After coming close to winning the 1968 Indianapolis 500 with the Pratt & Whitney gas turbine powered Lotus 56 driven by Joe Leonard the powers at Indianapolis decided to ban gas turbine power and all wheel drive for the 1969 season, but eventually relented and allowed all wheel drive vehicles that had wheels no more than 9″ wide all round. Rear wheel drive vehicles were allowed to go to 14″ wide wheels at the rear.
Colin Chapman rose to the challenge of building a car to the new regulations with the financial encouragement from Andy Granatelli’s STP Oil Treatment. The Lotus 64 was a new chassis which was powered by a 700hp turbocharged double overhead cam Ford V8 motor driving an all wheel drive system that was lifted from the Lotus 56 as indeed was much of the rest of the chassis.
In order to connect the motor to the mid mounted gearbox the motor had to be mounted backwards so the drive came from the front, as on the ill feted Lotus Ford 63 all wheel drive Grand Prix car.
Mario Andretti, Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt were lined up to drive the three team cars and a spare was built just in case of unforeseeable eventualities. Straight out of the box the cars were on the pace of the gas turbine Lotus 56 from the year before setting record speeds. However Mario Andretti’s car had a rear hub failure which sent him into the wall. Mario was lucky to get away with superficial burns to his face and after it was determined the failure was due to a design fault that could not be rectified in the available time frame the three Lotus 64’s were withdrawn from the race.
Mario jumped into the #2 Hawk Ford belonging to Granatelli and promptly qualified 2nd to AJ Foyt and then won the race after Lloyd Ruby was knocked out of contention by leaving the pits with his refueling hose still attached.
Andy Granatelli wanted to buy one of the remaining 64’s but when negotiations broke down Colin Chapman is alleged to have ordered the now engineless cars be returned to Hethel, Lotus home base, where he promised to take a hack saw to them personally cut them up and dig a whole and personally bury them. As it turned out all three cars were put in a shed.
Jochen Rindt’s #80 is seen above sans motor, this is the second of the three remaining 64’s to have emerged in recent years the other one has a correct Ford motor installed.
Thanks for joining me on this “Cut and Bury” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres, I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at the first car to record a 200 mph average closed circuit lap during a race. Don’t forget to come back now !