John Bright testing the Pilbeam MP44 in 1979.


Like many other of the top constructors, Mike Pilbeam was yet another who cut his teeth on the 1172 Formula building his first car in 1959. In later years he would work for many top teams including BRM, for whom he would design the 1964 four-wheel drive car, Ford, Lotus and Surtees. In 1975 Mike set up Pilbeam Racing Designs from which would spring many designs for numerous different uses, some under the Pilbeam name, others on a consultancy basis including the Wheatcroft R18 F2/F3/F Atlantic car and the Lec F1. Although F2 and F3 cars were built Pilbeam’s main claim to fame has been a string of very successful race and championship winning hill climb cars.


The MP44 was based on the monocoque of the MP42, the F2 chassis, it ran with skirts (they were permitted in 1979 only) and was Toyota powered. John Bright ran it in a few Championship races during the year, at the end of the season it was tested in narrow-track, full-width nose format.


The MP45 was a reworking of the MP44 using the lessons learned from the 1979 end of season testing. Again it was entered for a few races in the 1980 British Championship but a lack of finance meant that no development could be undertaken.


The MP51 appeared midway through the 1981 season and raced infrequently for the rest of the year. Sadly it was never competitive, it was overweight and it seemed to be disaster prone.


The MP51 continued into 1982 and received some development during the year, most visibly the pylon front wing was replaced with a normal nose and wings. Unfortunately the main problem was still its obesity which still remained and there was no improvement in its competitiveness. This was Pilbeam’s last try at F3, they concentrated on hillclimbing in which they would be very successful


1979 John Bright.

1980 John Bright, Ian Shaw.

1981 Rick Whyman.

1982 Josh Wright.

John Bright in the MP44 at Thruxton with a shredded rear tyre.
Neil Betteridge testing the MP45 at the end of 1980.
Rick Whyman and Mike Pilbeam at the Silverstone GP meeting with the MP51.
The revised MP51.
The Judd VW installation in the MP51, note the unusual positioning of the spring/dampers.