The Ex – Mecom, Zerex Special 1965 Lola T70 Spyder Mk1

The Ex – Mecom, Zerex Special 1965 Lola T70 Spyder Mk1

Established in 1958, Lola cars had an influential impact on the motor racing world from the minute they burst onto the scene with the stunning Lola Mk1. The company remained at the forefront of racing car design and construction for over half a century and enjoyed remarkable success with single-seaters as well as in Sports and GT racing.

Founded and masterminded by one of most renowned and regarded British race car designers Eric Broadley. Trained as an architect in the late 1940’s and like so many of his compatriots, he started out building and racing his own creations. Spurred on by the success of the Broadley Special he turned his attention to a new, more sophisticated venture.

In July 1958 the Lola MK1 made its debut and was an instant success, turning the sports car world on its head. Single seaters followed with the Formula Junior Mk2 and Mk3 in 1960 and 1961 and after only four years of being in business Lola took on the Formula 1 establishment with the Mk4 which proved to be very successful, becoming a regular at the front of the grid during 1962.

Soon came another sports racer with the Mk6 GT, a project of Broadley’s which combined the compact size and strong performance of a Ford V8 with an aluminium monocoque chassis. In 1963, after showing promise at Le Mans, Ford bought the project from Lola and tested the car further involving Broadley himself. This Mk6GT really laid the foundation for the GT40, a car which became a legend of sports car racing worldwide.

Broadley’s work with Ford had come to an end during 1964, and now back to focus on Lola he designed some Formula 2 cars before creating a new challenger for the Group 7 regulations, the T70. With Group 7 becoming a popular grid both in Europe and America, Broadley incorporated an American V8 engine as with the Mk6 GT that went before.

The chassis was a full length aluminium monocoque using fabricated steel bulkheads with the engine being bolted to the firewall bulkhead as a semi-stressed member. The suspension was conventional, with unequal length wishbones and coil spring/damper units all round, though the positioning of the disc brakes inboard of the wheels was an unusual feature, adopted in the interests of better cooling. Hewland’s new LG500 gearbox was specified, this magnesium cased unit having been designed specifically for use with high output V8 engines. Closely fitting around this ensemble was one of the most beautiful bodies ever to grace a sports racing car, penned and produced by talented Jim Clark of Specialised Mouldings.

John Surtees was one of the first customers for the T70, running what in effect was a ‘semi-works’ team in 1965. Traco prepared Chevrolet V8s were used, a 5.0-litre unit at first and then from mid-season a 5.9. A Mk2 version of the T70 became available before the end of the ’65 season, Broadley, taking advantage of the forthcoming deletion of the ‘spare wheel’ requirement to redesign the nose, replacing the original twin radiators with a large single unit while incorporating a host of detail improvements to both chassis and suspension. The result was a car which, in prototype form, was driven to a convincing victory by Surtees in the Guards International Trophy at Brands Hatch on the August bank holiday weekend. The Lola T70 remained a popular choice for teams and privateers alike, among whom it was rated as the best handling car of its type.

SL70/13 was supplied new to John Mecom Racing of Texas, a team at the forefront of the American Sports Racing scene as a spare chassis in April 1965, and was built up in October of that same year in time for Walt Hansgen to race in the U.S. Professional Fall Series. Essentially a development car, the monocoque of SL70/13 was one inch shorter in wheelbase, with anti-dive rear suspension and a special Mecom designed long nose frame. Mounted to this nose frame was a single piece, longer and flatter nose which took the place of the standard split scuttle arrangement under the windscreen. With the scuttle no longer required, the sill covers were also removed leaving the bare sides of the monocoque visible and the doors were shortened, removing the step on the front part. Mecom originally fitted SL70/13 with a 4.7 litre Ford V8, as with their other chassis, mated to the Hewland LG500 transaxle.

The debut for SL70/13 was at the Monterey Grand Prix, held at Laguna Seca in October 1965. With Walt Hansgen at the wheel, SL70/13 flew, beating the Chaparrals of Jim Hall and Hap Sharp, along with the sister Mecom T70 of Parnelli Jones to take the win in Heat 1, Heat 2 and the win on aggregate of the Laguna Seca 200 Miles at an average of 97mph. SL70/13s win at Laguna Seca as part of the US Professional Fall Series was a significant one for Mecom and Hansgen, as the Chaparrals had been so dominant through 1965, rarely being beaten.

Next, was on to the LA Times Grand Prix at Riverside on the 31st October 1965 where Hansgen again drove SL70/13 in the Riverside 200 Miles. A bumper entry was present, with names like Clark, Hill, McLaren, Foyt, Revson, Andretti, Stewart and Amon all present, to name but a few. With the popularity of American Group 7 rapidly increasing, many of the European stars began making the trip Stateside to compete in what would shortly become Can-Am. Hansgen ran well in the Qualifying Race, taking 5th in the 20 lap sprint for over 2 litre cars, behind McLaren, Hall, Grant and Jones in the sister Mecom T70.

However before the LA Times GP itself on Sunday afternoon, water was found in the engine oil on SL70/13. Without time to remedy the issue, Hansgen started the race regardless. The Lola showed great pace away from the line, leading the first nine laps before, unsurprisingly for the team, the engine went offbeat and Hansgen pitted to retire from the race.

Two weeks later, the Mecom team went on to the Stardust Grand Prix in Las Vegas. Hansgen again piloted SL70/13 although the weekend ended in qualifying for SL70/13. After posting a time which put him 6th on the grid, Hansgen got offline and crashed the T70. Unable to repair the car in time for the races, Hansgen instead raced the spare ’T’ car, SL70/1A, which had blown its engine while being raced by Jackie Stewart at Riverside two weeks earlier. With the engine from SL70/13 intact and on top form, Mecom’s mechanics fitted it to SL70/1A. Hansgen again ran strongly, winning the qualifying heat before finishing 2nd in the 65 lap GP.

Following the Las Vegas meeting, Mecom put SL70/13 in storage, without engine. Remaining there until Mecom Racing began to cease its operations at the end of 1966, SL70/13 was then sold off to Chuck Haines of New Orleans. Over the subsequent years, Chuck’s race shop rebuilt and restored SL70/13 to be a complete car once again. Following the rebuild, SL70/13 was imported into the UK by Ian Webb of Northdown Racing and then sold to Nigel Hulme in 1980.

In 1981, Colin Parry Williams bought SL70/13 from Nigel Hulme, beginning a tenure which would last 22 years. Parry Williams raced SL70/13 in International Supersports through the ’80s and ‘90s with it also being raced from time to time by Peter Pendlebury. In 1997, Parry Williams had Clive Robinson Engineering restore SL70/13, fitting it with a Chevrolet V8. In 2003, SL70/13 was sold by Parry Williams to Richard Lloyd, who set about further researching the history of SL70/13 and made contact with John Mecom Jr who reiterated the provenance of SL70/13. In Lloyd’s ownership, SL70/13 was maintained by Mogsport and the engine work was undertaken by Kenny Coleman of EDA.

In February 2006, ownership passed from Lloyd to the current owner. An enthusiastic racer himself, looking to race SL70/13 across Europe, the current owner had historic racing specialists Simon Hadfield Motorsport look after the T70 for him. Over the winter of 2007, Simon Hadfield Motorsport undertook a full rebuild of SL70/13, with particular attention being paid to the condition of the monocoque and making sure that the T70 was the best that it could be. The full rebuild was completed in time for the Nurburgring Oldtimer GP in August 2008.

Granted an entry to the prestigious Goodwood Revival in 2008 for the Whitsun Trophy, the current owner asked Simon Hadfield if he would drive the freshly restored T70 at Goodwood. The rebuild showed its worth, Simon took pole before going on to take victory in the Whitsun Trophy.

Over the following years SL70/13 continued to be raced by the current owner at historic race meetings throughout Europe, always being maintained by Simon Hadfield Motorsport with no expense spared. The engine service work remained with EDA, and PDS Racing continued to maintain the Hewland LG500 gearbox. Crack detection of stressed components has been carried out as required, with it also receiving bearing, suspension and general winter rebuild at the same time. The Premier Fuel Systems fuel cells have also been maintained, with them always being re-certified or replaced as necessary. These were both replaced in March 2015, and are accompanied by their certificates valid until March 2020.

In the second half of 2015, Simon Hadfield Motorsport once again began a full rebuild of SL70/13. A thorough look was taken at of the monocoque and all components, ensuring the car was kept as competitive as possible. The monocoque was fully rebuilt, with no shortcuts or expense spared. Components were crack detected and corners rebuilt. The engine went back to EDA for a check up, having only a few miles on it at this point. The dyno sheets show the 5.9 litre engine producing 480lbft of torque at 5300rpm and 505.7hp at 5700rpm. The gearbox went to PDS Racing for a rebuild at the same time. SL70/13 also received new, lightweight body work which has been painted again in the correct, original colours of John Mecom Racing as it raced in 1965.

Upon completion on the thorough rebuild, SL70/13 was tested at Donington Park and made its race debut at the 75th Goodwood Members’ Meeting in March 2017 with Simon Hadfield at the wheel. Pole position was claimed in qualifying for the Surtees Trophy, with the fresh T70 running excellently and with great pace. In the race, SL70/13 dropped briefly to second from the start, but soon established itself in the lead before the end of the first lap and developed a gap before the race went under safety car due to an incident on track. After the safety car period, SL70/13 was able to stretch its legs and crossed the line to take the victory with a comfortable gap, having led every lap. SL70/13 topped the time sheets and also the speed trap rankings, clocking up 164.0mph on the back straight.

Today, SL70/13 is exactly as it crossed the finish line to win the Surtees Trophy at the 75th Members’ Meeting in March 2017. Accompanied by its history file, 2015 FIA HTPs, and extensive spares package including painted spare nose in a tailored padded bag, SL70/13 is ready for a new owner to continue the history of this fabulous sports racer. With a wide variety of series in which to race across the world, including Goodwood, Masters’ FIA Historic Sports Car Championship, Peter Auto’s Classic Endurance Racing, Pre ’80 Endurance, and V de V in Europe. Benefitting from little use since being rebuilt in 2015/6, SL70/13 offers a great opportunity to own and race a beautiful, hugely capable and historically significant sports racing car from the golden era of Can-Am.