Formula One was still in its relative infancy when the British Cooper team first entered the competition. Pioneered by a father and son team, the Cooper company (of Mini Cooper fame) went from strength to strength, ultimately creating one of the first rear-engine racing cars in the Cooper T51. Not only was this a highly competitive, quick machine, but it looked the part, with its sleek profile, long nose, and low-slung, forward driver position, which were all adopted by the generations of F1 cars to follow.
The T51 was raced by motor racing trailblazers Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren (each of whom would later establish eponymous F1 teams). It originally sported a Coventry Climax 2,495-cc, four-cylinder engine, and a four-speed Citroen gearbox, although it later used Maserati and Ferrari engines and other transmissions. Its chassis was of tubular steel construction, and it had the unsophisticated double-wishbone suspension that was commonplace on race cars at the time.
With a top speed of 140 mph, the Cooper T51 was primitive by today’s standards. Still, in its day, it was one of the most influential cars to enter Formula One, as this small, independent company revolutionized the way cars were designed and paved the way for faster, more streamlined vehicles later on.