21 January 2019

Fascinating F1 Facts: 54

In the racing world, knowledge tends to move around very quickly, with technology developed by one team being used by others. This was certainly the case with the BMW 328, which was the base of a series of so-called eigenbau (specials) in the years after the war. These were raced with great success in Formula 2 events in the late 1940s and early 1950s. As these developed small car construction businesses sprang up using the BMW 328 engine and so the lines between BMWs and prototypes became increasingly blurred. The best known BMW engine users at the time were Veritas in the West and most of the racers in East Germany. By 1952 competition had developed so much in the West that the BMW Specials were largely out of date, although they continued to be very effective in the East. That year the World Championship was run for F2 cars and several BMW Specials turned up at international races such as the Eifelrennen and the Grand Prix des Frontieres at Chimay.

Veritas was a company that literally grew from the ruins of BMW. It was created by a group of former BMW staff in 1946 after the company's factories were either taken over by the Soviets or bombed flat by the Allies. Ernst Loof was an engineer who played an important role with BMW in the 1930s, developing the Munich firm's competition cars, among them the 328, which was powered by a six-cylinder 2-litre engine, which had been designed by Rudolf Schleicher. He joined forces with commercial manager Lorenz Dietrich, driver Georg Meier and production man Werner Miethe to begin building their own automobiles, based around the BMW 328 engine, in an old armaments factory in the village of Hausen am Andelsbach, near Sigmaringen, not far from the Swiss border, near Konstanz. The firm quickly outgrew the original workshops and moved to nearby Messkirch  and diversified rapidly. Dietrich had been the manager of the French Gnôme & Rhône engine company during the Occupation and knew Paul Panhard and soon struck a deal to use the Dyna-Panhard to build a small convertible, which would be called a Veritas for the German market.

Loof was more interested in building racing cars and developed his own version of the BMW engine, manufactured for the company by Heinkel and known as the Veritas Meteor. These engines were fitted into various chassis, based on the BMW 328, and in 1948 Karl Kling and Meier began to win races in different versions of the car. Around 10 of the cars were built for Formula 2.

The rapid growth meant another move, this time to Muggensturm, near Karlsruhe, but the partners wanted different things and so Lorenz set up his own business called Dyna Veritas, while Loof stuck with racing and set up a small workshops at the Nürburgring, building and servicing his racing cars. At the German GP of 1953 he drove one of his own cars and enjoyed the shortest F1 career ever when he retired at the start of the race after his transmission broke after less than a metre...

Loof began to produce road-going versions of his cars but the company soon went bankrupt and the reviving BMW took over the assets and hired Loof to develop cars for them at the Nurburgring. Sadly the arrangement did not last long, Loof died of a brain tumour in March 1956 at the age of only 56 years. 

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