Tamiya 1/20 Brabham BT.50/BMW

KIT #: 2017
PRICE: 1300 yen when new
DECALS: Two options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 1983 release


The Brabham BT50 was a Formula One racing car designed by Gordon Murray and powered by a turbo BMW engine. It was raced by the Brabham team, owned by Bernie Ecclestone, during the 1982 Formula One season. Driven by Nelson Piquet and Riccardo Patrese, it made its debut at the South African Grand Prix before being withdrawn for further development of its engine while the team reverted to the previous year's car, the Brabham BT49. On the reintroduction of the BT50, Piquet finished fifth in the Belgian Grand Prix. A few races later he drove it to a win in the Canadian Grand Prix. Later in the year it achieved three more finishes in the points for the team. During the second half of the season, Brabham implemented the strategy of mid-race refueling. This allowed Piquet and Patrese to start the races relatively light and use their reduced weight to gain track position over their competitors before stopping to refuel. The poor reliability of the BT50 meant that they had only a few opportunities to demonstrate the strategy in practice.

Despite its unreliability, the BT50 was fast, taking one pole and three fastest laps during the season. Brabham finished fifth in the 1982 Constructor's Championship with 41 points although 19 of these were earned with the BT49.

Brabham began 1982 with three BT50s, one of which was the original BT50 built the previous year, for the season opening South African Grand Prix. It was hoped that the high altitude, as it had in the past for the turbo-powered cars run by the Renault team, would be beneficial for the BMW engines. This proved to be the case in qualifying, Piquet second on the grid alongside Rene Arnoux in the Renault, with Patrese two places back in fourth. However, in a disastrous race for the BT50, both drivers retired early in the race. Piquet bogged down at the start and was quickly swamped by the field. Running 13th at the end of the first lap, he spun off on lap 4. Patrese had at least run in fourth place for a time before he too retired, due to a turbo bearing failure. Feeling the engines were still not race ready, Ecclestone opted to field Cosworth-powered BT49 chassis at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Piquet won that race but was later disqualified for circumventing the minimum weight limit by running "water-cooled brakes". Both drivers also raced the BT49 at the Long Beach Grand Prix, and the team boycotted the San Marino Grand Prix as part of the ongoing FISA–FOCA war.

BMW was increasingly exasperated by Ecclestone's reluctance to run its engine and before the Belgian Grand Prix, issued public threats to terminate its relationship with Brabham if the BT50 was not run at the race. Consequently, Piquet and Patrese switched back to the BT50 for Belgium. Qualifying was poor, Piquet and Patrese only managing eighth and ninth on the grid respectively. In the race itself, Piquet finished three laps behind the winner, although scoring two points for fifth place, while Patrese retired.

There is more, but read the reference to get the whole story. I should also mention that Ecclestone is considered to be pretty much a dick and has not gotten better with age.


This is another 1980's era kit. Like others in Tamiya's line this one is to 1/20th scale. I like this larger scale as these cars (at least from this era) were not large vehicles. I cannot say that about newer F.1 cars which are really huge by comparison. The kit itself is molded in  white, silver and black. Because the car's wheels are not a bare metal, there are no plated parts included. A small clear blue sprue is provided for the windscreen and hemet visor. A white driver figure is included for those who like to include them. Pneumatic rubber tires are also part of the package.

In line with most Tamiya F.1 kits, one starts with the engine and a considerable amount of instruction space is taken with this operation. There is a lot of prepainting of parts needed during assembly to get the proper effect. The instructions are quite helpful in having photos of many of the assemblies in addition to nice drawings. One gets a section of tubing to cut for ignition wires and a ruler is printed in the instructions.

One then moves to the transmission and rear suspension, including the brake assemblies. This will eventually be attached to the rear of the tub. The tub includes the driver's seat and the front suspension pieces. Attached to the tubs are the radiators and intercoolers. Once the somewhat complex intake and exhaust bits are attached to the engine, the intercooler/turbo pieces should just slot right in.

The final sections of the build are in painting and attaching the various body parts and the wings. Tamiya provides guides to painting the helmets for the two drivers provided . One of the last functions is to attach the wheels. The tires have a seam that runs around them. This is normal on fresh tires. Ones that have been run a few laps will have this scuffed off. I have found a bastard file to be useful in removing these seams.

Instructions are well done and all the color information is with Tamiya paints. The decals provide markings for two cars, both basically marked the same. One is from the 1982 South African GP and the other for the 1982 Canadian GP. The latter car had nose wings and one has to do a bit of body work to have this feature added. The decals look to be in fairly good condition, but being 30 years old, could stand to be replaced. Fortunately, IndyCals can do replacements for you.  


This is another great Tamiya kit. I like cars from this period and earlier because they still look like cars and not something designed by microchips. The most difficult part of these kits is the painting as it is quite involved in some cars. This one is relatively straight forward in that regard and when done, will make for a superb looking model. This kit has been reissued with a similar stock number so finding it will not be a difficult job.



May 2017

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