The Lotus 58 was designed with de Dion suspension front and rear, in Colin Chapman’s eternal quest for more grip, to take part in Formula 2 races for the 1968 season.
Chapman’s original intention was for the 58 to be used as a development vehicle for the Lotus 57 Grand Prix car which was to have used a similar chassis but fitted with a larger Ford Cosworth 3 litre / 183 cui that powered the various iterations of the Lotus 49.
The Lotus 58 chassis and wedge shaped body closely resembles that of the Lotus 56 Indy challenger but is powered by a 225 hp four cylinder 1598 cc / 97.5 cui Ford Cosworth FVA motor which met the requirements of the second tier open wheel Formula 2 regulations.
The one and only Lotus 58 chassis was completed the day Jim Clark was killed at Hockenheim, his death along with that of Jim’s replacement Mike Spence at Indy in a Lotus 56 along with numerous crashes that befell Jackie Oliver in his Lotus 49’s meant that development of the Lotus 58 was pushed back until the end of 1968 when Lotus had to decide which cars to take to the Antipodes for the Tasman Series.
Graham Hill thoroughly tested the car with a Tasman Spec 2.5 litre / 152.5 cui Cosworth DFW motor and came to the conclusion that it was “OK, but not very fast”. It would appear the advantages of the de Dion suspension which keep the wheels vertical in the corners and thereby keep a larger tyre footprint on the ground were not obvious enough to pursue. The Lotus 58 was pushed aside never having raced in Formula 2 as originally intended, or in the Tasman series, while the similar Cosworth DFV powered Lotus 57 never even left the drawing board.
In 1998 two enthusiasts persuaded Colin’s son Clive Chapman to restore the Lotus 58 and he gave the task to former Hill and Clark engineer at Lotus Eddie Dennis. After some 1500 hours of work Dennis ran the car at the former works Lotus test track at Hethel before handing it over to the new owners Malcolm Ricketts and Don Hands.
Thanks for joining me on this “OK, But Not Very Fast” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !