Lot 236: 1968 Lotus 51 Formula Ford
There are few more ‘classic’ Formula Fords than the Lotus 51, one of the Formula’s first purpose-built designs and derived directly from the car that started it all. Held at Brands Hatch on the 2nd July 1967, the very first Formula Ford race was effectively a match race between the Jim Russell Racing Driver School and Motor Racing Stables. It was the latter’s MD, Geoffrey Clarke, who had come up with the idea of using a mildly tuned and relatively inexpensive Ford Cortina GT engine to power a novice-class, single-seat racing car. Clarke used a Lotus 31 Formula 3 chassis for the prototype, and following discussions with Motor Circuit Development’s John Webb and Ford’s Henry Taylor, the details of a new low-cost race series were agreed. Ford, ever mindful of the publicity value, allowed its name to be used for the formula. To keep costs down, the specification was basic: a spaceframe chassis, Cortina GT 1,500cc (later 1,600cc) engine, four-speed transaxle and 5½” rims shod (initially) with road tyres. Lotus was one of the first major manufacturers of racing cars to embrace the new formula; the Type 31 Formula 3 chassis was used to build the first batch of cars but the Norfolk firm soon produced the Type 51 specifically for the series. Formula Ford remains as popular today as it ever was, providing all the thrills and excitement of close, open-wheel racing for those operating on a restricted budget. One of the prettiest of all Formula Fords, the Lotus 51 is eligible for racing in Classic Formula Ford Class A (pre-’74) for which the major UK championship is organised by the BARC, while the HSCC caters for original cars built prior to 1971. This Lotus 51 Formula Ford was sold new to North America and raced there by - presumably among others - Canadian, John Lindsay while subsequent owners listed on the accompanying FIA papers are Kelvin Jones (1990/91), Roger Hurst (1991), Dr Willi Beer (1992/93) and Peter Denty (1994). Fitted with 1,600cc Scholar engine number ‘431’, the car was restored in 1994 and acquired by the current owner 8-9 years ago. He advises us that he has raced it only once – at Brands Hatch 4-5 years ago.
Bonhams, Chichester, Sussex
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