Lola to put T70 to put back into production

Lola’s T70 sports racing car – as tested in this issue of MOTOR SPORT — is set to re-enter production, some 28 years after the original series. The project forms part of a management buy out aimed at putting Britain’s longest-established racing car manufacturing company, which entered voluntary administration in May after the collapse of its ill-fated foray into Formula One, back on the road to profitability.

The intention is to build an initial run of between 20 and 30 cars, as close to the specification of the original T70 Mk IIIB as possible, with a suggested price tag of around £145,000 including VAT. The target is for the first chassis, complete with a 5-litre small-block Chevrolet engine and Hewland LG600 gearbox, to be delivered early in 1998. Subject to demand, a racing series has been suggested for the cars.

“It’s something we have toyed with for some time,” said Lola’s commercial manager Peter Spruce. “It’s the company’s 40th anniversary next year, and what better way to celebrate it with than the launch of an exclusive T70? There is currently a great deal of interest, and we have to capitalise on it. We think that the numbers are realistic, and envisage most being sold to customers in the USA, where the majority of existing T70s are, and some will go to the Far East. We expect the market in Europe to be limited.”

The new cars to be overseen by Laurie Bray and Terry Hadley, who built the originals will mirror the specification of the ultimate MkIIIB coupes of 1969, although updated roll cages and fuel systems are likely to be incorporated. “It is important to address both the authenticity and safety aspects,” says Spruce.

Lola Cars made almost 100 T70s of all types from 1966-69, but built a series of six ‘continuation cars,’ with chronological chassis numbers, and another tub, in 1979 and 1980. Some, perhaps inevitably, have found their way onto the grids of historic race meetings much to the dismay of those running originals, even though many of those have been rechassied. Will this problem be exacerbated by the new, 1998 cars?

“The historic racing thing is a whole grey area,” admits Spruce. “For instance, there are more Mk IIIBs now than we actually made. Some early Spyders and MkIlIGTs have been rebuilt or rebodied as MkIllBs, even though they were built on entirely different chassis, but it is highly unlikely that the new T70s would be admitted to historic events.”

Group 4 series organiser Jonathan Baker, who owns one of a dozen or so T70s currently running in the European championship, agrees with that sentiment, but is also unsure that there is a market for new cars. “I can’t see the attraction in paying that sort of money for a brand new T70 when you can buy one with a continuous racing history for around £100,000,” he told MOTOR SPORT.

David Piper, who has raced T70s since they were new, and still runs one of the few MkIIIB coupes on its original monocoque, is an ardent fan of Eric Broadley’s design, but also feels that a third series of cars may not find a place in an already overcrowded market. “You could build one around original parts for about £70,000, but the trouble is that there are already too many about.

“The MkllBs are super, but they were never viewed as serious contenders in long-distance races. They were quick enough, and handled well, but their Achilles heel was the Chevrolet engine. Formula 5000 developments sorted that out in the early 1970s though, and now its the cheapest 500bhp anywhere. You can run a season of historic events almost without taking a plug out.”

Peter Dunn, of Latham, Crossley and Davis, the administrator for Lola Cars, is convinced that the production of new T70s will be part of the package which safeguards its future. it’s a fabulous car with a strong following. I’m confident that it will help put Lola back on track,” he said. “Safir has, I believe, built 40 Ford GT40 MkVs at similar prices, so the demand for such cars is out there.”

Should owners wish to race their T70s, perhaps at classic car events, a one-make series could be the solution. “It is something we’re looking at,” says Spruce, “but, whatever they decide, they will be secure in the knowledge that they own a genuine Lola, built from all-new components. And as a celebration of the company’s 40th anniversary, it will have a certain cachet.”

Lola founder Broadley, 68, who no longer retains an interest in Lola Cars itself, is in favour of the project. “Provided that there is a market, and it seems like there is one, it’s a good idea,” he told MOTOR SPORT. “I have particularly fond memories of the T70. It has always been one of my favourite cars.”