic' Elford

Paul Emery

Robert 'Bob' Evans

Jack Fairman

Alfred Lazarus 'Les Leston' Fingleston

John Fisher

Ron Flockhart

Philip Fotheringham-Parker

Joe Fry

Divina Mary Galica

Frederick Roberts 'Bob' Gerard

Peter Kenneth Gethin

Richard Gibson

Horace Gould

Keith Greene

Brian Gubby

Stanley Michael Bailey Hailwood

Bruce Halford

Duncan Hamilton

Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton

David Hampshire

Thomas Cuthbert 'Cuth' Harrison

Brian Hart

Mike Hawthorn

Brian Henton

John Paul 'Johnny' Herbert

Damon Graham Devereux Hill

Norman Graham Hill

David Wishart Hobbs

James Simon Wallis Hunt

Robert McGregor Innes Ireland

Edmund 'Eddie' Irvine, Jr.

Chris Irwin

John James

Leslie Johnson

Thomas Kenrick Kavanagh 'Ken' Kavanagh

Rupert Keegan

Christopher J. Lawrence

Geoffrey Lees

Jackie Lewis

Stuart Nigel Lewis-Evans

Michael George Hartwell MacDowel

Lance Noel Macklin

Damien Magee

Nigel Ernest James Mansell

Leslie Marr

Anthony Ernest 'Tony' Marsh

Steve Matchett

Raymond Mays

Kenneth McAlpine

Perry McCarthy

Allan McNish

John Miles

Robin 'Monty' Montgomerie-Charrington

Dave Morgan

Bill Moss

Sir Stirling Moss

David Murray

John Brian Naylor

Timothy 'Tiff' Needell

Lando Norris

Rodney Nuckey

Keith Jack Oliver

Arthur Owen

Dr. Jonathan Charles Palmer

Jolyon Palmer

Michael Johnson Parkes

Reginald 'Tim' Parnell

Reginald 'Tim' Parnell

Reginald Harold Haslam Parnell

David Piper

Roger Dennistoun 'Dennis' Poore

David Prophet

Thomas Maldwyn Pryce

David Charles Purley

Ian Raby

Brian Herman Thomas Redman

Alan Rees

Lance Reventlow

John Rhodes

William Kenneth 'Ken' Richardson

John Henry Augustin Riseley-Prichard

Richard Robarts

Alan Rollinson

Tony Rolt

George Russell

Roy Francesco Salvadori

Brian Shawe-Taylor

Stephen South

Michael 'Mike' Spence

Alan Stacey

William Stevens

Ian Macpherson M Stewart

James Robert 'Jimmy' Stewart

Sir John Young Stewart

John Surtees

Andy Sutcliffe

Dennis Taylor

Henry Taylor

John Taylor

Michael Taylor

Trevor Taylor

Eric Thompson

Leslie Thorne

Desmond Titterington

Tony Trimmer

Peter Walker

Derek Stanley Arthur Warwick

John Marshall 'Wattie' Watson

Peter Westbury

Kenneth Wharton

Edward N. 'Ted' Whiteaway

Graham Whitehead

Peter Whitehead

Bill Whitehouse

Robin Michael Widdows

Mike Wilds

Jonathan Williams

Roger Williamson

Justin Wilson

Vic Wilson

Formula One World Drivers' Champions
1950 G. Farina

1951 J. Fangio

1952 A. Ascari

1953 A. Ascari

1954 J. Fangio

1955 J. Fangio

1956 J. Fangio

1957 J. Fangio

1958 M. Hawthorn

1959 S. Brabham

1960 S. Brabham

1961 P. Hill, Jr

1962 N. Hill

1963 J. Clark, Jr.

1964 J. Surtees

1965 J. Clark, Jr.

1966 S. Brabham

1967 D. Hulme

1968 N. Hill

1969 S. Stewart

1970 K. Rindt

1971 S. Stewart

1972 E. Fittipaldi

1973 S. Stewart

1974 E. Fittipaldi

1975 A. Lauda

1976 J. Hunt

1977 A. Lauda

1978 M. Andretti

1979 J. Scheckter

1980 A. Jones

1981 N. Piquet

1982 K. Rosberg

1983 N. Piquet

1984 A. Lauda

1985 A. Prost

1986 A. Prost

1987 N. Piquet

1988 A. Senna

1989 A. Prost

1990 A. Senna

1991 A. Senna

1992 N. Mansell

1993 A. Prost

1994 M. Schumacher

1995 M. Schumacher

1996 D. Hill

1997 J. Villeneuve

1998 M. Hakkinen

1999 M. Hakkinen

2000 M. Schumacher

2001 M. Schumacher

2002 M. Schumacher

2003 M. Schumacher

2004 M. Schumacher

2005 F. Alonso

2006 F. Alonso

2007 K. Raikkonen

2008 L. Hamilton

2009 J. Button

2010 S. Vettel

2011 S. Vettel

2012 S. Vettel

2013 S. Vettel

2014 L. Hamilton

2015 L. Hamilton

2016 N. Rosberg

2017 L. Hamilton

2018 L. Hamilton

2019 L. Hamilton

2020 L. Hamilton

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