Cooper Maserati T86

Cooper Maserati T86

I saw this overhead photo of Vic Elford in a Cooper-Maserati T86 competing at the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix.

The car was built during the 1967 season after a previous Cooper F1 car had started to fall behind competitors from Lotus, Ferrari and Brabham. F1 had gone to a 3-litre formula and Cosworth were supplying Ford based engines to Lotus and many privateers: the hugely successful Ford Cosworth V8.

Cooper’s T81 and the T86 were fitted with a Maserati V12 bored out to 3-litres. Cooper Racing had been acquired by the Chipstead Group who were also the Maserati importer for the UK at the time, so engine supply wasn’t a problem. The engine had been powering cars for ten years including in races during the 2.5 litre F1 days before the class changed to a 1.5 litre category in the early 1960s. Having the new increased engine size come into effect meant that the racing teams needed to find a new motor - for Cooper, they used an older motor rather than wait for another supplier to create a reliable alternative.

Interestingly, the T81 and T86 overlapped in their use with the T81 still being used by some teams through 1968 whilst the T86 started to race in 1967. The T86 was significantly lighter than the previous car and was one of the first to use front end spoilers to keep the nose down - being a rear mounted motor meant that on acceleration the front got light and harder to control, so the spoilers helped keep it in place.

The car raced as a works entry with Jochen Rindt, Jacky Ickx and Ludovico Scarfiotti at the wheel during 1967 and in 1968 with an American driver, Tom Jones driving it once under a private banner. With greater improvements in the competition, the heavy V12 was abandoned for the works cars and the T86B was developed using a BRM V12 and the T86C with an Alfa Romeo V8 from the T33 sports racer. The T86B was the most successful of the three models with several 3rd, 4th and 5th placings.

In 1969, the original T86 had been sold to a privateer who put Vic Elford in the car for the Monaco Grand Prix. It qualified last in 16th place, some eight seconds behind the pole-sitter, Jackie Stewart in a Matra-Ford MS80 and came in 7th and last of the finishers in the race, six laps down on the winner, Graham Hill in a Lotus 49 with the Cosworth motor.

It was the last time the car was entered into a championship F1 race, although it did appear at some other events in the year. After Monaco, Elford was given a McLaren M7B to compete in with slightly better results in the handful of F1 races he was entered in to.

The picture is a fabulous snapshot of racing in its day - one where the fans could get up close with their heroes and the cars were classically designed for speed.