The competition car manufacturers start showing their wares to racing drivers early in the year and it is fairly obvious from those which have been shown to the public that builders are concentrating on the large-capacity sports/racing cars. This class should certainly provide some of the most exciting racing this season for apart from the American cars like the Hussein Special, Scarab and the Shelby Cooper-Fords, English manufacturers such as Lotus, McLaren, Lola, Brabham, Attila, and Merlyn are all joining in with cars powered by hot American V8 engines.
The Lotus 30 was one of the first into the field with a big V8, first the Ford 4.3-litre Indianapolis engine, later with the 4.7-litre version. This car had a disappointing first season and even Jim Clark could not get very far with it although at the end of the 1964 season he did manage to get third place in the Times G.P. at Riverside. The 1965 car has many improvements to the chassis specification and should be able to give a good account of itself. The engines now being used by Lotus are fitted with Tecalemit-Jackson fuel injection and give around 350 b.h.p.
Another car which has already appeared in competition is the McLaren which did several races in Canada and the U.S. last season, showing considerable promise. Bruce McLaren came to an agreement with Elva for the latter to build the McLaren at their Rye factory, leaving McLaren free to concentrate on development. The body shape has been considerably cleaned up, otherwise the car remains virtually to its original design. One big advantage the McLaren has over its rivals is that the Traco modified all-aluminium Oldsmobile engine is somewhat lighter than the cast iron engines used by other manufacturers. The 4-1/2-litre Traco-Oldsmobile gives 355 b.h.p. at 6,800 r.p.m. and weighs 332 lb., whereas the 4.7-litre Ford V8 gives around 350-360 b.h.p. and weighs 420 lbs. This allows the McLaren to weigh-in at around 1,250 lbs. against the 1,500 lbs. of the Lotus 30. In fact the McLaren is probably the lightest of the big sports/racers, although the Chaparral, with a bigger 5-1/4-litre, 450 b.h.p., engine, weighs only 1,300 lbs. due to its unique glass-fibre chassis. No less than 15 McLarens will be seen around the circuits this season, mainly in America, but Graham Hill, John Coundley and McLaren himself will drive them in this country.
Perhaps the most interesting newcomer is the Lola type 70, an open version of the Lola-Ford coupe with monocoque frame of alloy and steel, with a partly-stressed glass-fibre body. This is fitted with the Ford 4.7-litre V8 as standard equipment, this unit giving around 350 b.h.p. at 5,600 r.p.m. using four Weber carburetters. The Traco-Oldsmobile unit can be obtained if desired and offers a similar output with the aforementioned saving in weight. Lola claim that the type 70 weighs about 1,375 lbs. with the Ford engine. The German ZF 5-speed gearbox is standard equipment but the Hewland HD5 can be specified. The front suspension of the Lola is by double wishbones and the rear end uses wishbones with radius arms. Big Girling 12-1/2 in. disc brakes are fitted and in fact the Lola’s designer, Eric Broadley, is bringing out a patent on the mounting of the front discs, which apparently allows a flow of cooling air in the deeply dished wheel. Broadley has also cleverly overcome the problem of fitting the regulation luggage space by incorporating it into the design of the passenger door. This should infuriate the scrutineers at Le Mans but it apparently complies with the rules.
Cooper seem to be ignoring sports car racing except to supply Caroll Shelby with Cooper Monaco chassis to be fitted with big Ford engines and re-named King Cobras, although Tommy Atkins has the big 5-litre Maserati-engined car driven by Roy Salvadori last season. Jack Brabham seemed content with the 2.7-litre Climax-engined BT8, but this will be joined later in 1965 by the BT17, basically a scaled-up BT8 with similar space frame chassis and fitted with the Ford V8 or other V8s to choice. Merlyn are working on a larger-engined version of their sports/ racing model and Roy Peirpoint’s Attila becomes more and more professional each time a new version appears.
In the production car sphere the American V8 is also gaining popularity and apart from the A.C. Cobra and Sunbeam Tiger the small firms are turning to the big V8s. The Blackpool firm of T.V.R. are fitting the Ford V8 to their Grantura and calling it the Griffith, while Ginetta Cars have built an entirely new front-engined sports car to take the 271 b.h.p. Ford V8 unit. This all-independent car is said to be capable of 160 m.p.h, and is mainly intended for America where it will sell for around £2,000.
Going to the other extreme, Diva have inserted a Hillman Imp engine into a tiny Porsche 904-like coupe. The Imp engine is turned round to put the gearbox at the back and in Stage II tune the Diva Demon, as the new car is called, sells for around £1,550.
Another interesting new car which can use a big V8 is the Felday, brainchild of Peter Westbury, which will be built with a 2-litre B.R.M. unit for the European Hill-Climb Championship, but will also be built with a Chevrolet engine for sports car racing. This car will be interesting to watch as it uses the Ferguson 4-wheel-drive principle.