Symbolic Motors in La Jolla, CA is offering this extremely photogenic Lotus 51A. Originally a Formula Ford, this monoposto racer has been uprated to dual overhead cam Cosworth powered Formula 2. There are dozens of wonderful photos of this slippery Lotus in various stages of undress.
Sitting in its bare form, you start to see how deceptively simple these cars really looked. When you see a sixties formula car without the body panels, you get a flash of what it must have been like to set out to join in the fray of Formula racing. What would be the absolute folly today to start building a formula car was once an attainable goal for a small group of dedicated gearheads.
Naturally, this is all radically understating the sophistication that lies within these steel and aluminum chassis members. But that’s the appeal, isn’t it? You can look at these chassis and think to yourself, “I could build that.” I say this not to belittle the tremendous effort that these small racecar manufacturers put into their cars, but to celebrate the spark of creativity, hope, and courage that makes us as laymen think it’s within our reach. This might be the single biggest heartbreak of modern racing, that it’s become so technical that you may as well try to build a space shuttle at home.
So drink in the pure joy of this humble tubular frame. And maybe pick up a welder.
I’m a bit late in telling you about the 10,000-strong group of spectators that lined the streets of Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, UK on October 12th for a parade celebrating 50 years of Lola Racing Cars. Lola found her roots in a 1957 Special built and raced by cousins Eric and Graham Broadley. The 1172cc Ford powered open wheeler raced in England’s “Ford Ten Special” class, where it was a quick success. They immediately started on a second sports car to compete with a Climax engine. Before long, the Lola Cars organization was started in earnest in a small workshop down the road from Cooper and Brabham.
Lola followed a few steady years of MK1 sports car production with their first foray in to single-seaters, starting with a front engined formula junior and quickly transitioning into rear-engined formula 3s. All these years later, Lola participates in nearly every branch of motorsport: From sports racing cars to the US’s CART championship, to endurance racing. Through all of these developments, Lola has a remarkable tradition of maintaining their lineage, with strong support for vintage Lola cars. You can order a brand new continuation of the iconic T70 prototype racer.
Congratulations of 50 years, Lola.
Thanks to Flickr users Jason and Ian (Madie) for letting us experience this event alongside them. I think that’s a T61 Formula 2 car up top from Jason’s photo stream.
Let’s take another long-overdue listen to the fantastic Exciting Racing Sounds of Grand Prix album. This time our host, Phil Hill, takes us on an audio tour of the Spa circuit. You’ll remember that this album was created as part of the research process for John Frankenheimer’s 1966 film Grand Prix. Ah—magic.
This cut from the LP takes off where Monaco left off and demonstrates the contrasts between the tight, narrow street circuit of Monte Carlo and the open expanses of the high-speed Spa circuit. Phil points out that the drivers spend an awful lot of their time in Belgium in top gear. The engine screams in this cut seem to indicate the truth in that. We’ll hear massive whines from BRM, Cooper-Maserati, Ferrari, Brabham, and McLaren-Ford; and none of them sound like they’re just poking through the frequently-wet countryside.
We also take the Burnenville Corner with Jochen Rindt in his Cooper-Maserati. You’ll hear that there’s not a whole lot of shifting happening here as the corner is a sweeping high-speed expanse. Rindt finished 11th at Spa that year, but 4th in the Drivers’ Championship for the year. 1965 was also the year he won Le Mans as part of the N.A.R.T. team in a Ferrari 250LM.
Hear the complete archive of cuts from this tremendous album.
In May of 1959 Steve McQueen drove his little ’58 Porsche Speedster 1600 Super up to Santa Barbara to compete in his first race. Now we tend to merge the legend of McQueen as an actor with his racing exploits. But that had to start somewhere; and it started in the E-Group Production Class at the airport. Starting from the middle of the pack, he leapt up several positions on the first lap, and by the fourth was in the lead. Amazingly, he won the first race he competed in; cementing the reputation that would define him among racing fans long after his death.
This weekend, Bonhams will offer lot 177 at their annual Petersen Auction. The pewter goblet that served as his trophy for that first race. I’m sure this little tankard was filled and refilled as it was passed around many times the table at wherever Steve celebrated that night.
Steve sold the Speedster that he won that event with, returning to Santa Barbara later that year in a Lotus XI. He finally bought back the Speedster in 1974. Chad McQueen still owns it.
There’s a brief writeup of the race on this McQueen site, and here’s a photo of the Porsche Speedster from the “Friends of McQueen” car show held earlier this year.
This lovely piece of McQueen history SOLD for $6,600. Sounds like a lot of loot for a pewter goblet. “Well bought”, I say.
The Porsche 904 once owned by renowned collector/museum curator/tycoon/lucky bastard Yoshibo Matsuda is currently among the cars for sale by German dealer Jan Lühn. Ordinarily the non-racing owner of a car doesn’t improve it’s provenance terribly, but Mr. Matsuda is no ordinary car collector. In the 1970s and 80s, Matsuda started pickup up exotic Porsches: the first Porsche to win outright at LeMans (a 917), a 910 Spyder, a 550 Spyder, an RSK Spyder, a 906, 908. The guy’s collection was no joke. So fantastic was it, that he opened a historic Porsche museum in Tokyo. After several years, Mr. Matsuda decided to shake things up and sold off the bulk of his collection and replaced them with historically significant Ferraris and hung a new sign on the door of his museum. I understand that he’s now sold off the Ferraris as well.
But getting back to Porsche 904-092. The car was originally delivered in 1964 to gentleman F1 driver, Count Carel de Beaufort. This 904 was his third—he also owned 904-019 (which he raced at Sebring), and 904-072 (which was crashed by his friend Gerard van Lennep).
The Count only owned 904-092 for a short time before selling it to England, where it was raced by Patrick Godfrey and Alain DeCadenet. After a short time in the states, Matsuda picked up the car in the late 70’s.
Such was Mr. Matsuda’s love for the 904, that he wrote an absolutely marvelous book on the history, development, and current whereabouts of the remaining 904s. I spent several years trying to track down a copy of “Porsche 904 GTS Great Cars of Great Collections Volume 3”, with little luck. I finally tracked down a copy at online bookseller T.E. Warth Autobooks, but $180 seemed a bit steep. Ultimately I was able to order a copy from the publisher at cover price. Go order a copy right now, it’s an amazing book – and the price is fantastic when compared to the odd prices it’s fetching in the secondary market.
Mr. Matsuda sold the car at RM’s Monterrey Auction in 2000—for the now astonishingly low price of $264,000. (Is it wrong for me to hope that the current financial market causes classic car prices to tank and once again become attainable?). After that sale, however, the story becomes even more interesting. The Floridian buyer repainted the car to its original Silver color and shortly thereafter sold the car to a man in Germany. Incredibly, the German tracked down the car’s original twin-cam 4 cylinder Koenigswellen engine, which had been spending some time as a decorative piece in a retired Porsche engineer’s home. Now that is an art piece I’d love to have in my living room.
So now, impeccably maintained and newly reunited with her original engine after 25 years apart, Porsche 904-092 is available. Jan Lühn doesn’t list a price, but I’m sure they’ll be receptive to an offer of the $264,000 that this car fetched in 2000. Sure they will.