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Lot 254: Lotus-Ford Type 27 Racing single-Seater

Goodwood Festival of Speed, Bonhams (29 June 2012)

At the Dutch Grand Prix of 1962 Colin Chapman and Team Lotus introduced their stunningly beautiful, stressed-skin chassised Lotus Type 25 upon an unsuspecting Formula 1 world. Colin had long agonized over the problem of installing and protecting aluminium fuel tanks within a multi-tubular spaceframe chassis. His fertile mind had been drawn to the match-stick man backbone chassis structure for his forthcoming Lotus Elan production sports car. Now he considered ways of adapting such a structure, with such elegant load-bearing and twist-resisting potential, to a single-seater racing car.

In planning lunches at a local restaurant close to his Lotus factory in Delamare Road, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, he literally sketched upon a table napkin his original scheme to apply a backbone chassis to a single-seater racing car.

He told Doug Nye  for many years now Bonhams' senior competition car consultant  "I thought, 'Why not space the sides of the backbone far enough apart for the driver to sit between them? We'd had years of trouble with wrapping aluminium fuel tanks around tubular spaceframes and trying to stop them chafing through. So if we made the sides of the backbone as box sections we could carry fuelinside them in rubber was the first monocoque racing car so far as I was concerned. I'd never seen one before, and we didn't know if it would work. The spaceframe was a known quantity and so we sold it to our customers'" (as the Lotus Type 24). "We couldn't be expected to sell them a revolutionary car which might not work at all, and might need a long and expensive development programme. At that time the monocoque  if that's what you want to call it  was really an unknown animal..."

The Lotus 25 Formula 1 debutante featured a 'bath-tub' chassis structure, open at the top where a detachable glassfibre body panel clipped into place, in which two longitudinal stressed-skin box members provided the fuel tank accommodation along each side. These pontoons were interlinked by a fabricated foot-box containing the driver's pedals, the dash panel frame and a bulkhead between cockpit and engine bay, the power unit being supported by rearward-extending monocoque horns on each side, with a final hoop cross-member encircling the gearbox at the tail.

The Lotus 25 went on in Jim Clark's hands to win the 1962 Belgian, British and United States Grands Prix, and in 1963 Clark and an improved Type 25 monocoque car utterly dominated the Formula1 World Championships. A spin-off monocoque-chassised Lotus shone in the Indianapolis 500-Miles and went on to win in the United States. Soon monocoque racing car construction would replace old tube-frame technology almost completely. And that same season of 1963 saw Lotus spin off its newly-developed monocoque technology into the minor formulae  producing this innovative and trend-setting landmark design - the originally Formula Junior Lotus Type 27.

The exceptional example we are now privileged to offer here is possibly the world'soldest surviving, still original-skinned, Lotus-made monocoque racing car.

The earliest Lotus Type 27s for 1100cc Formula Junior racing's swansong season of 1963 used a bath-tub type monocoque nacelle chassis visually reminiscent of the ground-breaking Type 25. But in fact its construction differed in that rolling the aluminium side panels for the Formula 1 car was an expensive and time-consuming business, making a similar Formula Junior production car too expensive to manufacture in quantity. Consequently the original Type 27 employed outer panels moulded in quarter-inch thick glass fibre, pop-riveted to flat interior panels of 18-gauge aluminium sheet. Fabricated steel brackets within this composite structure accepted suspension loads, while three main bulkheads provided torsional rigidity. The suspension showed its Type 25 heritage in that the front coil-spring/damper assemblies were tucked away inside the hull cross-section and were actuated by fabricated upper rocker arms. Wheels were cast magnesium to the classical Lotus 'wobbly-web' pattern, while the drive shafts employed Metalastic rubber doughnut joints as inboard joints to accommodate plunge.

This sleek little Junior was almost impossibly narrow, fully 5-inches slimmer than the preceding Junior Lotus 22.It was a sophisticated and advanced concept, yet the chassis cost only �65 more than the preceding multi-tubular design. Full 1100cc FJ Cosworth-Ford engine and Hewland Mark 4 transaxle were more expensive, however, and the asking price was �1,890 for what one magazine described at the time as being "...virtually a slightly reduced Grand Prix car". The report continued "If ever a car looked winner, this is it...".

Sadly, in its early outings the composite-chassised Lotus 27 was not a winner, due to inadequate rigidity. The glassfibre/aluminium structure worked on paper, not on the race track. The only solution was to roll aluminium side skins for the FJ monocoque, and that May at Silverstone works driver Peter Arundell drove the first all-aluminium Type 27. Through that summer the definitive alloy-skinned 27s then showed their class, Peter Arundell just beating Brabham driver Denny Hulme to the British FJ Championship title by one point.

While early all surviving Lotus 27s have been re-skinned either in period or during long subsequent active lives, this eerily 'time machine'- quality example offered here from the Glasius Collection has been preserved unused since 1965. Most significantly, as chassis serial '6' it was probably one of the first to have been built with all-aluminium skins from new. This enhances the likelihood of it being the oldest-surviving, unmolested Lotus monocoque today.

It was delivered new in 1963 to Fred Wilkinson, 10 Pengelly Close, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, England and is offered complete with his original Carnet de Passages documentation from the 1963 season, valid until June, 1964. The car's chassis number '27/JM/6 - its weight was 413kg - and its value was declared as �700.

Fred Wilkinson didn't have much luck with the car but seems to have persevered with it into 1964 when Formula Junior was replaced by 1-litre, single-choke (twin choke Weber half banked off) carbureted Formula 3 racing engine which the car retains today. The Carnet de Passages record the car being fitted with a 1-litre engine into that 1964 season, but when it broke a drive shaft doughnut joint at Zandvoort Mr Wilkinson sold it in the paddock there to second owner, Dutch racer Jan Deken.

Mr Deken's family made and sold trailers in the centre of Amsterdam, and also built a series of racing karts. Jan Deken was successful with this car in national events, but his exploits in it are recalled as having been sometimes controversial and after several black flag incidents "because he was too quick" he sold it.

The new owner was Hans Maasland, Alfa importer/dealer in Holland, based in Wassenaar, The Hague. Maasland repainted the car from Deken orange to British Racing Green with yellow nose and stripe. He then enjoyed considerable success in the car in a few national races before selling it in late 1965/early 1966  we understand in exchange for two new Toyotas - to prominent Dutch collector Evert Louwman for what became his Dutch National Motor Museum.

The car then remained within the Louwman Collection for many, many years, and throughout eight of which Olav Glasius attempted to negotiate its purchase from Mr Louwman. Now this remarkably unspoiled survivor  embodying trend-setting motor racing landmark technology in its most pureblood form - is as last raced in 1965, preserved ever since. We consider it to be the most original Lotus 27 in the world, and a racing car whose special historical significance far surpasses its baseline stature as a potentially front-running Historic Formula Junior of great elegance and appeal.

Lot Details
Auction Goodwood Festival of Speed
Bonhams, Chichester, Goodwood,UK
Lot Number254
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£89000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£101180
Condition rating0
Registration number
Chassis number27/JM/6
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors