Lotus 69

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Keywords: kyle kaulback, lotus, type, 69, formula two, f2, formula three, f3, formula b, cosworth bda

Description: How to tell Lotus Type 69 variants apart, and other design/construction details.

Lotus Components Ltd. was founded to design, build, and sell racecars. Separating out Lotus Components allowed Colin Chapman's core business, Lotus Cars, to focus on passenger car production. Simultaneously Chapman's real passion, Team Lotus, could develop and race Formula One cars without distraction. In so many ways, Lotus Components seemed like a very good idea. The outfit grew and evolved through the sixties, changed its name to Lotus Racing Ltd. and then collapsed in the early seventies. This article is about one of Lotus Racing's final products: Kyle Kaulback's Lotus 69.

Lotus evidently liked the name 69 so much that they applied it to three different car models. Many sources will tell you that variants of the Type 69 were specifically designed for Formula Two, Formula Three, and Formula Ford respectively.¹ Additionally, some of the Formula Three Type 69's were set-up for racing in North America's Formula B class. Exactly one Formula Two Type 69 was bought second hand, heavily modified by its owner, and then entered in two Formula One races. Surely the Lotus Type 69 must have been one of the most versatile racecars ever built, right?

Consider this: the Formula Two Type 69 had a semi-monocoque chassis from the firewall forward whereas Formula Fords weren't even allowed to have stressed skins! Furthermore, Formula Two and Formula Ford Type 69s had entirely different suspensions and brake packages - distinct designs with no shared parts. The Formula Two Type 69 had huge racing slicks on magnesium wheels, whereas the Formula Ford Type 69 raced on skinny treaded street tires and steel disc wheels. Perhaps from some angle the bodywork may have looked similar, but no part of it was interchangeable. The Formula Two body was wide in the middle to house fuel cells, and big wings were attached at both front and rear. Openings for radiators were sized differently. And then there was a Formula Three Type 69: somewhere between the two extremes and truly its own distinct model too. A potential customer (or modern historian) might have great difficulty pinning down an accurate definition of its unique features. We'll try.

How successful were these cars on the racetrack? In his Type 69, Jochen Rindt dominated the first Formula Two race of the 1970 season but focused on Formula One through mid-season. (Rindt died tragically while testing his Lotus Formula One car for the Italian Grand Prix race in September 1970.) In 1971, Emerson Fittipaldi drove a Formula Two 69 to five victories. In summary, the Formula Two 69 proved very competitive when in the right hands, but never scored enough championship points to really shine.

The Formula Three Lotus 69 was introduced a year later, in 1971, and in that year Dave Walker drove his Ford Twin Cam powered Formula Three 69 to 25 wins from 32 starts to win two different Formula Three championships in one year. (Walker was particularly successful late in the season, after a rule change regarding restrictor plates sped up the whole field.)

Evidently sales weren't brisk enough to make the division profitable. Colin Chapman pulled the plug on Lotus Racing Ltd. before the end of 1971, and all the Type 69 models were discontinued. (Incidentally, many core members of the team who created the Type 69 models moved on to form a new company called Group Racing Developments .) Team Lotus developed and raced a Type 73 F3 car in 1972 and a Type 74 F2 car in 1973, but their hearts weren't really in these class; they were a Formula One team.

The Lotus 69 featured in this article is a unique hybrid between the original Formula Two and Formula Three Lotus Type 69 models. This particular specimen combines a Formula Three chassis with bodywork repainted accurately in its original livery, but upgraded with an engine that would have been suitable for Formula Two racing. In this article we'll focus on our specimen, and thus generally on Lotus' Formula Three Type 69.

Kyle's Lotus Type 69 racecar is chassis number 71/69/5FB², which features a Formula Three spec tubular steel chassis. In other words, the frame is basically similar to a Formula Ford frame except reinforced with lightweight aluminum stressed skins. The "FB" part of its serial number designates that it was built up to North American Formula B specifications and delivered complete with a 1600cc Lotus/Ford Twin Cam engine. In Formula B, the car would be more powerful than a contemporary Formula Three car because it wouldn't be required breath through a single small restrictor plate. In its original Formula B configuration Kyle's car would have wings as shown here, but would also have been obliged to wear treaded racing tires instead of racing slicks.

The history of Craig's Lotus 69 started auspiciously: Lotus featured it on their stand at the 1971 Motor Racing Show, in London. After the show, it was shipped to a Canadian driver named Craig Hill. Craig was an important figure in Canadian racing for several reasons, not least of them was that he was the advertising and promotions manager for Castrol Canada. In that capacity he coordinated Castrol's involvement in all forms of motorsport. Craig Hill had also earned special treatment from Lotus by winning Canada's Formula B championship in both 1969 and 1970 as a privateer. Unfortunately, Formula B fizzled out in Canada just as Hill received his Lotus 69. Hill raced the car in an assortment of Formula Atlantic races on both sides of the Canadian / United States border, but with limited success.

Craig moved on, and his Lotus 69 FB passed to Ron Shantz and then apparently through a succession of North American owners. After some years of club racing, it ended up back in England for chassis restoration and installation of a 1600cc Cosworth BDA (i.e. belt drive) engine and Lucas mechanical fuel injection. A German enthusiast named Claudia Neuhaus owned and occasionally raced 71-69-5FB in the late 1990s. Kyle purchased the car from Ms. Neuhaus and had it shipped back across the Atlantic again.

Kyle's 69 was yellow with a green stripe when he received it and he raced it in those colors for several years. He had just returned the car to resplendent Castrol GTX livery shortly before we photographed it in May 2010.

Ironically, returning other aspects of the car to original specification would be rather expensive and would simultaneously make the car slower. Different vintage racing organizations have different rules. As currently configured with its very potent powerplant, Kyle's car is eligible to race in Monoposto Racing's "Formula Atlantic" class. This class permits later 1970s era open-wheel cars which produce more downforce, so taking a checkered flag is both a huge challenge and a great thrill. Kyle's victory in The Jefferson 500 at Summit Point in 2009 was just that sort of victory. Kyle explained: "At least I have a good motor. My particular Cosworth BDA makes in the range of 250 horsepower. The 69's lack of downforce relative to a March 79 or Ralt RT1 is at least an advantage on the straights because the 69 has much less aerodynamic drag."



Photogallery Lotus 69:







the racing: J.Rindt - Lotus 69 (f2) - 1970
Lotus Ford 69 Formula 2 car 1972 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
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ALBERT CLEMENTS (LOTUS 69) | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
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1971 Lotus 69/F2/FB Large Picture Page







1971 Lotus Type 69 | Conceptcarz.com
File:Lotus-69-1.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
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