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Pushing The Backbone – Lotus 30

Allegedly Colin Chapman was a little upset about losing the contract to develop the Ford GT40 to Lola and set out to build a sports racing car in 1964 that would show Ford that they had made the wrong choice.

Colin’s idea was to use a back bone chassis similar to the one used in his successful Lotus Elan but stronger to accommodate a 4.7 litre / 286 cui Ford Fairlane motor in the rear. It is said that Colin stubbornly over ruled his designer Len Terry when the latter advised against such an idea and went ahead and built the car with a sleek curvacious body measuring just 26.5″ high.

Lotus 30 #30-L-12, Dyrham Park

Photo Courtesy of Tim Murray above, shows Andrew Bradshaw’s Lotus 30 at Dyrham Park.

The original Lotus 30 clothed in a fibre glass body that made regular maintenance exceedingly difficult weighed less than 700 kgs / 1600 lbs and had 350 hp which was transmitted to the ground by 13″ wheels and was stopped by solid disc brakes all round. Unfortunately while the car won a few races, notably in the hands of Jim Clark the chassis, as predicted by Len Terry proved insufficiently strong which resulted in the backbone flexing, and on at least one occasion a chassis is recorded as having snapped in half. It is thought 18 Lotus 30’s were built with an additional 2 replacement chassis being supplied for damaged cars.

Lotus 30, Goodwood Revival

Matthew Watts example seen here at last years Goodwood Revival has been fitted with an interpretation of the period body modifications developed by JCB research to over come overheating problems caused by the spare wheel, required by the Group 7 rules, being placed behind the radiator in the nose.

For 1965 the model was updated; with a stronger chassis backbone, spoilers, larger wheels and ventilated disc brakes, was built, though not solving all of the problems 9 examples of the S2 were built and sold. Towards the end of 1965 Colin Chapman uprated this chassis again calling the new model the Lotus 40, dubbed by Richie Ginther as ‘like the Lotus 30 but with ten extra problems’ but the three Lotus 40 chassis were no match for the Group 7 cars produced by either Lola or McLaren.

Despite the lack of success against the Lola’s and McLarens the Lotus 30 was still being raced in British club events until the early 1970’s by John Markey.

My thanks to Lotus30.com for the chassis information Woulter Melisson at Ultimatecarpage.com and Martin Krejci at racingsportscars.com for additional information and results. Thanks also to Graham Gauld, pete53, Roger Lund, Tony Gallagher and Ted Walker at The Nostalgia Forum for additional information regarding today’s featured vehicle.

Thanks for joining me on this ‘Pushing The Backbone’ edition of ‘Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres’, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !

PS I hope you will join me in wishing best wishes to GALPOT Concours d’Elegance Correspondent and Birthday Boy Geoffrey Horton ! 🙂