I was lookin’ for shots of chicks and cars as I do a fortnightly post of a babe with a car. When I spotted this image ’twas the lady who initially caught my eye…
But we ‘anoraks’ are so into chassis numbers right?
‘935’ on the engine cover stood out, a Lotus 18 number I thought. A quick google and no less an authority than DC Nye identified the car as a Lotus 21 delivered to Rob Walker, its locale Monza. Lets come back to that…
Stirling Moss raced ‘935’ in the Australasian summer ‘Tasman’ races in early ’62. Here it is below after its victorious run in the very wet, Ardmore, New Zealand Grand Prix. I love the way the gent ‘touches the greatness of Moss’ by giving the Lotus an affectionate pat! ‘Red cap’, a more technical type is sussing the rear suspension of the 21 compared with the Lotus 18’s from the year before.
Lotus 21: The Forgotten Chapman GP Car?…
When you think about it Colin Chapman peaked early as an F1 designer.
His 1956 Vanwall , or rather his chassis design and choice of Frank Costin as it’s body designer/aerodynamicist was a GP winner. Not too many fellas have done that with their first car.
His first Lotus GP design was the 16, he always referred to the 12, which competed in Grands’ Prix from Monaco 1958 as an F2 car, the design originally used in 1.5 litre racing before being fitted with Coventry Climax 1960cc and 2207cc engines for F1 use.
One of the things which intrigues me given his subsequent record as the designer/design inspiration for so many epochal cars is why Chapman didn’t design a mid-engined car for 1959? Cooper blazed that trail, GP winners from Argentina 1958, Moss of course taking that win in a Rob Walker Cooper T43 Climax.
Whilst the front engined 12 is understandable, it appeared in late 1956 and was quite the smallest front engined ‘F1 car’ ever, the 16 shoulda’ been mid-engined?
The 16 was quick mind you, but fragile in both chassis and it’s ‘queerbox’, Lotus’ own gearbox which was unreliable largely due to one small set of dogs trying to pick up every gear. The 16 also didn’t receive a 2.5litre Climax FPF until later in the piece. But if Chapman set trends, and he did, he was a slowish adopter of the mid-engined trend.
His first such design, the 18 was an immensely successful car in FJ, F2 and F1 specification. Despite its ‘chubster, biscuit shaped’ looks it was the fastest 2.5 Litre F1 car of 1960 if not the most robust or reliable. No less than Moss himself had strong views on Chapman’s ‘marginal engineering’ of key components the failure of same caused some massive accidents.
Roll on into 1961, the first year of the 1.5 litre F1, the Brits were faced without a suitable engine as their ‘racing mafia’ were convinced the CSI, in the end would not make the change to the smaller engines. They did, Ferrari the beneficiary with their 156, a car developed in F1/2 in 1960, click here for a story on that wonderful conveyance;
Whilst BRM and Coventry Climax worked hard to get their V8’s completed all of the British firms persevered with Mk2 versions of the 1.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF, in 2.5 litre form the championship winning engine of 1959/60.
Chapman and his team had the dimensions of the coming Coventry Climax FWMV V8 when they set to work on the 21, their 1961 contender, but they knew initially the little, underpowered FPF would be used.
So, light weight and aerodynamic efficiency were key design tenets of the new Lotus 21. These aims were achieved by lying the driver down in the cockpit, Chapman went further in ’62 with his 24/5 designs, but the trend was set by the 21. The car was notably small in size, low in frontal area, the body enveloping the chassis all the way to the casing of its ZF gearbox, specially made for the car. Have a look at a 21 beside a 156 and see just how ‘butch’ in size the Fazz is by comparison.
Chapman used a top rocker and lower wishbone for the cars front suspension, getting the spring/shocks outta the airstream and further adding to top speed. At the rear the suspension was outboard; single top link, inverted lower wishbone and coil spring/damper unit with twin radius rods for location.
Lotus Components built 11 of the 21 chassis’ during the year, which otherwise in specification were leaders of the mid-engined paradigm; multi-tubular spaceframe chassis, Chapman the high priest of chassis design. Rack and pinion steering, discs on all four wheels, magnesium alloy (Lotus ‘wobbly web’) wheels, Ferrari still used heavy Borrani wires till ’63. The CC 1495cc, DOHC, 2 valve, all alloy, Weber carbed 4 cylinder engine gave circa 155bhp. The Lotus weighed 990lb, had an 89 inch wheelbase and track of 53 inches front and rear.
The prototype was built from scratch in six weeks, just missing the Aintree 200 meeting but was tested at Silverstone two days later, the car made its debut at Monaco in May. The works cars in 1961 were steered by two Scots; Innes Ireland, the seasoned professional and up and coming Jim Clark who graduated fron the works Lotus 18 FJ he raced in 1960.
Fitted with the new Coventry Climax V8 the Lotus 21 was a winning car in Moss’ hands if not Ireland’s or Clark’s. But as it was Chapman didn’t get his hands on an FWMV in 1961 due at least in part to the spat he was having with Climax’ MD Leonard Lee about the quality of the CC FWE engines supplied for his Elite road cars. The engines weren’t the Elites only reliability problems mind you!
In the event the 21 won only one championship GP at Watkins Glen, Innes Ireland broke through for both Team Lotus and his first win that October.
The cars chances of more wins were missed by Chapmans decision not to sell Rob Walker his latest car, as he had with the 18 the year before. Moss’ two wins in ’61, remarkable ones, were in the Walker 18 at Monaco and 18/21 hybrid at the Nurburgring. Armed with a new 21 all year he may, praps have taken one or two wins off Ferrari despite the cars relative ‘lack of puff’.
The 21 took wins in Non-Championship 1961 events; the Solitude GP for Ireland in July, the Flugplatzrennen at Zeltweg again for Ireland in September, and the Rand, Natal and South African Grands’ Prix in Jim Clark’s ‘African Tour’ in December 1961. As written here Moss did well in Australasia in early 1962.
The Lotus 21 should be remembered as both a GP winner and the progenitor of the design maxims Chapman’s ever creative mind evolved with the 1962 Lotus 24 and it’s revolutionary monocoque sibling, the 25.
Moss’ first drive of a Lotus 21 was his steer of Innes Ireland’s works car at Monza on 10 September, that weekend infamous for the tragic race collision between Jim Clark’s Lotus 21 and Taffy von Trips Ferrari 156 which resulted in Trips death as well as that of 15 innocent spectators.
Moss took Lotus’ first ever GP win at Monaco in May. Whilst Chapman was eternally grateful he wasn’t inclined to give Moss or Walker too much of a ‘free-kick’ by selling them his latest car, the 21, given his primary aim was works car wins. In fact its probably Esso we have to blame as they were Lotus’ fuel supplier, BP the sponsor of Rob Walker/Moss, both companies had their commercial positions to protect.
The Monza weekend was also significant for the first race appearance of the new 1.5 litre BRM P56 V8 and the further appearance of the Coventry Climax FWMV V8 first raced by Jack Brabham at the Nurburgring the month before. Jack qualified his new Cooper T58 on grid 2 in the Eifel Mountains but crashed on lap 1 with a sticking throttle so the engine hadn’t been race-tested.
The P56 V8’s were fitted to modified BRM P48/57 chassis, the CC V8 to Jack’s Cooper and a specially modified Lotus 18/21 built up by the Walker Team. Team Lotus were unable to secure an engine as noted earlier, so appeared in 21’s powered by the 1.5 litre 4 cylinder FPF Mk2 used by the British teams, including BRM that year.
BRM tested their new engines with no intention to race them. Brabham raced his Cooper despite problems in practice.
Moss was sportingly offered Ireland’s factory 21 FPF, chassis ‘933’. Chapman and Ireland reasoned that Moss would have a better chance of success in a 21 rather than the tired Walker 18/21. Moss was the only Lotus driver with a vague (very) chance at the championship. Ireland raced the Walker 18/21 FPF engined car. In Denis Jenkinson’s race account he writes about the ‘cloak and dagger’ stuff behind closed garages to make the necessary change of chassis and body work between Moss and Ireland. The secretive stuff was doubtless so as not to upset the trade supporters of both teams.
Which brings us back to ‘ole 935’ and the photo at this articles outset. The two works Lotus Monza chassis according to Nye’s ‘Theme Lotus’ were ‘933’ and ‘934’. If ‘935’ was at Monza there was no point making the chassis and bodywork changes between the Moss/Ireland cars both Jenkinson and Nye report took place. If ‘935’ were at Monza either as a works spare or delivered to the Walker Team Moss would have raced it and Ireland his regular works 21 rather than the inferior Walker 18/21.
So, whats the explanation of the photo then?
Either it isn’t Monza, although i am inclined to believe Nye who has been there once or twice! The probable story is that the engine cover of the new ‘935’ was ‘borrowed’ and fitted to one of the works Lotus 21’s for the weekend. The first race entry for ‘935’ i can find, looking at Non-Championship and Championship Grand’s Prix results later in 1961 seems be its races in New Zealand in early 1962. The 1962 NZ GP report by sergent.com describes ‘935’ as unraced before that event on 6 January.
The Moss 18/21 was modified to fit the FWMV V8 with the assistance of Ferguson Research. The rear of the 18 chassis aft of the drivers seat was ‘chopped off’ and replaced with a frame to suit the width and mounting needs of the new engine. 21 rear suspension was incorporated comprising new 21 uprights which were located at the top by a link to the chassis thus relieving the half shafts of the suspension loads the solid ‘shafts of the 18 performed. The new components had Hardy Spicer splined shafts to accommodate ‘plunge and droop’.
A Colotti Type 32 gearbox was used. The rear framework was a complete assembly which attached to the main frame by large bolts screwed into the ends of the tubes, which had been plugged and tapped. The structure was made from small diameter tubing which had to be detached completely before the engine and gearbox could be removed. The car was finished in a big hurry so the old Lotus engine cover was retained with a bulge to clear the four downdraft Webers.
Whilst no-doubt well engineered it doesn’t all add up to the levels of torsional stiffness no doubt required to put all of the new engines power to the ground effectively.
During the race the tragic accident between Clark and von Trips occurred on the first lap, the German and hapless spectators killed. The race continued whilst the carnage was attended to.
Moss retired on lap 36 with wheel bearing failure, Ireland on lap 5 with chassis problems and Brabham’s FWMV failed on lap 8 due to overheating problems, shortcomings sorted over the winter off-season.
Phil Hill’s Ferrari 156 won the race and ’61 title from Gurney’s Porsche 718 and McLaren’s Cooper T55 FPF.
Over that 1962 European winter Coventry Climax worked on the reliability of the FWMV and BRM their P56 V8 and the P578 chassis to carry it. Over at Cheshunt Colin Chapman was building the spaceframe 24 and its epochal monocoque sibling the Lotus 25.
Both marques were the key players in an amazing 1962 season which in the main didn’t feature Stirling Moss, whose Glover Trophy career ending accident took place on Easter Monday 23 April 1962 in the Walker Lotus 18/21 Climax V8 ‘906’ described above.
The Walker Team would make do with their 18/21 in GP’s, later in the season they raced two Lotus 24 FWMV’s but by the time they were ready Moss’ career was finito.
For Moss, in the meantime there were the annual summer internationals to contest in Australasia.
Whilst Stirling loved the speed of his Lotus’ he revelled in the forgiving ‘chuckability’ and robustness of Coopers. Robust is not an apt adjective to describe the Loti single-seaters of the period. So, hedging his bets for his 1962 Australasian Tour he had Rob Walker ship both ‘935’ as well as a Cooper T55 ‘F1-7-61’ on the long voyage south. Both cars were Coventry Climax FPF powered. Engines of both 2.5 and 2.7 litres capacity were used, our International Series then F Libre in its pre-Tasman formula days.
Moss raced the Lotus to an NZ GP win at Ardmore on 6 January and at the Wigram Airfield circuit event fitted with 2.5 litre FPF’s. At Levin and Teretonga he was 2nd in the Cooper powered by a 2.7 FPF, Brabham won at Levin and McLaren at Teretonga. So Moss’ campaign had started well.
The NZ Internationals were contested by Moss, Surtees, McLaren and Salvadori, the latter 3 drivers in Cooper T53 Climaxes, Bandini in a Cooper T53 Maser, Brabham a Cooper T55 Climax and Ron Flockhart Lotus 18 Climax. Chris Amon made his first international appearances that summer in the ex-BRM/Brabham Maser 250F, other ‘local heroes’ Pat Hoare Ferrari 246/256 V12, Angus Hyslop Cooper T53 Climax and Aussies Bib Stillwell, Aston DBR4, David McKay Cooper T51 Climax and Arnold Glass’ BRM P48.
Moss ‘brained’ the NZGP field in an awful, wet race, he lapped the field winning from Surtees, McLaren and Salvadori.
The cars were then shipped to Sydney, the first race of the Australian leg the ‘Warwick Farm 100’ on the testing, technical outer western Sydney circuit on 4 February.
Moss practised both cars electing to race the Cooper to a race win from McLaren and Stillwell.
Moss missed the Lakeside event won by Brabham’s T55 Cooper and Longford’s ‘South Pacific Championship’ race won by Surtees Cooper T53 Climax but raced ‘935’ fitted with a 2.7 litre FPF at the Australian Grand Prix, Sandown’s inaugural meeting on 12 March.
Jack Brabham won the race in his 2.7 engined Cooper from Surtees, McLaren and Chuck Daigh in the very interesting Scarab RE Buick V8, the cars only race. Read my Chuck Daigh article for that cars interesting story.
In between these Australian events, reinforcing the regularity and intensity of his racing schedule Moss raced in the Daytona 3 Hours, finishing 4th in a Ferrari 250 GT SWB on 11 February. After Sandown he returned to the US to contest the Sebring 3 Hours and Sebring 24 Hours on 23/24 March finishing 3rd in an Austin Healey Sprite and DNF in a NART Ferrari Dino 248SP respectively.
Moss then returned to Europe for the 1 April GP of Brussels and Lombank Trophy at Snetterton on 14 April yielding 2nd and 7th in the Walker Lotus 18/21 FWMV V8 ‘906’ before that fateful day at Goodwood on 23 April.
Moss was an enormously popular visitor to Australia from the mid-fifties, sadly his Goodwood 1962 accident was not too far away during his early ’62 tour.
His Antipodean fans never forgot him though.
We turned out in droves to see his ‘comeback’ drive in a Holden Torana L34 V8 at Bathurst in 1976, he shared the car with Jack Brabham. The all-star combination had a shocker of a race when Jack copped a Triumph Dolomite ‘up the arse’ on the startline thanks to his Holden’s clutch failure. Jack was stranded as the rest of the field moved post-haste towards Hell Corner, the unsighted Dolly an innocent victim of Black-Jacks misfortune. The car was patched up but Jack and Stirling failed to finish, a great shame!
Moss, a great man, ’tis wonderful he remains one of our sports great ambassadors.
Automobile Year, MotorSport 1961 Italian GP race report by Denis Jenkinson, Doug Nye ‘Theme Lotus’, William Taylor ‘The Lotus Book’, oldracingcars.com, GP Encyclopaedia, silhouet.com, Team Dan
GP Library, James Allington, Mal Simpson, Kevin Drage, Stephen Page, John Ellacott, Klemantaski Collection, John Ross Motor Racing Archive, Dave Friedman Collection, autopics.com, Victor Blackman, Doug Nye, Tom Bigelow
Tailpiece: The future. Jim Clark at Sandown, Lotus 21 Climax ‘933’, World Champion in the new, epochal monocoque Lotus 25 within 2 years and a GP winner within months. Here with the lower sidepanel removed due to Melbourne summer heat…