The rear-engined Cooper T51 continued the victory run sparked by the Cooper T43, which, in 1958, became the first rear-engine car to win an F1 World Championship Grand Prix.
There were a number of advantages to mounting the engine behind the driver: with no driveshaft under the seat, the driver could sit lower; a lower centre of gravity improved cornering; no driveshaft and a smaller car saved weight; and a smaller frontal area improved aerodynamics. Also, by locating the fuel tanks on either side of the cockpit rather than at the rear, the car handled better with different fuel loads.
The T51 dominated the 1959 season, with Jack Brabham winning the Drivers’ Championship, and the Cooper team winning the Constructors’ Championship. Bruce McLaren drove a T51 to victory at the1959 US Grand Prix at Sebring, becoming the first New Zealander to win an F1 World Championship Grand Prix.
Constructor: Cooper Car Company, England
Engine: Coventry Climax FPF 2.5l 4-cylinder in line
Power: 230bhp at 7500rpm
Grands Prix: 126