1957 Lotus Eleven Series 2 Le Mans

Raced from 1958 and in the current ownership for 45 years

1957 Lotus Eleven Series 2 Le Mans

To many, the 1950s saw sports car 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 1950s, 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; which were all derived in some way from the earlier Mark 6. It wasn’t until the arrival of the iconic Lotus Eleven in 1956 that he truly stamped his mark on the racing world.

During its production from 1956 through to early 1959 the Lotus Eleven 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 11 was a success from the start. With its lightweight multi-tubular space-frame chassis, stiffened by riveted stressed aluminium panels, it optimised all of Chapman’s ethos for design – a lightweight chassis coupled with the latest in aerodynamic theory, engine, suspension and brake technologies. The frame alone weighed just 70lbs. Mostly powered by either the Coventry Climax 1,098cc FWA or 1,500cc FWB, they had an impressive power to weight ratio. 

The small sports racer was braked by the latest in Girling disc callipers on the front and clothed in a sleek aluminium streamline body designed by aerodynamic consultant Frank Costin. The Eleven was available in the three different guises. The base model was the ‘Sports’, which was had a drum braked live rear axle with a Ford 10 engine. Next up was the ‘Club’, with the same rear axle set up as the Sports but with Climax engine, and the top of the line was the ‘Le Mans’ featuring a De Dion disc braked rear end.

In 1957 after around 150 cars had been produced, Lotus revised some details on the Eleven in the Series 2 model. The main difference, which was usually only on the Le Mans versions, was the front suspension which became double wishbone, as on the new Lotus 12 Formula 2 car, versus the earlier Ford 93E derived swing axle layout. Other revised details on the Series 2 included chassis improvements, a stronger drivetrain and the ability to accept larger engines. 

Chassis 313, this car

Chassis 313, this car, was started by the works on 25th November 1957 with work being completed on the 7th December. As an early Series 2, 313 was specified as a Le Mans from the factory with Coventry Climax FWA number 7206, A30 close ratio gearbox and magnesium wobbly web wheels. Finished in blue, 313 was registered BSW 775 and sold to Jack Slater of Dumfries, Scotland. 

Slater had begun racing Lotus Elevens in 1956 with Irish Lotus Agent Malcolm Templeton, and 313 was destined to join the racing circuit very early on. After having the road registration granted on the 29th January 1958, 313 raced at Oulton Park for the British Empire Trophy with F. Atkins at the wheel. Slater then raced 313 himself on many occasions though 1958 and 1959, with best result of 1st at Charterhall. J McDonald also raced 313 at Kirkistown in 1959, where it is believe that he won. 

In 1960, 313 was bought by Phil Barak of Whitley Bay, England. Barak continued 313’s racing ways, often around the north of England in 1960, before travelling to Mallory Park, Silverstone and Brands Hatch in 1961. In late 1961, Barak advertised 313 for sale and described it as having completed 19 events and 11 awards. 313 was then bought by Peter Cotterill in 1962. He kept the car for two years until it was bought by Arthur Howarth of Liverpool in March 1964. 

Now painted red, 313 was raced by Howarth at Croft in 4 hour endurance events and was also driven by David Taylor and Joe Applegarth during 1964. In 1965, Derek Arnott of Middlesborough bought 313 before proceeding to campaign the car himself at circuits in the north of England through to the end of 1967. 

Arnott sold 313 to Ollie Thatcher of the Southend Racing Partnership, who in turn sold it to Barry Adams of Kent in July 1968 for £180. Adams used 313 on the roads rather than track, and part exchanged the car towards a Lotus Elite with Alan Brownlee in 1972. At this point, FWA engine number 6895, ex-Lotus Eleven 250, was recorded as being fitted in 313, along with an original long range scuttle fuel tank.

In 1974, 313 was bought by the father of the current owner. Painted yellow initially with two seat bodywork set up and ZF gearbox, a garage in Old Kent Road, London was tasked with getting the car running and 313 was swiftly repainted black. Shortly after, in 1975, a full restoration including stripping it back to the bare chassis was begun by Bill Friend. Two chassis tubes were replaced, and Len Pritchard of Williams and Pritchard supplied a new under tray and inner panels, while he quoted to repair the front, scuttle, and rear sections of bodywork. To conclude the restoration, 313 was painted in Rolls Royce Regal Red.

With the work completed, 313 was registered with the father of the current owner in December 1976. 313 went to the Brighton Speed Trials in September 1979, taking 2nd in class, and raced at Donington in 1981. After an altercation in another race at Donington, repairs to the bodywork were undertaken by Williams & Pritchard. Following the repairs, the car was repainted in the Fiat Verdo Scuro that it still wears today. 

313 had a few years away from the racing circuit but participated in the Rallye du Bruxelles in 2000. The current owner had his first taste of racing with 313 in 2002, going on to race at Pau for the Grand Prix Historique in the same year. In 2004, his father took 313 over to Australia to race at Phillip Island, where he won the Spencer Flack Trophy.

Racing regularly with the HSCC and in the BRDC ‘50s Sportscar series, power was upgraded in 2007 with a 1500cc Coventry Climax FWB engine. This proved a successful change, and the current owner won his class in the 2007 BRDC ‘50s Sportscar Championship. At around this time, 313 was gone through by Andrew Tart Motor Engineers, who also set up the suspension. After an outing at the Ollon-Villars hillclimb in Switzerland in 2013, 313 has had another break from the competitive scene but has continued to be run up and used by the current owner. 

Retaining it’s original chassis, 313 is accompanied by the 1100cc Coventry Climax FWA engine number 6895, magnesium wobbly web wheels, pair of seats, and steering wheel. What’s more, 313 benefits from a wonderful history file which included the green ‘buff’ log book, a huge number of scrutineering tags dating back to 1959, correspondence, invoices for work done and 2008 FIA HTPs.

313 is a fine example of a true Lotus Eleven Series 2 Le Mans, which is no stranger to competition having been raced from 1958. With it’s original registration BSW 775 worn throughout it’s life, 313 has been in the current family ownership for 45 years during which time it has been cherished. Crucially eligible for the world renowned Mille Miglia, 313 can also race with the friendly yet competitive Motor Racing Legends Stirling Moss Trophy series, GT & Sports Car Cup, Masters Gentleman Drivers, Peter Auto Sixties Endurance and more. Now is the time for a new owner to step forward and continue the rich history of 313.