FEB 24th 2016

Doug Nye – Why I love Lotus


Doug Nye

Doug Nye began writing about racing cars at ‘Motor Racing’ magazine in 1963-64. Today he is a multiple award-winning motor sports journalist and author of over 50 years’ experience, with some 70 books to his name. He is Goodwood Motorsport’s founding Historian and consultant and fulfils similar roles for Bonhams Auctioneers and the Collier Collection/Revs Institute in Naples, FL, USA. He is a member of the National Motor Museum Advisory Council at Beaulieu, Hants, and is a regular columnist for ‘Motor Sport’ magazine, while contributing to many other specialist periodicals worldwide.

Amongst all our GP Library archive of Lotus racing photographs – which probably runs into tens of thousands of individual negatives and transparencies – one of my favourite images shows an example of Colin Chapman’s first single-seater Lotus designs – the 1957-58 Type 12.

Fiat Isotta promo

The shot was taken by Fred Taylor – a remarkable motor racing enthusiast of independent means who chose to work for Pickfords, the international removals company, and I believe for British Road Services during the 1950s and into the 1960s. This affiliation gave him access to perhaps more international travel than most hard-working Brits of the period, and he combined that with his twin interests in photography and motor racing by wangling track-pass access at race meetings all over the UK and Europe.

The Lotus shot I particularly relish shows Lotus customer Dennis Taylor at the wheel of his privately-entered Lotus 12, ‘up the wall’ at AVUS, [lead image] Berlin, during the 1958 Formula 2 race meeting held in the German capital. If you dial-up the result on the internet you might find that Dennis Taylor and the Alan Brown-entered car are listed as ‘DNA’ – ‘did not appear’ – which is something I cannot explain against the background of our photo.

But it is definitely at AVUS, on what 1959 German GP-winner there – Tony Brooks of Ferrari – described as ‘a brick-paved surface using bricks which felt as if they gave about as much grip as bathroom tiles’. The race number – ‘5’ – is listed in the AVUS programme as being Dennis Taylor’s – that is clearly him in this little cigar of a car’s cockpit – and so it’s another case of don’t believe everything you read on the web.

Cliff Allison's Lotus 12 leading Stirling Moss's Walker Cooper in the Goodwood chicane, Easter Monday 1958

Cliff Allison’s Lotus 12 leading Stirling Moss’s Walker Cooper in the Goodwood chicane, Easter Monday 1958

Now having just made myself a hostage to fortune by writing those words, here’s Cliff Allison in the works Type 12 leading Moss in Rob Walker’s Cooper through the battered chicane on Easter Monday, 1958, after Jean Behra had assaulted it so violently in his brakeless BRM Type 25 (see the debris littering the track surface?). Yorkshireman Cliff finished fourth in that Glover Trophy race, running the F2-derived 12 in Formula 1 guise with a 2-litre version of the Coventry Climax FPF 4-cylinder engine installed – as distinct from the maximum 1500cc unit demanded by F2 rules.

The Lotus 12 was just about the absolute minimum motor car possible given the cross-section of a) the Climax engine, b) the average-sized bloke sitting in the driver’s seat and b) a practical fuel tank configuration with sufficient capacity for F2 Championship-round endurance. But Colin Chapman concluded from Type 12 experience that an improved design offering a better aerodynamic shape, a lowered centre of gravity and a wider, more rigid multi-tubular chassis frame would be quicker round a circuit.

And so the 1958-59 Lotus Type 16 came about, in which the driver’s seat was located beside the propeller shaft instead of above it as in the Type 12. These cars proved very quick with 1500cc Climax engines installed for Formula 2 and (in 1958) 2.2-litre Climax engines for Formula 1, eventually growing to the category’s full 2 ½-litre limit for 1959. The trouble was that they proved to be typically Lotus in that their structures were perhaps pared-down too close to sensible limits, and as works driver Innes Ireland once assured me ‘having to have chassis cracks welded-up on the starting grid before a Grand Prix doesn’t give you great confidence laddie’.

In an F2 race at Rouen in France he managed to drop his works Type 16 into the famous ravine on the right side of the public road course down through the swerving descent towards Nouveau Monde hairpin. It ended up in the woods there, propped vertically against a stout tree, and Innes (completely unhurt) had to inch his way out and clamber gingerly down to safety on the ground ‘…leaving the engine – by some miracle,’ he recalled. ‘…Ticking over nicely.’

David Piper's jazzy Lotus-Climax 16, Easter Monday 1959

David Piper’s jazzy Lotus-Climax 16, Easter Monday 1959

David Piper certainly cut quite a dash at Goodwood in the Easter Monday, 1959, meeting by running his private Dorchester Service Station-entered Type 16 not in his usual shade of BP bright-green, but in jazzy American colours of blue and white. It didn’t do ‘Pipes’ much good – he finished last, six laps off the pace – but that was all part and parcel then of running a Lotus single-seater at Formula 1 level.

Colin Chapman, meanwhile, considered that he hadn’t yet tackled a Formula 1 car design – other than his sub-contract job, which had produced the 1958 Constructors’ World title-winning Vanwall for Tony Vandervell’s magnificent team. Colin always maintained that his front-engined Lotus single-seaters were only ever Formula 2 cars with F1 engines installed up front, so they didn’t count.

In his own mind his first Lotus Formula 1 design was the box-bodied, rear-engined Type 18 introduced with tremendous success for 1960. Type 18 variants were tailored to Formula Junior, Formula 2 and Formula 1 with ever-more sophisticated multi-tubular chassis structures, relevant engines and fuel tankage to match each class.

Jim Clark's winning Formula Junior Lotus-Ford Type 18 at Goodwood, 1960

Jim Clark’s winning Formula Junior Lotus-Ford Type 18 at Goodwood, 1960

Innes led Team Lotus that year, and defeated Moss’s Rob Walker Coopers twice at the Easter Monday meeting – winning both Formula 2 and Formula 1 races to Stirl’s dismay. He promptly told entrant Rob that to beat Ireland he needed another Lotus 18, and in time for the Monaco GP World Championship race one was delivered, and Moss won with it. At more minor level John Surtees shone in his private Formula 2 version, and Jim Clark began to make his name in Team Lotus’s Formula Junior model – not least right here at Goodwood.

Into 1961 sleek bodywork replaced the original 18-box style on further developed low-line chassis, and the new Lotus 21 F1 car and the Type 20 Formula Junior made their marks. Several Formula 1 teams with existing Type 18s uprated their cars with the latest Type 21 suspensions and more sleek bodywork. Into 1962 the UDT-Laystall Racing Team ran a Rob Walker-owned 18/21 with new Coventry Climax V8 engine installed, for Moss to drive at Goodwood on Easter Monday. And it’s that car in which Stirling suffered his career-ending accident on the approach to St Mary’s ess-bend.

Stirling Moss in the Walker-owned, UDT-Laystall-entered Lotus-Climax 18/21 V8 special just before his career-ending crash, Easter Monday 1962

Stirling Moss in the Walker-owned, UDT-Laystall-entered Lotus-Climax 18/21 V8 special just before his career-ending crash, Easter Monday 1962

Much more happily, the Type 21 gave way to two alternative Lotus designs for the World Championship season of ’62 – the spaceframe-chassised Type 24 with V8 engine by Climax or BRM, and the monocoque-chassised works Type 25.

The later, of course, became a trend-setting design legend over the following four seasons, together with its immediate descendant – the Lotus Type 33. Both were and still are the most gorgeous – Swiss-watch-intricate – breathtakingly well-packaged Grand Prix cars to have emerged from the 1½-litre Formula 1 era, and they carried Jimmy Clark to his two Drivers’ World Championship titles of 1963 and ’65, accompanied by Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship wins for Team Lotus and Coventry Climax themselves.

Team Lotus No 2 driver Peter Arundell in the Lotus-Climax 25, Easter Monday 1964

Team Lotus No 2 driver Peter Arundell in the Lotus-Climax 25, Easter Monday 1964

These lovely Lotuses in fact outlived the Goodwood Motor Circuit during its original front-line life, and their abiding quality has been more than underlined in recent years by Andy Middlehurst’s continuing run of success with John Bowers’ Historic Team Lotus-prepared car over the past four years – often hard-pressed by Nick Fennel’s sister car run by the same stable.

What was it Roy Salvadori said about Goodwood on a summer’s day? Give me the Goodwood Glover Trophy race being led by an apple-green Lotus-Climax V8 with centerline yellow stripe and it takes me straight back to the images seared into my mind – and recorded upon our celluloid film strips – way back when… Evocative, or what?

Images courtesy of The GP Library

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