Frazer-Nash has been a name associated with automobile manufacturing ever since its inception back in the early 1920s. The manufacturer would produce some model sports cars that would become highly coveted amongst competitors looking to take part in such races as the Mille Miglia and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, while the company expressed interest in building a car to compete in Formula One spec grand prix races there was little interest from teams.
In 1949, Frazer-Nash had plans to design and build its first grand prix car, but there were no takers. The time wasn't right. Then, in 1952, the timing was made right. The World Championship departed from Formula One specifications with the withdrawal of Alfa Romeo. In order to increase competition, and reduce costs, the sport's governing body decided to switch the Formula One World Championship to conform to Formula 2 regulations for 1952 and 1953.
Formula 2, leading up to 1952, had proven to be a more cost-effective alternative to Formula One. Many small teams and privateers could enter Formula 2 and be competitive right away. This was the hope of the governing body when it decided to switch the World Championship to Formula 2 specifications. Unfortunately for the governing body and the other competitors, Scuderia Ferrari had time to prepare. Undaunted, many small teams and privateer entrants would take advantage of the opportunity and enter the Formula One World Championship.
One of those small teams that decided to take the plunge was Scuderia Franera. The team had their driver, Ken Wharton. However, the team needed a car. Frazer-Nash had proven to be a more than capable competitor in sports car racing. Therefore, Scuderia Franera's owner, Peter Bell, approached Frazer-Nash about going ahead with their plans to build a Formula 2 grand prix car. Funded by Bell, Frazer-Nash set to work preparing a car. What resulted was the Frazer-Nash FN48.
Frazer-Nash had an advantage when it came in designing, building and preparing its first grand prix car. Prior to World War II, Frazer-Nash had become one of the largest importers of BMWs. Frazer-Nash would then rebrand the cars and sell them as Frazer-Nash-BMWs. This meant Frazer-Nash had knowledge of BMW's popular model 328. However, nobody could get their hands on the engine. The 328's engine became particularly desirable amongst sports car competitors.
Being the victor in a war can have many unforeseen advantages. As a result of the victory, England received the 328's engine as one of a number of reparations for the war. The English engine manufacturer, Bristol, then took and began producing its own 2.0-liter engine based upon the 328's engine. Being familiar with the engine and its workings, Frazer-Nash made the logical step and turned to Bristol to supply the engine for the new chassis.
Frazer-Nash had its engine. It then had to build a competitive car around it. The engine would end up playing a role in the car's design perhaps more than many other car designs. Cooper had been designing its T20 chassis around the same Bristol engine and had to face the same challenges. Frazer-Nash would end up coming to the same decision as Cooper. However, the design would be slightly different.
The designers at Frazer-Nash created a small, cigar-shaped, tubular chassis to form the basis for the FN48. Its blunt nose was dominated by a round mesh grille to help channel the cooler, flowing air into the engine compartment to help cool the Bristol engine.
Even though the tubular chassis was small and narrow up at its nose, all that was visible protruding out of the sides of the front of the chassis were the wishbone control arms. The tall nose enabled the other suspension components to be positioned under the car's bodywork. Even a pushrod suspension was utilized on the front suspension.
The Bristol engine was a 2.0-liter engine capable of producing about 130 bhp. However, the engine was rather heavy. In addition to its weight, the engine stood rather tall in the saddle. The air-induction pipes for its normal aspiration were located on the top of the engine. Therefore, as with the Cooper, Frazer-Nash's compact, tubular chassis would sport a rather large air scoop and bulge on the top of the engine cowling.
The bulge on the top helped the cowling clear the carburetors and other components. The large air scoop directed air into the engine. This design would undergo some evolution as the season progressed. Instead of the scoop protruding out of the top of the engine cowling about half-way back along the top, a bodywork extension was designed, which incorporated neatly with the blunt round nose. Similar to the airbox designs on modern Formula One cars, the air scoop bodywork created something of a shark-nose. This design better caught and directed the airflow into the engine's induction system. The blunt nose would cause the airflow to become disrupted as it tried to flow over the top of the design's nose. This reduced the efficiency of the airflow being directed into the engine. The incorporation of the scoop into the nose's design helped increase the efficiency.
The sides of the tubular design were rather clean in its design with the exception of the right side. The Bristol engine used to power the car was a 2.0-liter, six-cylinder engine. The engine's six exhaust pipes, therefore, protruded out of the car's right side. Unlike some of its competitors, like the Ferrari 500, the exhaust system used in the FN48 was a short-stack of six exhaust pipes.
Because of its small size, the most dominant feature in the cockpit, or seemingly falling out the cockpit, would be the driver. The rounded, single-piece windscreen would only come up to the chest of even an average-sized driver. Two small mirrors sat down along the side of the chassis. Besides the large steering-wheel, the only other feature found inside the cockpit was the gear-shift for the four-speed manual transmission that ran between the driver's legs and back to the rear-wheel drive.
Right behind the driver sat the car's fuel tank. The car's rear end rested on a solid axle and leaf spring arrangement. With the weight of the fuel and the driver, and also because of the overall position of the Bristol engine, the rear end of the car squat on its rear quite a lot. The FN48 relied upon four-wheel drum brakes to provide stopping power for its surprisingly heavy 1300 pound frame.
Though the BMW-based Bristol engine was a reliable and powerful engine, it did have its drawbacks. A couple of its drawbacks were its weight and height. The engine was not light. When totally completed, the FN48 would weigh well over 1300 pounds. This was over 100 pounds more than the Ferrari 500. In addition to the weight issue, the engine was tall. The problem with the engine sitting tall was that the center of gravity also sat taller. As a result of the rather heavier weight of the car and the taller center of gravity, the handling of the car wasn't as stable as some of its competitors, especially the Ferrari 500.
Despite its weight, the FN48 could still go from zero-to-60 mph in under nine seconds. It could also cover a quarter mile in seventeen seconds.
The Frazer-Nash FN48's performance, and a bit of help from attrition, helped Ken Wharton earn three points in its first-ever World Championship race, which was the Swiss Grand Prix. Unfortunately, the same kind of performance would not be replicated throughout the rest of the season. Even though the car would earn three points its first time out in the World Championship, the FN48 would last only three World Championship races. This would be a rather fitting memorial for a car company that appears and disappears throughout racing history like a flickering light bulb that has flashes of brilliance one moment, and then goes dim the next.Sources:
'Frazer Nash FN48: (1952-1952)', (http://www.histomobile.com/dvd_histomobile/usa/1145/1952_Frazer_Nash_FN48.htm). Histomobile.com. http://www.histomobile.com/dvd_histomobile/usa/1145/1952_Frazer_Nash_FN48.htm. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
'The Marque that Failed to Take the Cooper Straight', (http://forix.autosport.com/8w/frazernash.html). 8W: The Stories Behind Motor Racing Facts and Fiction. http://forix.autosport.com/8w/frazernash.html. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Frazer Nash', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 31 December 2010, 03:46 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Frazer_Nash&oldid=405109511 accessed 4 March 2011By Jeremy McMullen