Three of the rarest of all Lotus racing will be taking to the track during the Formula 1 car displays at the Lotus Festival and coincidentally each one represents a famous Lotus livery. With a combined production tally of just five cars, they don’t come much rarer than that!
LOTUS 43(Photo by William Taylor, Coterie Press)
Leading the way will be Andy Middlehurst’s Type 43, in traditional British Racing Green. Andy’s car, the result of a painstaking restoration by the arch enthusiast, is one of just two examples built for the 1966/67 seasons as something of a stop-gap. The 1.5-litre formula had just given way to the 3-litre era and Lotus was in need of an engine to use before the Cosworth DFV came on stream, so turned to BRM and their H16. One can imagine Colin Chapman gritting his teeth at having to turn to his rival manufacturer for help, and even more so when he discovered just how heavy the unit was – complete anathema to Chapman!
Despite its weight the H16, effectively two 1.5-litre V8’s conjoined, was compact and designed to act as a stressed unit, so was bolted directly to the bulkhead of the new, Maurice Philippe-designed chassis. Whilst being a natural progression of the monocoque theme used so successfully in the Types 25 and 33 the new car was also a very distinct pointer of what was to come with the fabulous 49.
The Type 43 enjoyed a short Grand Prix career with a total of nine race starts, Peter Arundell debuting the model in practice for the Belgian Grand Prix where it expired after three laps and did not race. It raced for the first time at Reims, where Arundell retired from the French GP with gearbox problems.
Jim Clark raced a V8 BRM-powered Type 33 until switching to the new model for the Italian Grand Prix. Despite qualifying on the front row, an electrical problem at the start saw him engulfed by the field, dropping him to the back. A typical Clark drive got him all the way up to fifth place before a puncture and more gearbox problems led to retirement.
Team Lotus bounced back at the next race, the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Clark qualified on the front row alongside Jack Brabham but it was all too much for the engine and it had to be replaced for the race by BRM’s own spare unit. Did the job though, as he went on to win the race, the only one ever won by a BRM H16. It was back to normal for the final race of the year in Mexico where Clark again qualified for the front row despite a massive oil leak, only to be put out of the race by gearbox problems again.
The 43’s were pressed into service for the first race of the 1967 (South African GP) but with the Cosworth-powered 49 making a first appearance at Zandvoort the two 43’s were sold off to customers for use in Formula 5000 with Ford V8 engines.
LOTUS 58(Photo by John Elwin)
The Lotus 58 owned and driven by Lotus collector Malcolm Ricketts can genuinely be described as unique as it was the only example of the design ever built, despite being intended for use in both Formula 1 (Type 57) and Formula 2 (Type 58). Malcolm’s car is to the latter specification and is finished in a red and white livery similar to the Gold Leaf colour scheme from the era.
The car was designed by Martin Waide and built early in 1968, ready for Jim Clark to test upon return from what would be that fateful F2 race at Hockenheim. Of course Lotus was in turmoil following the tragic loss of its’ much-loved star driver and the new car rather seems to have been pushed to one side.
Subsequently it was tested by Graham Hill and John Miles, but whilst the car handled well the FVA Cosworth-motivated machine was simply deemed to be too slow so not raced. It went on to be tested in both Formula 1 and 2.5-litre Tasman guise, particularly, extensively. Graham Hill spent a lot of time in the car in latter form but simply did not like it, so revised 49T’s were taken to the ’69 Tasman Series and the Type 58 was put away in storage at Lotus, where it languished until the end of the century! It was eventually dragged out into the daylight by Clive Chapman in 1999, and a three-year restoration at Classic Team Lotus ensued, goaded on by Malcolm and Don Hands. Since completion in 2002 it has regularly appeared at events.
LOTUS 76(Photo by William Taylor, Coterie Press)
Andrew Beaumont’s Lotus 76 or to give its official name, John Player Special Mk II, represents the black-&-gold JPS era. Well, the clue’s in the name! The John Player moniker was given to the model in deference to the fact that the tobacco company supplied the funds to develop the somewhat complex model. They must have wondered why they bothered though, as it can only be described as disappointing, following as it did in the wake of the uber-successful Type 72. It has to be said though that even though the 72 raced on through four seasons, helping Jochen Rindt and Emerson Fittipaldi to World Championship titles, it took a while for the drivers to get it to their liking. Who knows what the 76 might have achieved with an equally long career?
Australian designer Ralph Bellamy set-out to create a car that was 100-lbs lighter than the Type 72. Whilst suspension and braking lay-out broadly followed the 72 design, innovation came in the transmission department with drivers Ronnie Peterson and Jacky Ickx discovering no less than four pedals in the cockpit with two pedals in the centre for left- and right-foot braking whilst once the foot-operated clutch had been activated at the start, during the race a hydraulic system came into play, activated by a button on the gearknob. Clever but complicated, it wasn’t long before they were switched back to a traditional three-pedal system. But was Bellamy ahead of his time, given more recent button-operated systems?
The angular Type 76 (sorry, JPS MkII…) with its eye-catching bi-plane rear wing made just ten Grand Prix starts with the 72 being pressed back into service for much of the 1974 season, and 1975, before the new Type 77 appeared in 1976. Andrew Beaumont’s car, chassis 76/1 (one of just two built), was driven by Ronnie Peterson and had the distinction of leading both the Silverstone International Trophy Race and the Spanish GP in 1974 before engine failure led to retirement in Northamptonshire and brake failure did likewise in Spain.
Details on more classic Lotus to follow: https://www.lotus-festival.com/classic-lotus-racing-demonstrations/