The fascinating history of Vanwall is inversely proportional to the duration of the participation of the team in the succession of the Formula 1 World Championships. In 1958 is a very important year for the history of Formula 1 because, for the first time, at the end of the championship there will be a constructors' championship for the team that at the end of the season will have accumulated more points by adding those of each driver of the team itself.
The Vanwall unfortunately disappears from competition immediately after reaching this extraordinary milestone, but inevitably surrenders to history. To know the history of the VW5 you have to start from the early 1950s and in particular from a British gentleman named Tony Vandervell, an industrialist owner of Thin-Wall Bearings, a company that produces bearings and with which it is made immediately to know in the world of Motorsport even supplying these components to Ferrari.
This English entrepreneur is also a huge racing enthusiast, so much so that after World War II he decides to buy a Ferrari 125. After trying in vain to buy an Alfa Romeo, Vandervell immediately buys a 125C, sent back to the sender after the British manufacturer examines it. After a second car not to his liking, subject to the threat of lack of supply of bearings, Enzo Ferrari grants him a 4500 cubic centimeter model.
The reason why Ferrari does not immediately grant him his car is because the latter is convinced that Vandervell can use it as a yardstick to produce B.R.M., of which the manufacturer is a partner together with Raymond Mays.
The decision that pushes Vandervell to become a car manufacturer derives from a curious episode in which the English industrialist waits for three hours in the waiting room of the Ferrari factory, to talk to the manufacturer, only to leave after a rage for not having been received.
Vandervell, after having appropriately modified the car, starting from 1949 began to take part in various competitions under the name of Thin Wall Special. Participation in some Formula Free races will mainly serve Vandervell's men to study the car in its details.
In a short time Vandervell decides to get involved in the first person, convinced by the excellent results obtained by the modified Ferraris, and since 1951 he has concentrated all his efforts in order to obtain a real team with which to register for the Formula 1 world championship.
Vanwall was born in 1954, a name obtained from the fusion between the words Vandervell and Thin-Wall. The chassis is designed by John Cooper, while the suspension derives from the Ferrari purchased by Vandervell. The team collects some good results but the turning point comes with the arrival of Colin Chapman, Harry Weslake and Frank Costin; the latter greatly improves the car from a chassis point of view, which is the real weak point. 1956 and 1957 are the years of maturation, which serve to improve the details of the car; in 1958, however, the consecration arrives.
The VW5 is now a well-tested car and considering that the forty-seven-year-old Fangio decides that he would run the season as a part-time driver being at the end of his career, the main candidate for the final victory turns out to be Stirling Moss, who after starting the first two races aboard the Cooper-Climax, then moved to Vanwall.
In late 1957, alcoholic fuels were banned and replaced by mandatory 130 octane aviation gasoline. This causes problems for Vanwall and B.R.M. due to their large bore motors which require methanol for engine cooling. As a result, the Vanwall's power drops from 290 horsepower (220 kW) to 7.500 rpm, or 308 horsepower with nitromethane to 278 horsepower (207 kW) on the dyno. During the race the engine produces only 255-262 horsepower at 7.200-7.400 rpm.
This produces a disadvantage compared to the new Dino Ferrari V6 cars with a claimed power of 290 horsepower at 8.300 rpm, the Vanwall, however, boasts better roadholding thanks to some changes made to the suspension, new steel wheels, new nylon-cord Dunlop R5 racing tires, five-speed gearbox and disc brakes.