1958 was the breakthrough year for the rear-engined lightweight car. If Moss’s win in Argentina in the old T43 could still have been put down to the change to AvGas fuel, the absence of Vanwall and BRM, the Walker team’s cunning and the sheer brilliance of the driver, there was even more discomfort when Maurice Trintignant scored a sensational victory at the next World Championship event at Monaco, racing Walker’s new 2-litre T45 produced by Alf Francis.
The T45 was created as a product interchangeable between F1 and F2. The works cars got specially developed 2.2-litre FPFs rated at 194hp and saw Roy Salvadori make most use of them, with second in the German GP, third in the British GP and fourths in Holland and Italy. This took him to fourth in the drivers’ championship while Cooper finished third in the inaugural constructors’ championship. That was without making full use of the permitted 2.5-litre capacity!
The rear-engined experiment had seized to be an experiment. The revolution had started. Unflattering comments about horses and carts were still to follow, as was the introduction of several front-engined cars in the aftermath of ‘Black Jack’ Brabham taking his first World Championship for Cooper in 1959.
Still being a customer-car builder at heart, Cooper went on to build T51s in large numbers and sold them to dozens of F1 and F2 competitors. They were cheap cars, too, and Carel would not have spent a lot on them. It allowed him to get accustomed to lightweight rear-engined single-seaters, of which the Cooper was undoubtedly the pioneer.
Incidentally, T41, T43, T45 and T51 are the names awarded to these designs retrospectively to keep in line with later Cooper practice. At the time the cars were known as MkI (T41), MkII (T43), MkIII (T45) and MkIV (T51), and even these designations were rarely used.
Chassis F2-10-60 with Climax engine FPF 430/17/1117 was sold to Carel in June 1960, reportedly as a long-wheelbase version of the regular T51 to accommodate his lanky frame. He debuted the car in the Dutch GP on June 6 and also entered the Solitude race, the German GP, the Danish GP, the Flugplatzrennen at Zeltweg and the Tyrolean GP before flying off to South Africa to compete in the Cape GP and South African GP.