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Formula 3: The Origins, 1971-1984 Part 2

Submitted by on February 20, 2024

By Marcel Hundscheid / Speed-O-Graphica

In this second part of our retrospective on the origins of Formula 3, we take a closer look at Argo and Brabham.


Swiss designer Jo Marquart and British mechanic Nick Jordan founded Argo Racing Cars Ltd. during the late 1970s. Along with John Peterson, they completed their first car, the Argo JM1, in February 1977.

Although it initially seemed that Argo could make a splash in Formula 3, the arrival of the very dominant Ralt RT3 in the early 1980s made things difficult for the team. With the exception of the JM6, the JM8 and JM10 models in particular were quickly forgotten and Argo pulled back from the sport, only introducing a new Formula 3 car in 1990.

In the meantime, they mainly produced sports prototypes for participation in the Group C championship. Since we focus in this article on F3 cars from the period up to 1984, the models after this period are not considered.

Argo F3-cars:

  • 1977 JM1
  • 1979 JM3 fitted with a slim monocoque, wide sidepods and one-piece bodywork
  • 1980 JM6 development of the earlier JM3 raced in the UK
  • 1981 JM8 ground effect car
  • 1982 JM10 featured an aluminium tub with wide sidepods


British racing car manufacturer Brabham was founded in 1960 by Jack Brabham and Ron Tauranac. Brabham produced a range of customer cars besides their works Formula 1 and Formula 2 cars, including Formula 3 machines. Although we focus on cars from 1971 to 1984, Brabham had already built their first F3 car in 1965 – the Brabham BT9.

The BT9 resembled the BT6 used in Formula Junior. It turned out that the BT6 was no match for the Cooper T72, although several victories were noted across Europe.

Between 1965 and 1966, 58 BT15s were built with no less than 42 victories. The car had the same space frame and dimensions as the BT16 from 1965 and the Formula Librae BT14, and was initially powered by a Cosworth SCA, BRM or Holbay MAE engine. Later in 1965 Brabham used a Honda RA300E engine.

In 1966 the BT18 appeared, a car that was made available in different versions for both Formula 2 and Formula 3. The Brabham factory team used two cars with revised Honda RA302E engines entered in Formula 2, known as BT18A. For the Honda Racing School, six cars were equipped with Ford Kent engines, known as Brabham BT18B. A total of 32 cars were built in F3 specification.

The BT21 followed in 1967, initially developed for open-wheel racing, although most of them were manufactured for racing in F3. From the outside the BT21 had a flatter chassis and a new and sleeker bodywork than the earlier BT18. Besides this Brabham used a revised suspension, as well as Cosworth MAE and Holbay 997 cc engines.

Some cars were produced for US Formula B and designated B21B. Cars that ran under Formula Libre designation were known as 21C. A total of fifty BT21s were built.

In the next part we continue our story with the Brabham F3 cars built between 1969 and 1971.


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