Lotus 30

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Description: Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers: auctioneers of art, pictures, collectables and motor cars

  • Every enthusiast who was around at the time remembers the enormous excitement that was engendered by the development of American V8-engined ‘Big Banger’ unlimited-capacity sports car racing in Great Britain in 1963-66. Relatively lightweight, inexpensive to buy and extremely powerful American production-block V8 engines were adopted by Tojeiro in 1962, Lola in 1963 and Lotus and McLaren in 1964. The most beautiful of all these early Anglo-American ‘Big Banger’ sports-racing cars was undoubtedly the backbone-chassised Lotus Type 30, but initially at least the model proved very fragile and unreliable. The backbone chassis carried its moulded glassfibre bodyshell like a saddle, and the early editions – known retrospectively as the ‘Series 1’ cars – suffered severe structural problems due to the backbone itself having been fabricated from steel sheet which was by common consent too thin for the job. Small-diameter 15-inch road wheels also cramped the space available for adequate disc brakes, and for 1965 both these major shortcomings were corrected by Colin Chapman and his Lotus design team in the form of the Lotus 30 ‘Series 2’ model.

In that season, however, Lola Cars launched their rival for the best-looking ‘Big Banger’ prize – the exquisitely-proportioned Lola T70. While the Lotus 30s had used 4.7-litre Ford V8 engines, the Lolas commonly adopted larger Chevrolet V8s of up to 6-litres displacement. The Lotus 30 Series 2 design with its more hefty and much more rigid backbone chassis structure, plus larger diameter wheels and bigger brakes, proved itself a considerable stride forward from 1964 Series 1 specification. But now the cars were being overwhelmed on sheer horsepower. Consequently, before the end of that season, Lotus had taken the next step forward with a trio of fundamentally uprated Lotus Type 40 sports-racing cars, employing the latest 5.3-litre Ford V8 engine and with further uprated transmission, drive-line, suspension, brakes and wheels and tyres to match.

The car offered here began life – we believe – as a 1964-season Lotus 30 Series 1. It was then modified and uprated into 1965 as an effective Lotus 30 Series 2, and then again into 1966 as an effective Lotus 30/40 with many of the latest factory modifications incorporated as on the works Team Lotus Type 40 works entries, which had been driven in the 1965 West Coast professional races at Riverside and Laguna Seca by none other than double-World Champion Jim Clark and USAC Champion A.J. Foyt.

We believe that the provenance of the car now offered here dates back to the Lotus 30 series 1 car which was sold to Harrogate-based British private entrant Bernard White, to be driven by his cousin, the Rhodesian-derived racing driver Vic Wilson. They ran their Lotus-Ford 30 under the name Team Chamaco Collect, but during the 1964 season they had little luck with the under-developed machine. It was either replaced or uprated into Series 2 form for 1965 – and when sold to its last long-term owner it was accompanied by a discarded original-type backbone chassis, which might well have been replaced in period during this continuous uprating process. With the Bernard White-entered Lotus 30 Series 2, Vic Wilson finished fifth in the major Mallory Park International meeting on Whit-Monday, June 7, 1965.

Later in 1965 the ex-White/Wilson Lotus 30 passed to northern private entrant Ben Moore who used it in club racing to considerable effect. It was then acquired by John Berry – already well-known in Lotus circles for his independent rear suspension Lotus 3/7 with which he had enjoyed phenomenal success against less sophisticated standard Lotus Sevens. Wearing the colours of Thomas Motors of Blackpool, the car would be further modified to the effective Lotus 30/40 specification in which it has been preserved on museum display in Germany for the past 31 years. It was campaigned by John Berry very occasionally in British club and National events, and always put up a spectacular show. In 1980 it was advertised for sale in ‘Autosport’, the vendor claiming that it had been raced only 13 times, and on April 29, 1985 it was acquired by its last long-term owner from British specialist dealer Chris Drake, accompanied by the set-aside original chassis backbone.

It was at that time part of a batch of cars which had been acquired for the German museum by owner Peter Kaus, Chris Drake also providing the McLaren M1C (see Lot XXX) and the Cooper Monaco (see Lot XXX) which also feature in this Goodwood revival Sale. There is a letter in the documentation files from Chris Drake to Mr Kaus, dated February 13, 1985, describing how: “Testing on the Lotus 30/40 has been delayed due to two inches of snow at Silverstone, however, we shortly hope to be able to do this and give the car a clean bill of health…”.

The ‘Used Car Sales Invoice’ for the car is also featured in the documentation file and is dated January 28, 1985. Shipping documents record delivery to Hannoverlandstrasse, Frankfurt, on April 10 that year.

Since that time this well-developed and – in its day – successful Lotus-Ford 30/40 has spent most of its time under preservation within the museum halls at Aschaffenburg. It is finished in approximate Team Lotus livery of apple-green and yellow, we understand that the Ford V8 engine is a 5.3-litre unit and – in common – with the other competition cars from this source, we recommend that careful mechanical inspection and preparation be carried out by specialists before any attempt may be made to start or run it.

Back in period, Colin Chapman of Lotus based the Lotus 30 design upon a novel backbone chassis derived from experience with the small-capacity road-going production sports Lotus Elan. The backbone chassis for the Lotus 30 was a deep box section beam, considerably flanged and baffled for rigidity and panelled initially in 20-gauge mild-steel sheet. It was only 6 inches wide at the top, 9½-inches at the bottom, and 12-inches deep and contained a rubberised 13-gallon fuel tank. Two further 9-gallon tanks could be added each side within the door sills of a one-piece moulded glassfibre bodyshell, which sat over the backbone chassis.

At its front end the backbone carried a transverse box-section to provide front suspension pick-ups, while at the rear the backbone forked to pass supporting prongs along each side of an American Ford V8 engine. Numerous development problems were encountered with the first prototype car and its associated initial batch of Lotus 30 Series I production machines during 1964. The legendary Jim Clark shone in the Team Lotus car during the year’s Tourist Trophy race at Goodwood, leading Bruce McLaren’s latest for many laps.

After the first three chassis had been built it was concluded that the backbone chassis was insufficiently stiff, and later numbers were panelled in thicker 18-gauge sheet. Rear end design was also revised, and larger 15-inch wheels were adopted in place of the original 13-inch to accommodate enlarged and more effective disc brakes. A total of 33 Lotus 30s would be built, of which 21 were the original-design Series 1s and only 12 were the uprated, much more refined – and infinitely more reliable – Series 2s such as this fine example now offered here. In period the Lotus 30s sold for £3,495. This was in fact inexpensive, for each car took some 600 man-hours to construct.

It was in 1965 that this particular Lotus 30 Series 2 first appeared. These Series 2 cars featured the simplified chassis rear end – in which the rear suspension cross-beam no longer had to be removed complete with suspensions in order to service the gearbox (!) – and a revised new body design also emerged with upswept tail spoiler and a vertical oil-cooler duct in the nose. Roll-over bars were fitted in compliance with contemporary Sports Car Club of America standards, and brand-new 10¼-inch diameter ventilated Girling disc brakes were fitted all round. While 15-inch wheels were adopted for the works – and some customer – cars, Dunlop’s latest low-profile R7 racing tyres ensured that the overall diameters were virtually unchanged.

Both ZF and Hewland LG500 transaxle gearboxes were used on these cars in period. Fitted with newly-developed Tecalemit-Jackson fuel injection the preferred 4,727cc American Ford V8 engines gave a reliable 360-370bhp. However, the contemporary Chevrolet V8 engines were commonly more powerful, and although the Lotus 30 was exceptionally light, the iron-block Ford engines were heavy. It was because of this that moves were made to increase the power available to the Lotus contenders, and a 5.3-litre Ford V8 engine was adopted.

This is a V8-engined Lotus sports-racing car of the highest profile – a vital inclusion for any Lotus collection – and it is also an immensely powerful and potent Historic sports-racing car which in the right hands and the right events could prove itself a consistent front runner.



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