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 Eleven 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 utilised the latest in Girling AR disc brakes and was 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 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 in board disc braked rear end.
Further to the standard Elevens, Lotus created what was to be the ultimate Lotus Elven, the LM150. Derived from the ‘Le Mans’ series but carrying the latest Formula 2 spec twin-cam Coventry Climax FPF engine mated up against a more substantial than usual MG A gearbox. This was probably to help withstand the roughly 30% power increase over the FWB engine. The LM150 carried a distinctive bulge in the bonnet to accommodate the twin-cam FPF engine. Incredibly rare only three chassis numbers were produced by the factory, 305, 322 and 332. However, as you will read to follow, two of those chassis numbers were most likely located to the same car, this car.
This car 322/332
322 was the second of the three LM150 chassis numbers allocated by Lotus and featured the new F2 1500cc twin o.h.c FPF Coventry Climax Engine. The first being 305 with engine 1005 for John Coombs. 322 was listed in Lotus build records as, “ ‘Special’ 57 Le Mans. Engine number 1017. 1500 FPF/MG A. 3.2 De Dion ‘Special’. Date started 30/05/57, Completed 17/06/57”. This means that 322 was supposedly completed only five days before the 1957 Le Mans 24 Hours. However 322 is listed to have been used at Spa on 12th of May 1957, so it may well have been that this car was also used sooner.
Another potential first outing for 322 could have been Easter Monday at Goodwood in the Chichester Cup. This race was for sports cars up to 1500cc. Colin Chapman raced the only 1475cc engined Lotus Eleven. Carrying the Team Lotus trade registration of “007MH”, from photos, one can clearly see a bulge in the unpainted bonnet to clear the twin cam engine. According to Lotus historian Graham Capel this bonnet was reportedly borrowed from the Coombs car 305 which they had opted not to run on this occasion sticking with their existing Eleven seen here in close pursuit.
The first noted race for chassis 322 was at Grand Prix de Spa on 12th of May 1957. This was an event for sportscar, GT and touring-cars. The meeting was the inaugural event of the season at Spa-Francorchamps, after the track was renewed with 13 new broadened bends and a new surfacing. Although a non-championship race featured at the front were still both Works Aston Martin DBR1’s and the pair of Ecurie Ecosse Jaguar D-Types. 322 driven by Mackay-Fraser crossed the line in 7th place overall, ahead of the whitehead pairings in their Aston Martin DB3s and, Ninian Sanderson in the Ecurie Ecosse D-Type Jaguar and, most importantly for Lotus and Mackay-Fraser, 1st in the 1.5-litre class, ahead of both Works Porsches.
322 was entered Le Mans 24 Hours on 23rd of June 1957, to be driven by the Americans Jay Chamberlain and Herbert Mackay-Fraser. Fitted with a 1475cc Coventry Climax FPF engine. Entered in a ‘single seater specification’ – with sloping screen, high tail section and a larger, central filled fuel tank which would be changed to twin tanks later on in its life.
Unfortunately due to a dropped valve in practice whilst Colin Chapman was driving the car, and with no replacement engines on hand, 322 was not able to start the race. Never the less, they gave Porsche and Maglioli-Barth’s 718 RSK a scare after the Lotus completed a lap time of 4m 25.2s. This was 5 seconds faster than the Porsche in practice.
With 322 out of action Mackay-Fraser and Chamberlain, went on to race in DEC 494 and went on to finish 9th overall and won the 1100cc class with an average speed of 99.09mph for the entire 24hrs.
Chapter VII of Time and Two seats says this about 322: ‘ During Practice there was also a twin cam climax 1460cc Lotus Eleven which Mackay-Fraser was turning in times which worried Porsche . However, it dropped a valve and there was no replacement engines available’
On July 7th of 1957, Mackay-Fraser was entered into the 75 minute 1500cc Sports car race at Rouen. Along side 322 was the sister car, the Ecurie Ecosse blue Coombs car, 305. Also fitted with the FPF climax it was driven by Ron Flockhart.
With both drivers set to race in the afternoons Grand Prix both drivers were clearly fired up. Flockhart took an early lead in 305 whilst it is said that Mackay-Fraser struggled to release the handbrake on 322 which dropped him down the order behind his fellow Le Mans co-driver Chamberlain (Lotus), Bill First (Lotus) and Goestals (Porsche).
Having moved up to 2nd place after just a few laps, 322 was on the hunt for Flockhart in 305. Unfortunately after sliding into a grass bank it would be back down to 4th place. After attempting to regain all the lost positions Mackay-Fraser had to retire with a wheel hub fracture, we assume due to hitting the grass bank. However the sister car, 305 of Flockhart, won the race and reset a new lap record of Rouen, 3 seconds quicker than Chapman achieved in the 1500cc class the year before with the FWB engine.
The race the following weekend was at Reims, a high speed closed road circuit stretching across 5 miles. This was for the first edition of the Coupe Internationale de Vitesse, on Sunday, 14 July 1957. Mackay-Fraser was back in 322 for the F2 Race. The race attracted a healthy field of over twenty cars with a grid that consisted of a mix of closed and open wheel cars. Roy Salvadori was on pole in his Cooper Climax T43. The Lotus factory team included Cliff Allison in a Lotus 12, Colin Chapman entered in another 12, but not competing, and Mackay-Fraser in 322.
Trintignant and Salvadori got off to an early start battling it out in their the Cooper and Ferrari at the front. Next up was Jack Brabham and Tony Marsh in their Coopers with MacKay-Fraser followed not too far behind in 5th. Mackay-Fraser and 322 were doing well, with the sleek lines of the closed wheel Eleven giving it a good advantage down the long straights and slipstreaming. On 28th lap MacKay-Fraser and 322 were lapped by Trintignant. In an attempt to follow the leader of the race he considerably increased his speed and on lap 30 while attempting to close the gap with Marsh, MacKay-Fraser lost control of 322 on the straight after the first long bend, the Courbe du Calvaire, formerly known as Coube de Gueux. Leaving the road on the inside of the track, the car rolled several times, coming to rest upside-down in a field about 25 meters off the track. Sadly Mackay-Fraser was thrown from the car, immediately taken by helicopter to hospital but passed away upon arrival. This was the first fatality for Colin Chapman and Team Lotus.
Following the death of Mackay-Fraser, the entry for the British Grand Prix sports car race at Aintree on 20th of July was withdrawn.
Later in the year a Works FPF powered Lotus Eleven was back in action, which is most likely to be chassis 332. This was driven by Cliff Allison at Silverstone on the 14th of September, for the 9th Annual International Daily Express Trophy Meeting.
Allison qualified 2nd behind Ron Flockhart in the other Coombs entered FPF Climax powered Lotus Eleven 305 by only 1 second with a time of 1:53.600. According to the Motorsport report in period Allison in his twin-cam Lotus led the race from the start and ‘seemed to have the race buttoned, but dirt in the fuel caused him to stop.’
The third and final chassis number for an FPF powered Lotus Eleven was sold to Carroll Shelby. It is believed that he had been at Le Mans in June 1957 and despite Chapman not finishing he was clearly very impressed with the LM150’s performance and still placed his order. This was listed as chassis 332, a Series 3 Lotus Eleven. This would be the only S3 Lotus Eleven to leave Lotus, and did so with FPF 1017. This is the same engine that was fitted to Mackay-Fraser Lotus Eleven chassis 322 and also had the MG A gearbox, the same as 322. The only difference being 332 had an Austin A90 differential and 322 had a ‘De Dion special’ which for all we know could have also been an Austin A90 differential at this time.
332 is listed by Lotus to be completed on the 12th September 1957, just two days before Cliff Allison raced a Team Lotus FPF powered car at Silverstone on the 14th of September, for the 9th Annual International Daily Express Trophy Meeting (as mentioned above).
332 was shipped to Nassau and Jim Hall of Chaparral fame was to drive it for Carroll Shelby. Jim recalls it was not a new car when he received it in Nassau and was already painted in Team Lotus green.
Jay Sloane, US based Lotus registrar believes that Lotus often painted the cars they shipped out of England into the US, for the reasons that the aluminium bodywork was easier to paint in England than it would’ve been to re-polish once being received. There is a strong possibility, which UK Lotus Eleven registrar Vic Thomas strongly believes, that Chapman could have rebuilt 322, given the car a new identity and sent it out to the US.
This also fits in with a Jim Hall correspondence: “It appears from your letter dated May 5th 2006 that you may have acquired the lotus sports car that was shipped to Nassau for delivery to me , or possibly to Carroll Shelby Sports Inc.
The paint scheme you describe matches the car that I ran in 1958. I do not specifically remember the paint as received from Lotus , but I think it was probably green. I do not know the serial number of the car I drove, but I do remember from some conversation in the past that it may have competed at Le Mans It definitely arrived with a Twin cam Climax. The only engine failure I remember is a catastrophic one that occurred while being warmed up for a demonstration run for a prospective buyer. I did not sell that morning. I don’t remember who brought it, but it could have been Frank Harrison (now deceased) of Chattanooga, Tennessee.”
Hall went on to compete in the Eleven at his first event in Nassau on 6th of December 1957 for the 4th Annual International Bahamas Speed Week. In the Preliminary Governors Trophy for cars up to 2000cc he finished 4th, car number 66. This was a great result for his first outing. On the same day on the Governor’s Trophy he classified 37th running.
It is believed across this weekend he had an issue with a rear brake caliper failing. A few days later during the Nassau Memorial Trophy, the main event on the 8th, Hall classified 36th. It is known that he had to stop during the race due to something at the rear of the car feeling loose. This turned out to be a failure of the differential housing support mount or as Hall’s mechanic described it, “wrapped itself into a knot”. This may he been down to the use of the larger Austin A90 differential, as apposed to the usual A30 differential, having taken it’s toll.
From here 332 was taken back to Texas for repairs. Further strengthening was put in place to help support the larger differential. Extra air scoops were added to help cool the small British car in the scorching US heat. The car was then painted in the famous Shelby blue, with white flashes down the car and gold leaf numbers 66 pin striped in red.
Miami was next for the first annual Orange Bowl sports car races on the 11th and 12th of January 1958. Again carrying
Jim Hall Phoenix 1958. the number 66, for the Preliminary race on the 11th Jim finished 4th against the bigger Corvettes, Maserati’s and Porsches 550’s. Sadly for the race on the following day he did not finish.
At the SCCA Regional Phoenix for up to 1500cc sports race cars for ‘Valley Of The Sun, Second running’ on the 2nd of March 1958 Jim carried number 166, but again did not finish. His final run in 332 would be at SCCA Regional 14th Palm Springs Road Race, held at the Desert Airport course for round 4 of the Pacific Coast Championship on 13th of April 1958. Despite hitting the right front corner of the car on a hay bail, he finished 5th behind two Porsche 550’s, Lance Reventlow’s Cooper Bobtail and Pete Lovely in the Sam Weiss entered Lotus Eleven. With plans for new projects on the horizon, Hall set about advertising 332 for sale.
After failing to sell the car to his good friend and fellow Chaparral driver Hap Sharp due to a “catastrophic engine failure” demonstrating the car, it was advertised in the August 1959 edition of Sports Car Magazine in the USA “Lotus 150 rolling chassis and Climax parts”. Eventually 332 was purchased by Frank Harrison, from Tennessee in 1960. Known for racing other sports racing cars, such as a Lotus Climax 19, he never appeared to have raced the car himself
A 2.0-litre Maserati 150s engine is believed to have been installed here by either Frank Harrison or the next owner, American trucker Ben G. O’Neal. He acquired the car in 1961, painted it white, with a larger Lister Knobbly style bonnet bulge added to the car (that remains in the body to this day).
Carrying race number 6 and running in the class E Modified (1600cc-2000cc), Ben O’Neal competed in a number of club events for the next year or so before being reputedly sold to someone down in Mississippi.
According to Lotus historian Graham Capel 332 was found still down in the Mississippi in the early 1980s having been left in a field abandoned with ‘for sale’ scratched into the rear. From here it caught the attention of a passing specialist dealer who imported cars during the mid 1980s and acquired the car from the widow of the then owner.
Upon collection the widower still hadn’t got around to finding the chassis plate by this point and the chassis plate was never retrieved; the widow had said it was perhaps misplaced in a draw or safe place when her husband was still around. The rest of the bodywork was retrieved from a local bodyshop having sat there for some time, in very much the same condition as the rest of the car. The car also came with two spare differentials and an original set of Lotus ‘wobbly web’ wheels, still wearing a very used ‘ bald’ set of Goodyear tyres which were still present when the car was purchased in 2006.
The dealer sold the car to a British ex-patriot working southern USA. Excited by the bonnet bulge, wobbly web wheels and previous history of having a 1.5-litre Coventry Climax engine, he was under the impression he was buying a Lotus 15. This is understandable with very few Lotus Elevens having this set up and plenty of Lotus 15’s making their way over to the US for racing. Little did he know he has something far rarer.
332 stayed out there for 3 to 4 years before making its way back to England in 1990. The shipping papers required an identification number and with no chassis plate present at this time it was stamped ‘0015’ on the cross chassis tube. The car remained as obtained, untouched from the plaines of Mississippi until the current owner purchased the car in 2006, with the intention of restoring the car back to its former glory and getting it back on track where it belonged.
Upon close inspection once collected in 2006, it was clear this car carried many unusual features and unique differences to the owners other Lotus Eleven. There was no sign of a passenger side exhaust outlet like on FWA powered cars, only one on the driver side of the car where also the drivers side pontoon had been platformed to allow for this. Also on the passenger side there were holes cut in the pontoon footwell bulkhead, with brackets present. These brackets were for holding up oil pipes which went to the rear of the car. With FPF powered cars having a rear mounted oil scavenge tank and the battery moved into a different position to allow for this, it would also explain the reason for the very heavily oil impregnated rear under tray and some what strange positioning of the battery tray.
In addition to the above, more exciting ‘Special’ features started to appear which pointed towards not only 332 but also 322. As stated before, 322 left the Lotus works installed with a Austin A90 differential and what was with the car was exactly that. The alloy BMC nosecone with a selection of different ratios as collected and found in the 1980’s. The magnesium casting, small oil reservoir and tin plate backing cover were all there. It even carried the small fabricated differential mount frame but with the addition of two forward facing tubes either side of the prop shaft tunnel, evidence of Jim Halls initial repairs after his first outing at Nassau where he experienced the breakage. There was also a pair of rear facing strengthening tubes.
The front top suspension links were tubular, fabricated much stronger and also heavier than the regular Lotus Eleven top links. Machined steel rear hubs were found present on the car when usually a Lotus Eleven would use a cast magnesium hub to suit the De Dion. The fabrication of the steel hubs were exceptional and fitted the axle with precision. The addition of steel fabricated hubs may well have been a result of the hub failure at Rouen in 1957.
Later engine bay modifications were present which confirms an engine change in its later life and a rear roll hoop stay had been added to the rear body mount, this was a similar fabrication style to that of the extra bracing Jim Hall did when repairing his rear axle. The bodywork that had been retrieved with this Lotus Eleven clearly proved this was the Jim Hall chassis 332. Areas of the white paintwork had flaked off where it had sat around for years in the US clearly exposed previous colour schemes. With some patience and very steady hands, some layers of the paint were rubbed away, beneath the white was a very vivid blue and beneath the blue, green was also found. The distinctive gold flake numbers 66 are visible from Jim Halls days with the red outline of the numbers. Gold leaf and circular polishing of numbers in the US was very popular and this very can be seen very distinctively on the bodywork to this day.
The owner, a well known historic racer and collector then set about complete and meticulous restoration of 322/332. The origional body was kept to one side for posterity and a new body was beautifully built. This even included the optional cowling to run it in its single set configuration. A new race engine, gearbox and differential, were fitted and it was painted back in Team Lotus colours as Herbert Mackay-Fraser raced back in 1957. Since then it has proved itself as a front running 1500cc sports car in historic motorsport all across Europe.
Racing in the GT and Sports Car Cup, Masters Gentleman Drivers and of course at the Goodwood Revival. In 2017 it won the Madgwick Cup at the Goodwood Revival by over 14 seconds. With multiple class wins under it’s belt, this Lotus Eleven has proved to be a front running 1.5-litre 50’s sports car that has also gone on to embarrass a lot of its larger capacity contemporaries.
Presented to the highest of standards, as complimented by Winning the 2021 London Concours as ‘Best in Show’.
As you can see we can not say for certain that Lotus rebuilt 322 and re-numbered it 332 for the sale to Carroll Shelby. The evidence as we know it is laid out above and it is for you to make the final decision, however, it is widely believed to be the case.
It is a privilege to offer this car publicly for sale for the first time in over 35 years. Whether a racer or a collector, this offers a rare opportunity to acquire a unique and significant piece of Lotus racing history from both sides of the Atlantic, as well as offering a highly competitive and eligible entry into a wide array of historic racing events, such as Goodwood and Le Mans Classic to name a few.