Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Mike Hewland - A vital cog in British motor racing // Hewland gearboxes are relatively unknown, but incredibly popular

Published by Steven Roy

Mike Hewland died at the weekend aged 89. He and his company should be known to all motor racing fans but they remain virtually unknown.

Everyone knows that from the end of the 1960s, all through the 70s and into the 80s that the majority of the cars on the F1 grid had Ford Cosworth DFV engines. What is not as well known is that each of these engines was mated to a Hewland gearbox. If that was all Hewland had ever done it would be a great achievement but Hewland gearboxes are much more widely used than that.

From the ground up

Hewland Engineering was founded in 1957 and was the first company in the world to make bespoke racing gearboxes. They started by modifying VW gearboxes but soon found they could make better products by designing them from scratch. The early gearboxes were used in Lola Formula Junior cars. Since then they have been used in just about every racing category you can imagine.

There probably isn't a serious racing driver in the world who has not at some point in his career used a Hewland 'box. When drivers first move into single seaters Formula Ford is a popular choice. When John Webb invented the class at Brands Hatch in 1967 the cars had Hewland gearboxes and that has been the case throughout its history. The same is true for most other junior formulae from Formula Palmer Audi to Formula Renault, Formula BMW to the university of single seater racing - F3.

Ubiquity

Of course they were not restricted only to single seaters. Hewland gearboxes have been used in everything from small front wheel drive saloons to touring cars to GT cars, LMP1 and LMP2 to rally cars. In short if you have watched motor racing you have almost certainly seen cars with Hewland gearboxes.

I was going to say Hewland has been a vital cog in the British motor racing industry from the 50s to the present day but of course they built the cogs and the boxes that held them. Unlike many of the early pioneer companies which thrived as long as their founder was around to guide them Hewland Engineering survived the transition between generations and is now run by Mike's son William.

When discussing the giants of the racing industry Mike Hewland has to be included with the best of them. It is just a shame that to even serious racing fans he is virtually unknown.