Glory Days

03rd August 2018

From its humble origins in a garage in Bromley, Lola Cars rose to become Britain’s most successful manufacturer of racing cars, with a glittering history in every sphere of motorsport.

Words by Andrew Frankel

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For a period of over half a century, starting 60 years ago, Lola Cars grew from nothing into one of the biggest racing car manufacturers on earth. In that time its cars saw success in almost every important field of motor racing, from Formula One and Indycars to sports car and Can-Am racing.

It all started in 1958 when Lola founder Eric Broadley built a beautiful little sports car in a friend’s garage. Powered by a Coventry Climax engine originally designed to act as portable fire pump, he called it the Lola Mk1 and registered the first car as 600 DKJ. Success came almost at once. With Broadley at the wheel it won what was only its third race. Further glory meant orders started to pour in – and within four years around 35 had been made. Lola was up and running.

The company’s first top-level championship success came when the new T70 Spyder absolutely dominated the inaugural 1966 Can-Am series, winning five out of the six rounds and making John Surtees the first ever Can-Am champion. The stiffest competition came from McLaren’s M1B, but with its light, stiff, advanced monocoque construction, the Lola almost always held a definitive advantage.

The T70 was developed over the next four seasons until it appeared in its ultimate Mk3B guise in 1969. Regarded as one of the most beautiful sports cars ever to race, the 3B’s greatest achievement of all was winning the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1969, outlasting a fleet of factory Porsche prototypes – not bad for car built to a limited cost and sold to private individuals. It also had a second life as a stunt double in Steve McQueen’s 1971 movie Le Mans. In the film’s two big crash sequences, the cars being destroyed may look like priceless Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512S prototypes, but what you’re actually looking at are radio-controlled T70s merely wearing the clothes of their blue-blooded rivals.


Lola’s greatest moment in F1 came, curiously enough, when Honda won the 1967 Italian Grand Prix. In fact, Honda had turned to Lola when its own F1 efforts failed to bear fruit and the resulting collaboration of a Honda engine in a Lola chassis was known officially as the RA300, but actually to all and sundry as the “Hondola”. Its unique claim to fame is to have won a world championship Grand Prix on the only lap of the only race it ever led.

But perhaps the most raced Lola of all is a 2-litre Group 6 sports car called a T297 that started life in 1972 as a T290 with chassis number HU22. It raced for 11 straight seasons, competing in no fewer than five Le Mans 24 hours, finishing four of them, – two with Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, who owns the car to this day, at the wheel. And it only stopped racing when new Group C regulations for 1982 rendered the old Group 6 ineligible in the competition.

Sadly Lola stopped trading in 2012, but not before leaving an indelible mark on the motor racing world.

This article is taken from the Goodwood magazine, Summer 2018 issue.

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