Many a ‘find’ has been reported in MOTOR SPORT over the years, some hidden away in an old barn. This shed, though, is something different; eighteen immaculate Lotus racing cars, all but one Grand Prix machinery, and rarely seen by outside eyes.
Outside, the long, seemingly innocuous building bears no livery, no sign of its content. The only clue is the location, for it is sited in the grounds of East Carleton Manor, the private estate of Hazel Chapman, widow of Lotus founder, Colin. Only a few miles away is Ketteringham Hall where the current, all yellow Lotus-Lamborghini 102s are prepared.
The colour in the 7 to 8000 sq ft barn is, though, predominantly black and gold, which perhaps comes as a disappointment when you have been told that it is full of historic Lotus Grand Prix cars. The feeling is temporarily heightened when your guide speaks of black and gold as the colour the enthusiast normally associates with Lotus.
Sitting, as it were on pole position, at the head of the two-by-two ‘grid’ is the sole car in the true Team Lotus livery of green and yellow. Unfortunately, this is no 18, 25 or 99; it is not even a Grand Prix car. This is a type 32, the chassis designed for Formula 2. There is, though, something special about this particular single-seater.
The 2.5-litre Climax FPF four-cylinder engine hiding under the bulbous cover would indicate that this is the 32B with which Jim Clark took five races and the 1965 Tasman title. The car, which had its rear legs replaced by a tubular subframe to support the FPF, was subsequently raced ‘Down Under’ by Jim Palmer, Mel McEwin and John Roxburgh.
The shed’s two alcoves indicate that all has not been black and gold, but the rest of the ‘grid’ is pure John Player Special. The cars are, more or less, lined up in date order with one of the two Lotus 72s adjacent to the 32B. Identification is confusing for the chassis number plates appear to read 72-9 and 72-15. The former you can accept. The latter, history would suggest, is more likely to be 72-5, for 9 was the last of the breed. Its style of air box would also indicate that the car was raced late in the model’s career.
The pair, 72-5 and 72-9, were the last of the model to be raced, although 72-5 was a virtually new car, built to take over the identity of that written off by Emerson Fittipaldi in practice for the 1973 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.
Ronnie Peterson and Brian Henton drove them in the 1975 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, the swansong for a long lived, and initially striking car. The one built for Ronnie Peterson to use during 1975, 72-9, never saw victory. However, the ‘new’ 72-5 did come first in the previous year’s Race of Champions, Jackie Ickx driving. If the shape of the 72 had served to surprise when it first came out in 1970 then so did the configuration of the 78. As with the 25 monocoque — what a shame the collection was not started earlier — Chapman had re-written the rules, this time with the introduction of the ‘wing car’. It was another example of the search for ‘the unfair advantage’. Airflow, encouraged to pass under the car, produced downforce by sucking it into the ground. An inverted aerofoil section is to be found in the airstream, below water radiators which are mounted in wide side pods. Those infamous bristle ‘skirts’ are attached to the pods, the whole helping to ‘suck’ the car to the ground.
Achieving much the same effect is the underside of the 79, which forms a venturi with the ground. The slim, ‘ground effect’ 79 was to be the last championship winning car from Lotus with Mario Andretti taking the 1978 title.
Both 78 and 79 have their rightful place In the collection. Less notable is the example of the stopgap 87 which raced during 1981. Placed sideways, and spoiling the ‘grid’ formation is the controversial car the type 87 was built to shadow, the 88. As Doug Nye recounts in his mine of information, Theme Lotus, Nigel Mansell was to describe this unraced innovation as ‘a very clever idea, but so complicated’.
The 88 featured a twin chassis, in effect two suspension systems, one for the driver and mechanical parts, the other for the aerodynamic parts. The scrutineers at Long Beach decided the machine was illegal. A subsequent Court of Appeal cleared it, and the 88 then passed through scrutineering for the Brazilian Grand Prix. Six teams protested and the car was black flagged when it came out for the second practice session! It did not even get past the scrutineers at Buenos Aires.
The final phase in the saga occured at the British Grand Prix. The car reappeared in mildly modified 88B form, satisfying the RACMSA. Then, as now, FISA President, Jean-Marie Balestre was around to have a say in the proceedings. He did not think the car was legal, and implied that if the RACMSA did not change its mind he would strip the Silverstone race of its World Championship status.
The two Lotus drivers, Elio de Angelis and Nigel Mansell, having already qualified the 88Bs, now had little time to scramble their 87s onto the grid. With heroic effort, the Italian just managed it while the ‘local’ man failed. The 88 was only fit to reside in a shed . . . .
The example at East Carleton sits glittering with the silver and green hue of the troubled sponsor, Essex, on its flanks. Above this resides the legend ‘John Player Special’. Surely that ought to read ‘Courage’, for it was the brewery’s name that was seen in practice for the 1981 British event.
Later, Renault-powered models line-up around the 88, one type 98 suffering from schizophrenia. The name of Ayrton Senna on one side, and Johnny Dumfries on the other, recalling the fact that Derek Warwick could have driven for Lotus as early as 1986 had the Brazilian so willed.
One of the two alcoves reminds us that the Lotus hue is now yellow with a Honda powered car. There are other yellow cars a country lane away, so you pause at the other alcove. There is the second oldest car in the collection, a Gold Leaf liveried Lotus 49 of the type that Jim Clark used to give the Cosworth DFV its first win, and with which Graham Hill won the 1968 World Championship.
A glance at the chassis plate reveals this to be R10. Originally a Tasman car for Jochen Rindt, R10 had been reconstructed from R2, the famous 1967 Dutch Grand Prix winning machine. In its new guise it again won the first time out, this time in true Lotus 49 fashion at the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix. It was Graham Hill’s fifth win at Monte Carlo in seven years. The Englishman drove it in a further six Grands Prix without success. It still, though, had its mark to make history.
Having been driven early in 1970 by John Miles and Alex Soler-Roig, as well as Hill (the car on loan to Rob Walker at Monaco), R10 was entrusted to a young Brazilian, Emerson Fittipaldi made his debut at the British Grand Prix alongside the 72s of Rindt and Miles, finishing a creditable eighth. He also used the last 49 to be entered by the factory in Germany and Austria, coming fourth at Hockenheim.
Now it has found its way to a shed; a shed with whitewashed walls, bare of adornment, but simply full — the visitor has to be careful when stepping over the almost overlapping front wings — of remarkable racing cars.