The Ex – Alan Stacey, Works 1959 Lotus 15
To many, the 1950s saw sportscar racing at its most pure, establishing and creating some of the most influential car manufacturers for the decades to follow. By the mid to late 1950’s the tides of sports car design were starting to turn and pave the way for things to come. As with Formula 1, smaller and lighter was the new direction. This coincided with the arrival of a handful of small English manufacturers who would go on to shape and influence the design of racing and sports cars for years to come.
At the forefront of this revolution was the legendary Colin Chapman and Lotus. Having made his mark with the Lotus 6 he set his sights on dominating the sports car racing scene. He would go on to hone his craft with the attractive Mark 8, 9 and 10. However, it wasn’t until the arrival of the iconic Lotus 11 in 1956 that he truly stamped his mark on the racing world. During its production form 1956 through 1958 the Lotus 11 became one of the most prolific racing cars of its time, dominating its class not only in the UK and Europe, but throughout the motor racing world. Such was its success that not only did it establish Colin Chapman and Lotus Engineering Co. Ltd. as a serious manufacturer of customer production competition cars, but it also allowed them to go on to repeatedly turn the Formula 1 and sports car racing world on their respective heads for the decades to come.
The Lotus 15 is undoubtably the ultimate front engined sportscar to emerge from Lotus’ dominant workshops. More modern and refined than its predecessor, the all concurring Lotus 11. At first glance they may seem to have been cut from the same mould, but the Lotus 15 was only 24 inches high with the driver sitting much closer to the ground and just forward of the rear wheels. The sleek aerodynamic body was designed by Colin Chapman in collaboration with Williams & Pritchard rather than Frank Costin, as of its predecessor. The full wrap-around Plexiglass windscreen was the same height as the rear decking.
The Lotus 15 did borrow technology from the 11, which was appropriate given the 11’s racing success and proven capabilities. The space frame chassis shows similarity in design, made out of lightweight 1.75-inch square and round steel tubing. The upper and lower wishbone front suspension was similar to the Lotus 11, while the rear suspension was the Chapman Strut designed with inboard disc brakes similar to the Lotus 16 Formula 1 car of the time.
Designed to accommodate a larger engine than its predecessor. For the purpose of lowering the centre of gravity, the Climax engine was tilted about 28 degrees from vertical in the Series 1 and 17 degrees from vertical on the Series 2 (due to engine lubrication problems on the early cars). A larger bonnet bulge with front air scoop was incorporated on the body, to clear the top of the engine. Powered by Coventry Climax’s 1.5, 2 and 2.5 litre FPF engines, they were initially driven through Lotus’ own designed ‘Queer Box’. After initial problems, Lotus entrusted the young and talented gearbox engineer, Keith Duckworth, to solve this problem. By the time the Series 3 was born in 1959, the Lotus transaxle had become more reliable, thanks to the Duckworth redesign, on its own dry sump lubrication system. So the Series 3 was offered with the Lotus ‘Queer Box’ transaxle for 1.5L FPF only, and BMC 4-speed or ZF 5-speed gearbox with a conventional differential for cars with a larger FPF.
This car, Chassis No. 621-3, has the benefit of a well known and well regarded history having been well preserved and raced most of its life. Recorded in the Lotus records as being built on the 29th of February 1959. 621-3 was destined to become Alan Stacey’s Works car. Also noted was its 2-litre Coventry Climax FPF engine, No. 1097 and its ZF S4-12 gearbox, thus making it one of only a small number of 15’s to carry the ZF 5 speed box.
According to the Lotus 15 registrar and historian Bill Colson, 621 was never painted – “perhaps because its sale was hoped for and money spent on paint could have been wasted if the customer happened to want another colour. The car was to remain with the Lotus team throughout the greater part of the 1959 home season and remained unpainted making it easy to identify in period photographs.”
621’s first outing is regarded as the BRDC Goodwood Easter International Meeting on the 30th March 1959 where Alan Stacey took a class win in the up to 2-litre class of the Sussex Trophy. Less than a month later Alan Stacey in 621 won the 20 lap race for 1,500cc sports cars at the British Empire Trophy meeting at Oulton Park on the 11th of April.
Stacey and 621 out again a week later at the BRDC Aintree International 200 Meeting on the 18th of April, as seen above. For the BRDC International Trophy Meeting at Silverstone, Stacey was entered in the 75 mile race for sports cars up to 3-litres. Initially entered as a 1.5-litre, by the time the race came 621 had acquired the 2-litre engine from Hill’s car that had been uprated to 2.5-litres. Sadly Stacey retired in the race but there was plenty more glory to come.
According to Bill Colson although only one Lotus 15 raced at Le Mans, some authors suggest that two cars were taken to the event and even that two cars were entered and he believes it is possible that 621 was prepared as a second entry or spare car.
Alan Stacey and 621 were out again for Team Lotus on July the 12th at the 7th Grand Prix Rouen-les-Essats in Rouen. In a 299kms sports car race Stacey was 2nd behind Stirling Moss in the new Maserati Type 60 ‘Birdcage’ and ahead of Innes Ireland in another Lotus 15.
Some time in 1959, 621 was purchased from the Works by New Zealander George Palmer for his son Jim to race. Offered a new 1.5-litre Lotus 15 or this ‘slightly used’ 2-litre example, he opted for the latter and 621 was shipped to new Zealand along with Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15, Chassis 626-3 (the 1959 Le Mans car -bound for Australia), where it continued its illustrious racing career.
Jim Palmer was one of New Zealand’s most successful drivers during the height of open wheeler racing in New Zealand. In the 1960s Palmer raced Formula Junior as well as the highly competitive Tasman Series and won four Gold Star championships.
Palmer drove 621 to 4th in the 1959 Gold Star Championship, with two wins at Wigram and a win at Levin. He also drove 621 to an impressive 7th in the 1960 New Zealand Grand Prix, in the company of Moss, Mclaren and Brabham all in 2.5-litre Cooper Grand Prix cars.
621 was sold in 1960 to fellow South Island resident Allan E. Moffat. He went on to race the car with success until 1963, taking 5th in the 1961 Gold Star and 2nd in the 1962-63 NZRDC Championship. In 1963 ownership passed on to Barry Porter of Timaru. A farmer and talented driver he won the Sports Car championship in 621 in both 1964 (jointly) and 1965; including wins in the Wharton Trophy and NZRDC Championship at Wigram. He also put his and 621’s name in the record books with a flying quarter mile dash of 145mph at the ACC’s Longbeach Road Sprint Meeting.
The 1965/66 season continued with the same success until an encounter with the Stanton Special at Waimate caused 621 to end its race in a butchers shop window. Porter took the car home and set about repairing the damage. A June 1967 issue of Motorman reports John Armstrong of Armstrong’s Auto Maintenance Dunedin as acquiring 621. New Zealand registration records of November 1967 also confirm the fact. Armstrong finished repairing 621 and painted it green with a yellow stripe, also painting the wheels yellow.
Armstrong went on to continue racing 621 with success for the next three seasons, taking 4th in the sports car category of the 1967/68 NZRDC Championship. On top of that he also entered hill climbs on both road and gravel and for added pleasure often drove 621 to and from events on the road. Armstrong is quoted as having fond memories with 621. One such being of Jim Clark sitting in 621 at Teretonga, chatting of his experiences while Armstrong worked away on the car. He eventually traded 621 with Randell Howe for a Fiat 850 Coupé and a Hitman Minx. New Zealand records have 621 as being registered to Howe on February the 18th 1971.
From Howe 621 was sold to Tracy Gough of Christchurch for NZ$2100. In early 2000 621 was reimported to England, now in the ownership of respected historic racer and collector Spencer Flack. Entrusted to Hall and Fowler to undertake its restoration. There is a letter in the history file dated the 15th of July 2000 from Lotus 15 registrar Bill Colson confirming that shortly after importation he inspected 621 at Hall and Fowler and viewed the “original chassis, number 621, its correctly-associated and original running gear – FPF engine no. 1097, ZF S4-12 transmission unit and Elite-pattern final drive, together with the original bodywork and accessories.” On the 18th of May 2000 the chassis was sent to Mr. Colson for repair and restoration. Keeping as close to the original configuration under the specific request from Mr. Flack. The original FPF engine was rebuilt by Tony Mantel, a new set of wheels were supplied by Crosthwaite and Gardiner and a new correct 18 gauge aluminium body was built, keeping the original body aside of posterity.
Upon completion of the restoration Mr. Flack went on to race 621 throughout Europe at various events including the BRDC’s 50s Sports Car Championships. Upon his untimely death 621 was sold to fellow historic racer Simon Llewellyn in 2003. He continued to race 621 in the BRDC 50’s Sports Car Championship until it was purchased by its current owner in 2007.
The current owner had 621 completely overhauled and race prepared by Mark Lewis and it was a front runner straight out of the box. With numerous wins over the following years in the Stirling Moss Trophy – with wins at Silverstone Classic and Portomao, as well as championship wins in its class in 2009, 2010 and 2011. A winner in the GT and Sportscar Cup, 621 has also returned to Goodwood with a 2nd in the Madgwick Cup in 2010 and an impressive 5th overall in the ‘Big Engined’ Sussex Trophy race in 2014. 621 has also raced at Le Mans on a couple of occasions over the recent years with a 5th overall against much larger engined opposition in the 2009 support race to the main event and more importantly, taking 2nd overall in the hard fought Plateau 3 at Peter Auto’s Le Mans Classic in 2008.
Beautifully presented throughout, 621 has been meticulously maintained and prepared by a man well know for his utmost attention to detail, Mark Lewis. The car has been stripped and completely overhauled at the end of every season with the engine being sent off to Ray Buckly to be refreshed. The engine was refreshed at the end of the 2014 season and due to a back injury and other racing commitments the car remains fresh having has seen no use since then.
A highly desirable and competitive entry to so much racing, whether the Stirling Moss Trophy, VSCC, GTSCC, Goodwood or next years prestigious Le Mans Classic. Accompanied by an extensive history file, FIA papers old and new, road registration documents, FIVA passport, VSCC Buff form and its original body. This is an incredibly rare opportunity to acquire such an original and well regarded Ex-Works Lotus and an absolute proven front running ’50s Sports Car.