The thinking behind the Lotus 63 intended to capitalise on the lessons learned from the all wheel drive Lotus 56 Champ Car, which nearly won the Indy 500 in 1968, and replace the Lotus 49 for the 1969 Grand Prix season.
Colin Chapman recognised that the 3 litre / 183 cui Ford Cosworth DFV V8 which he had been responsible for commissioning with Ford finance had more power than the Lotus 49 could properly utilise even with the aid of wings which generated downforce on the wheels when in motion.
Having learned about the benefits of all wheel drive from the Lotus 56 Indianapolis programme Colin Directed Maurice Phillipe to design an all wheel drive car for Grand Prix racing, this was by no means the first such Grand Prix vehicle the 1961 Ferguson P99 featured such a transmission and won the non championship 1961 Oulton Park Gold Cup with Stirling Moss at the wheel.
The fuel cells for the 63 were built into the sides of the car and under the drivers seat !
The mounting of the Cosworth DFV broke with tradition having the clutch at the front driving the four wheels through shafts mounted in tunnels on the left hand side of the car. The second pipe from the left in this photo is connected to the radiator at the front.
To reduce unsprung weight and improve handling the ventilated disc brakes were mounted in board front and rear.
Graham Hill tested the Lotus 63 once and refused to race it feeling the car was unsafe, Jochen Rindt managed a best second place in the non championship 1969 Oulton Park but like Hill was not keen on driving a car with his feet ahead of the front axles and his legs beneath them !
Grand Prix novice John Miles who did the bulk of the testing for the model, because Chapman thought he would lack any preconceptions to hinder development, managed one non points finish from four starts and Mario Andretti crashed in both races he started with the Lotus 63. By the end of 1969 the car was running with a heavy drive bias to the rear thus negating the advantages of four wheel drive and so the car was abandoned as a white elephant in favour of the new Lotus 72 design which would set the Grand Prix world alight in 1970.
The Lotus 63 featured today is regularly on view at the Donington Park Museum.
Owner driver Roger Dawson – Damer lost his life in an accident while driving his Lotus 63 at the 2000 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Thanks for joining me on this ‘White Elephant’ edition of ‘Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres’, I hope you’ll join me again tomorrow when I’ll be celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Maserati Merak. Don’t forget to come back now !