Graham Hill’s ‘American Red Ball Spl’ Lola T90 Ford: Indy Winner 1966…

Posted: June 12, 2015 in Features, Who,What,Where & When...?
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turner hill indy

Graham Hill in his ‘American Red Ball Special’ Lola T90 Ford leads the latter stages of the 1966 Indianapolis 500 from Joe Leonard’s Eagle and Jim Clark’s Lotus 38. Fabulous Michael Turner painting…

Hill won the race from Clark and Jim McElreath’s Brabham. Graham lead the most critical part of the race, it’s last 10 laps after teammate Jackie Stewart slowed and retired his Lola T90, the BRM teammates also ‘roomies’ and Indy debutants in John Mecom’s Indy Team.

stewart hill broadley indy 1966

JYS, Hill and Eric Broadley giving GH a few tips about instrument location before the off…Note seatbelts, still 2 years away in F1, a bit earlier for Jackie after his big Spa shunt a fortnight later. (Autoextremist)

The race was not without controversy with more than one lap timer giving victory to Clark, who spun twice during the race without hitting anything on each occasion but causing some lap scoring confusion.

Hill was doubly lucky; he was not entered to race until the unfortunate Walt Hansgen was killed in the LeMans test weekend in a Ford MkII, the Brit taking the unfortunate Hansgen’s place in Mecom’s factory Lola entry, Mecom the American Lola importer at the time.

hill on qually day

One of my earliest motor racing memories is of Hill’s car, the Lola featured big time in one of those ‘Boys Own’ type books we were all given as stocking fillers at Christmas. I have always had a soft spot for these big Lolas’ as a consequence. I still have the book but its in storage, i can’t remember what happened yesterday but the book’s articles on Hill’s Lola, the equally new curvaceous Lola T70 and Tony Lanfranchi’s psychedelic helmet livery i adopted as my own in 1979 stick in my mind. Come to think of it my Lola fetish started then!

lola t80

Lola T80 being assembled at Slough in 1965. T80 unsuccessful, the T90 was an update of this car with the suspension geometry which held it back in 1965 addressed. (Lola Heritage)

The mid-engined invasion of Indianapolis was started by Cooper, Jack Brabham raced at Indy in 1961, Lotus had their first start with the pushrod-V8 Ford powered 29’s driven by Clark and Dan Gurney in 1963. Ferguson and Lola joined the stampede with mid-engined victory finally achieved by Team Lotus in 1965. Clark victorious in the Ford four-cam 4.2 litre V8 engined Lotus 38.

The US was a big market for Lola’s Eric Broadley, he achieved much success with the Group 7/CanAm T70 from 1965, USAC was another great opportunity. Broadley built the T80 for Indy 1965, but the car was late, wasn’t tested and was let down by suspension geometry shortcomings which gave the cars poor and unpredictable handling.

t 90 cutaway

Lola T90 Ford cutaway drawing. Car also designed for Offy 4 cylinder engine. Aluminium ‘full monocoque’ chassis, offset suspension; front top rocker operating inboard mounted spring/damper and lower wishbone. Rear, inverted lower wishbone with additional locating link, single upper link, single radius rod and coil spring/damper units. Adjustable sway bars front and rear, rack and pinion steering, 2 speed Hewland transaxle, Ford DOHC 4 valve, Hilborn fuel injected 4.2 litre V8. Circa 425 bhp @ 8000 rpm in 1965


stewart fettling

Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill helping Mecom’s mechanics with the fettling of the rear bodywork of Jackie’s T90 #43, the Scot and the other Scot, Clark, both unlucky not to win the race…Graham’s #24 Lola behind. (LAT)

The Lola T90 which followed for 1966 addressed the T80 shortcomings…

The T90 chassis was an aluminium monocoque constructed from Indy mandated 16-guage aluminium. Sheet steel diaphragms front and rear provided additional internal stiffness, externally a sloping scuttle in front of the instrument panel gave additional rigidity.

Lola Heritage ‘Tubular steel subframes were attached to both the front and rear of the chassis, the front subframe carrying the oil tank, radiator and the forward mountings for the lower wishbone. At the rear there were two subframes above and below the two-speed Hewland gearbox, the upper one carrying the attachment point for the single top link and the top spring/damper mounting. The lower subframe had the mounting points for the lower wishbones’.

‘The T90 was designed to accept either the 2.8-litre, 4-cylinder Offenhauser engine or the 4.2-litre 4-cam Ford V8. The Offy, built by Meyer-Drake in California was fitted with Hilborn fuel injection and a Paxton Roots-type supercharger and gave some 520 bhp, the Ford, whilst slightly less powerful, was a more known quantity having won the 1965 race in Jim Clark’s Lotus 38’

t90 build

Lola T90 build,  Slough 1966. Looking very sexy in its Specialised Mouldings body. Distinctive Lola ‘knock-offs’. Fuel cells still to be inserted into monocoque. (Lola Heritage)

The cars front suspension was inboard with fabricated rocker arms at the top operating coil spring/damper units and wide-based lower wishbones.

‘Rear suspension was fairly conventional with one departure from the norm. At the top of the upright was a single adjustable top link attached to the top chassis subframe whilst at the bottom a wide-based wishbone (reinforced on the left), mounting to the rear of the upright, was mounted to the lower chassis subframe. There was a single adjustable lateral link running from the lower front of the upright to the subframe that allowed for toe-in alterations. The unusual feature to the design was the single top radius rod, a lower rod was not used to to the difficulty of a suitable chassis attachment point due to the fuel tank design. As was the norm at this time front and rear suspension was offset to the left by three inches, the theory being that this helped the car through the left-hand turns at Indianapolis.’

t90 drawing

These drawings as well as showing the T90’s lines also nicely show the suspension, offset to the left, as was the convention of the time on speedways. (unattributed)


ford indy engine

Ford DOHC Four-Cam Indy V8 Engine…

Ford’s 1963 Indy engine fitted to the Clark and Gurney Lotus 29’s was an aluminium variant of its 260cid Falcon/Fairlane small block V8, it developed 350-376 bhp at 7200 rpm on 103 octane fuel fed by 4 Weber 58mm carbs.

Ford, after Lotus’ great showing (they was robbed) in 1963 decided to build an engine capable of developing 50bhp more but with a weight gain of no more than 50 lbs over the aluminium pushrod engines 345lbs.

Ford evolved, using many parts from the earlier engine, a DOHC motor with four valve heads, the combustion chamber ‘pent roofed’. The engine had ‘between the Vee’ exhaust as tests showed power was optimised with this setup. Hilborn fuel injection was used, in 1965 the engines developed 425bhp @ 8000rpm.

The block was cast of aluminum alloy using patterns modified from the production 289cid production ‘small block’. Cast iron cylinder sleeves were a shrink fit in the block and were sealed at the heads with copper laminated steel O-rings. In order to clear the two banks of camshafts in the heads, the 10 attaching studs were moved closer to the cylinder centerline. An additional 8 studs protruded from the heads maintained clamping force needed to seal the combustion chambers. The space occupied by the camshaft in the normal production engine was replaced with an oil tube. This acted as a gutter and collected oil as it drained from above to keep it off the reciprocating assembly.

The bottom end was beefed up considerably. The special forged steel crankshaft was held by 4-bolt bearing caps on numbers 1 through 4. Main and rod bearing journals are the same size as the 289, as is the engine’s stroke – 2.87″. The rod journals are crossdrilled for better oiling at high engine speeds. The rods are from the 289 HiPo, modified for floating pistons pins. The pins are 289 HiPo pieces. The oil pan is cast magnesium and is a structural part of the engine. ‘Ears’ cast integrally with the pan provide the engine/chassis mounts.

As summarised above, the cam-ground forged aluminum pistons have a pent-roof dome to closely fit the combustion chambers. Compression is 12.5:1. The cylinder heads housed 4 valves per cylinder with a central spark plug. The plugs are canted toward the 1.64″ diameter intake valves. Exhaust valves are 1.36″ diameter. The camshafts run in bearing bores in the cylinder heads directly over their valve banks. Valve clearance is adjusted by the selective fitting of the followers. Intake ports are between the cams with exhaust out the top of the heads between the vee. This was done to do away with the nightmare of exhaust tubing normally required. Hilborn injection is used having been selected for its light weight and simple low-pressure design.

The 255 CID engine weighed 406 lbs and produced in excess of 425 BHP at 8000 RPM. Useful power/torque was developed from 6000 with a rev limit of 9000 RPM

Once developed by Ford the engine was sold and serviced via Louis Meyer. In 1966 Ford built 20 engines which retailed at US$23000. The wonderful engines evolved over the decades, in both normally aspirated and turbo-charged form as Indy rules changed.

Checkout this website which gives an in-depth account of both the DOHC engine and the pushrod V8’s which preceded it, click on this link for an interesting read;

66 indy start

Indy 1966 first lap shunt. Hill #24 Lola, McCluskey #8 Eagle Ford, Joe Leonard #6 Eagle Ford , Al Unser Lotus 38 to the left of his side-on car, Gary Congdon #53 Huffaker Offy, Don Branson in the sideon #4 Gerhardt Ford and the rest…(unattributed)

1966 Indianapolis 500…

Lola Heritage ‘Learning the lesson from 1965 Lola made sure the T90 was ready in plenty of time for the 1966 Indy 500, the John Mecom Racing Team-entered car made it’s debut at the March season opener at Phoenix International Raceway. Success was immediate with Roger Ward finishing second in his Offenhauser-powered T90 and a month later Ward took the winner’s laurels at Trenton’s 1-mile paved oval when he won a rain-shortened race ahead of Gordon Johncock.

Come the month of May and there were three T90s, all entered by John Mecom’s Houston-based team, ready to run at Indy qualifying, Roger Ward in his successful Offenhauser-engined car and Rookies Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill who were both Ford-powered. There was nothing much between the cars at the end of qualifying, Stewart was 11th fastest at a speed of 159.972 mph, Ward 13th at 159.46 mph and Hill 15th at 159.243 mph.’

The Indianapolis Star called the 1966 Indy 500 ‘the most fantastic, confused and incredible 500.’ And it may have been. This was the ‘500’ marked by a 16-car crash at the start when Billy Foster’s car hit the rear of Gordon Johncock’s Gerhardt setting off a violent chain reaction that eliminated 11 cars, including those of A.J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, Don Branson and Cale Yarborough.

Foyt suffered minor injuries, a cut finger and a bruised knee when he climbed out of his car and scaled a fence to get away from the scene.

clark pits

Jim Clark’s ‘STP Oil Treatment’ Lotus 38 Ford in the Indy pits 1966. Andrew Ferguson at left. I put a can of the stuff in Mums Morrie 1100 but it didn’t seem to go any quicker…the sticker on the rear window looked good tho. I thought so, she didn’t! #12 the car behind Clark is the Chuck Hulse driven Watson Ford. Lotus 38’s well raced, Lotus Indy tool ’65-’67. (unattributed)

The race was red-flagged for the second time in three years and was re-started after a one hour and 23 minute delay.

Mario Andretti took the lead at the restart but retired shortly thereafter with engine failure. Clark lead but spun twice with handling maladies without hitting anything, pitting on each occasion to have the car checked.  Stewart and Lloyd Ruby in an Eagle diced for the lead before fuel stops put Clark back in the lead.

broadley and hill

Great shot of Hill and Lola Supremo Eric Broadley discussing the cars setup during Indy qualifying 1966. See the quick change safety fuel cells/filler cap. Ignition cutout wired to steering wheel beside drivers thumb. (unattributed)

Ruby took the lead but his car was then black-flagged for the loss of oil, leaving Stewart in the lead from Clark and Hill. Hill had progressed through the field without making mistakes and benefiting from others errors or misfortunes, by lap 175 he was past Clark for 2nd. Stewart lead, until with 25 miles to go his oil pressure diminished, his engine scavenge pump failure gave Hill the lead he was not to relinquish.

Despite protests by Lotus’ Colin Chapman and sponsor Andy (STP) Granatelli that Hill had been incorrectly scored with an extra lap, the unofficial results stood. Hill won $156,297 for his victory, Jim Clark finished second battling an ill-handling car the entire race, Jim McElreath’s Brabham Ford was third and Stewart was classified 6th.

hill in the race t90

Hill drove a quick, clean race. He stayed out of trouble and was in front for the final laps which mattered, putting lap scoring disputes to one side…What a gorgeous looking, in a brutal kinda way, car! (unattributed)

YouTube Race Footage…


1965 LolaT80.

t80 tingelstat

Bud Tingelstad in Lindsey Hopkins Lola T80 Ford, Indy 1965. (

1966 Indy Race.

indy start 66

Another start shot; Cale Yarborough #66 Vollstedt Ford and Dan Gurney’s #31 Eagle Ford. Indy 1966. (unattributed)

Jackie Stewart.

steawrt bowes seal fast

Jackie Stewart in the ‘Bowes Seal fast’ John Mecom owned Lola T90 Ford Indy 1966. Eric Broadley front lower left, chief mechanic George Bignotti in the Texan hat, Mecom in the tan short sleeved shirt in front of Bignotti (unattributed)


stewart indy 1966

JYS with the face of a man focused on the qualifying task at hand. He qualified 11th, he was classified 6th after an oil scavenge pump failure caused his retirement. Lola T90 Ford, Indy 1966. (Dave Friedman)

Graphics and Imagery Hill/T90.

hill pic

Lovely artwork of Hill and his Lola T90 (D Sire)


red ball colors

1967 Lola T92 Ford.

The successor to the Lola T90 was the mildly updated in bodywork T92 for 1967, here raced by John Surtees in his one and only USAC race, the ‘Rex Mays 300’ held at Riverside in November 1967, a road course John knew well from his CanAm campaigns. His John Mecom entry DNF’d with magneto trouble in the race won by Dan Gurney’s Eagle Ford. The car did not use offset suspension on road circuits…

surtees t 92

John Surtees, Lola T92 Ford. Riverside 1967. (unattributed)

American Red Ball Company.

Even though the name has been in my brain since 1967, i had no idea what they do, clearly not the case in the US as they are an old established well known global removalist and transit organisation. So now i know!


hill in car

Hill looking the focused driver he was. Interesting shot shows the conventional rear suspension albeit with 1 rather than the usual 2 radius rods to locate the suspension fore and aft. Seat belts, roll over bar too low in the event of a rollover and cross-over exhausts all clear as is all enveloping bodywork of the T90 to smooth air flow and top speed, F1 cars at the time largely devoid of rear bodywork. (unattributed)


indy 66 color

Nice bit of modern art; Top>Bottom; Stewart, Clark, Hill. Friends and Champions all. (


Michael Turner;,, GT40 Archives, Dave Friedman, LAT,, Dennis Sire

Lola Heritage; ,, Autoextremist


  1. […] Graham Hill’s ‘American Red Ball Spl’ Lola T90 Ford: Indy Winner 1966… […]

  2. […] Click on this article for a brief history of the Ford Indy V8 amongst the Lola T90 stuff which is the main substance of this piece;… […]

  3. Patrick Ryan says:

    In the Jackie Stewart #43 photo Mecom is misidentified as in the Texas hat. That is actually George Bignotti the chief mechanic. Mecom is below Bignotti in the tan shirt. I own the #43 car.

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Patrick for getting in touch, you are a lucky boy, a wonderful car to own. I have changed the caption accordingly. Is the car complete and raced or demonstrated?

  4. paulofiote says:

    Artwork for the viewings of Lola T90, by friend Ibsen Pereira – 2006

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks Paulo,
      That’s an old one I had forgotten about! I’ve added Ibsen’s name to the post and the name in full to the list of credits.
      Thanks for getting in touch.

  5. Frank says:

    Painting noted “Ibsen Pereira” is one of the numerous masterpieces created by French artist Denis Sire (1953-2019)

    • markbisset says:

      Many thanks Frank,
      I was not aware of Denis. have just had a skim on Google- his work is wonderful. I have upated the caption and the list of credits accordingly.

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