At a small Press gathering on January 12th, Colin Chapman announced that Team Lotus would be concentrating on Formula racing in 1959, with World Championship events having priority. The factory would not be entering any sports-car races, though they would partake in certain Gran Turismo events with “works” Elite coupés. The aim would be to enter the factory Grand Prix cars, of the type seen at Earls Court, these to have full 2-1/2-litre engines as Coventry-Climax were now working on a revised four-cylinder engine with a new larger block and crankcase, this new unit being able to house a fully counter-balanced crankshaft. The single-seater Lotus would be for sale with a 1-1/2-litre engine fitted, and any lucky customer with a suitable 2-1/2-litre unit could easily convert the car into a Formula I model, but 2-1/2-litre Coventry-Climax engines would be exclusive to the factory team cars.
In the sports-car field, although the factory would not be entering cars they intended to give factory support to certain successful private owners, and the new Lotus Seventeen and the revised Lotus Fifteen would be sold to customers who wanted to race. The Lotus Seventeen, which replaces the Lotus Eleven, has new front suspension, on the Chapman strut principle, having a single lower wishbone each side and a coil-spring and shock-absorber unit running from the hub unit to the chassis frame. At the rear the 1958 single-seater independent suspension is fitted, but with a normal differential unit on the chassis frame, as a B.M.C. gearbox is used. On the Lotus Fifteen a similar rear suspension is used and a modified M.G.-A gearbox is used, attached to the rear of the twin-cam engine. The single-cam 1,100-c.c. or 750-c.c. Coventry-Climax engine is available in the Lotus Seventeen. It is interesting that Lotus have now abandoned the de Dion rear-axle layout on their three competition cars, believing, like Daimler-Benz, that it was never anything more than a compromise until a sound independent suspension could be schemed up.
Production of the Elite is hanging fire at, the moment due to lack of factory space, but this lull is enabling much development work to take place on prototypes, while the first 25 Elites are under way in ones and twos, enabling the design to be really sorted out by the time serious production starts. This day is expected to be in April, when the new Lotus factory at Cheshunt, some 15 miles north of London, will be completed. Then the Elite will be ready for a production of about six per week to begin with, and by that time the design will be finalised. In the new factory all activities of Lotus will be gathered under one roof, and then the Editor can expect an Elite for serious road test. — D.S.J. (Delighted! — Ed.)