The real British Invasion began in earnest during 1961 with Jack Brabham’s Cooper-Coventry Climax that changed the face of auto racing forever. The tiny car, weighing only 2/3 as much as the competition, was filled with innovations, including its rear-engined layout, fully independent suspension and small Coventry Climax engine, which made 150 fewer horsepower than the other cars in the field from a capacity that was 80 cubic inches smaller. Despite finishing in 9th place, it was a moral victory that paved the way for Jimmy Clark’s victory in 1965, driving a Lotus 38.
The era became a veritable who’s who of famous British personalities, featuring Brabham and Cooper, as well as Colin Chapman, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart and the aforementioned Clark. Mark Donohue and Johnny Rutherford added three more victories between them in 1972, 1974 and 1976, adding to the success of the British Invasion and leading to a permanent beachhead in America’s heartland.
Building on this success, almost every competitor was seated in a chassis built in England: March, Lola, Reynard, and even those “American’ cars from Penske and Galmer came from the UK. The engines were sourced from British shops like Cosworth, Ilmor, and Judd, while the cars were designed by Britons Len Terry, Tony Southgate, Eric Broadley, and Tim Holloway.
Eventually, British drivers would return to the fold including David Hobbs, Jim Crawford, Nigel Mansell, Dan Wheldon, and Dario Franchitti, contributing multiple victories and adding to the nation’s legacy at Indy.