GRR

£2M could buy you a piece of Indycar history

03rd August 2017
Bob Murray

Calling all Indycar fans… one of the Brickyard’s most significant cars – and key player in Britain’s successful challenge on America’s greatest race – is coming up for sale in the US in August. 

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The 1964 Lotus Type 34 – amazingly, still in private hands rather than in a museum – ticks all the boxes, and more, for lovers of Indy racing, A J Foyt, Jim Clark, Dan Gurney as well of course as Colin Chapman and Lotus. The colourful single-seater's connections with them all gives it a unique place in motorsport history.

It is Lotus 34 chassis number two – and no, it didn’t win the Indianapolis 500. But it did take pole at the Brickyard in 1965 with A J Foyt driving, setting an Indy qualifying record at 161.233 mph. 

That year Foyt (and Parnelli Jones) took the Lotus to five USAC championship race victories, securing pole a remarkable 10 times in 18 races. Chassis number two in Bonhams' Quail Lodge Auction is the most successful of all the Lotus Indycars. 

The Lotus 34 played a pivotal role in the rear-engined revolution of Indy racing in the early ’60s, as engineered by Dan Gurney and Colin Chapman. F1 pilot Gurney convinced Chapman that it was time for some F1-style Lotus ingenuity to take on the front-engined American cars at Indianapolis, and together they convinced Ford to provide the V8 power to do it. 

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First up in 1963 was the Lotus-Ford 29 which Jim Clark drove to second place in that year’s Indy 500. A year later both Gurney and Clark drove the car for sale in practice at the Brickyard, but Clark went on to put 34 (chassis number one) on pole – becoming the first rear-engine car ever to qualify at the front of the Indy 500 grid. 

Things got even better in 1965. Foyt, on pole in the sale car, lined up alongside Parnelli Jones and Jim Clark in new Lotus Type 38s. Clark promptly stormed to one of the most convincing victories in Indianapolis history, rewriting the Indy 500 record books (first win for a rear-engine car, highest average speed, first foreign driver since 1916) in the process. 

The Lotus 34’s role in the rear-engine revolution at the Indy 500 was assured. Chassis number two, by now owned by A J Foyt, ended its racing career with a third place in 1966 whereupon the Indycar legend put it into storage until he sold it in his famous “garage sale” in 1992.  

The four-times Indy 500 winner obviously had a soft spot for the Lotus despite initially confiding that he had never been more frightened in a race car.

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Bonhams says that because of its prompt retirement from racing the car is remarkably complete. Today it is fresh from restoration by Race Car Restorations in Indianapolis, with mechanicals – 4.2-litre overhead-cam Ford small-block V8, 425bhp at 7800rpm, two-speed ZF ‘box, all disc brakes and all independent suspension – just as they were when it first raced. Ditto, its Indy livery. Recently the car has been on show as part of an A J Foyt retrospective at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

What price the most successful of all the Lotus Indycars? Bonhams is keeping the presale estimate private for now, though with its billing as the most significant A J Foyt car in private hands – as well as a car that would be welcome at any of the world’s historic motorsport events – you can make your own guess…

One thing for sure, wouldn’t it be good if one day it could be reacquainted with Goodwood’s own bit of the old Brickyard – the bricks laid into the start line of the Festival of Speed Hillclimb!  

The Lotus is just one of a truly spectacular line-up of cars at Bonhams’ 20th annual Quail Lodge Auction on August 18th, part of Monterey Collectors’ Car Week in Carmel, California. 

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