One of the things that attracts Lotus fans to the marque is the elegant simplicity of Chapman’s cars…

My Elise S1 was born long after Col’s death but the brand essence he established pervades Hethel’s hallowed halls to the present.

The Twelve has to be the ultimate in that respect, its simple elegance, size and weight are amazing alongside a Dino 246 or even a Cooper T41/43 of 1957/8.

Many have thought the miniscule cigar of a machine was a GP winner in 1958 fitted with a 2.5 FPF sans dodgy ‘Queerbox’- Cliff Allison was a Belgian Grand Prix winner that year so equipped? Its size is partially a function of its F2 original intent- the Sixteen, its successor is big by comparison.

Of course Moss would have belted everybody in a 2.5 FPF engined T43 in 1958 too- albeit Cooper had its own gearbox problem to solve to allow success.

 

Allison hooks his 12 into La Source early in the Spa weekend, no #40 decal on the car yet

The opening shot is the Team Lotus lads fixing a gearbox problem at Zandvoort in 1958.

Note the bungee cord affixed ‘knee’ fuel tank and chassis repair to the vertical tube which drops from the ‘dash which has been carried out away from Hornsey.

Cliff Allison was sixth that late May weekend from Q11 and Graham Hill a DNF with engine dramas from Q13. Moss’ Vanwall won from Harry Schell and Jean Behra in BRM P25’s- perhaps the circuit suited the BRM’s, Jo Bonnier took the marques first championship victory in the Dutch dunes twelve months hence.

Team Lotus made their F1 debut in Monaco the week before so Allison’s sixth- just outside the points in those days was impressive.

Even more so was Cliff’s fourth in chassis ‘357’ at Spa- the most supreme of power circuits of course.

The 2.2 litre Lotus qualified twelfth and finished behind the Brooks Vanwall, Hawthorn Dino and Lewis-Evans Vanwall but ahead of four other 2.5 litre cars- he was timed at 167 mph on the Masta Straight.

OK, there were nine race retirements but it was a mega performance all the same and its said that none of the three cars in front of him would have completed another lap- had the race been a tad longer perhaps Lotus would have taken their first GP victory in the third such event they contested, but ’twas not to be.

Cliff parlayed his performances in 1958 into a works Ferrari drive in 1959 of course. An underrated driver I reckon.

Allison hiking an inside front right at very high Spa speed 1958- famously fourth ‘behind three cars which could not have completed another lap’. Cliff used Teams 2207 cc FPF in this race which was good for 194 bhp @ 6250 rpm

Mechanical Gubbins…

The late John Ross was popular with Team Lotus, he was given great access to the factory throughout the fifties as Chapman’s eponymous marque became more ambitious with each successive project.

The photo below and the one of the rear of the chassis were taken on a visit by John to Hornsey in November 1956. This is the first 12 chassis built- ‘301’ which was constructed by Frank Coleman at the Progress Chassis Company opposite Stan Chapman’s pub, the Railway Hotel in Tottenham Lane, Hornsey, North London. Progress were the chassis supplier of choice for some years.

(J Ross)

 

Press launch at Lotus/Railway Hotel, Hornsey, October 1956. Note the famous ‘Wobbly Web’ cast magnesium alloy wheels first designed for the 12 but used well into the sixties (J Ross)

The prototype, clothed in its Frank Costin designed body was then assembled into a complete machine for the London Motor Show held at Earls Court between October 17-27 1956 by Colin, Mike Costin and John Lambert working to a very tight deadline.

It was shown to the press at a Lotus works function albeit the engine was an incomplete mock-up of the new 1475cc Coventry Climax F2 engine and ‘its all new Lotus transaxle was just a wooden maquette’ wrote Doug Nye. The engine in production form gave 141 bhp @ 7300 rpm on F2 regulation 100 octane fuel and weighed 280 pounds.

1475 cc Coventry Climax FPF aboard ‘353’ at Motorclassica in 2018. Those Webers are sand cast 40DCO3’s (M Bisset)

This show car ‘was never man enough to be raced’ as its joint welds had been ground away so much for display purposes there was barely enough weld left to hold the thing together. After some years at the Montagu Museum at Beaulieu it is part of the Chapman Family Collection.

Bernard Cahier’s shot below is of Graham Hill’s car, chassis ‘353’ during the 1958 Monaco GP weekend, I covered this important Lotus weekend in an article i wrote a while back;

https://primotipo.com/2016/11/29/cliff-allison-lotus-12-and-the-mid-engined-revolution-1958/

At Monaco GP 1958- both cars raced that weekend were fitted with 1960 cc FPF’s which gave 176 bhp @ 6500 rpm, note the twin-throat SU’s. Car is Hill’s ‘353’

The photograph below shows the beautifully designed and fabricated spaceframe chassis, de-Dion tube, and its locating links fore and aft. Inboard discs and calipers, Lotus ‘Queerbox’ mock-up, only the coil springs are missing.

Two de-Dion cars were built, ‘301’ and ‘351’, definitive spec 12’s were fitted with Chapman’s stunning, simple and effective ‘Chapman Strut’ suspension. Note that ‘351’ was converted to strut specifications.

(J Ross)

 

‘353’ with a focus on its perky little rump and particularly its Chapman Strut rear suspension (M Bisset)

 

(M Bisset)

The 12 was Chapman’s second single-seater design, the first was a project for Tony Vandervell to design the 1956 Vanwall chassis- it and its successors were rather competitive cars, winner of the 1958 International Cup for F1 Manufacturers.

The Lotus chassis was made of 1 inch 20 gauge tube, the bottom rails used aircraft spec Reynolds 531 material. Curved inch square cross-members linked the main longerons, whilst the upper rails were of inch round 20 gauge linked by similar sized verticals to the lower members. All triangulation was by 3/4 inch tube. The undertray was attached rigidly to the bottom bay to aid stiffness, the spaceframe itself weighed 47 pounds complete with all brackets.

(M Bisset)

Front suspension is by upper and lower wishbones and coil spring/damper units.

Or perhaps more accurately a wide based lower wishbone, single top link and sway bar which also performed locational duties. A classic case of Chapman minimalism or getting something to do two purposes.

Australian Lotus 12 Connection…

I’d finished a nice neato-quickie article to the point above and then thought, hang on a minute, there is a nice Australian connection to a couple of these cars in that ‘351’ was brought to Australia by crop-duster pilot/business owner Ern Tadgell in 1958 and Frank Gardner imported the ex-Gee Hill ‘353’ in 1961.

Both are still in Australia too, so lets head off in that direction, a 500 word exercise has turned into a 7000 word feature mind you.

‘351’ was named ‘Sabakat’ as a ruse to keep the Australian Federal Fiscal Fiends (Australian Taxation Office) from imposing duty on the car imported by Tadgell in the hold of a Percival EP.9 crop-duster he and his friend, business partner and fellow racer Austin Miller brought back to Australia. In similar fashion, Aussies ‘Miller Special’ which occupied the hold in another EP.9 piloted by Austin, was in reality a Cooper T41 Climax.

Sabakat was raced by Ern for two years powered by the Climax FPF 1.5 engine before the motor blew in a reasonably big way. He sought to improve the 12’s pace by fitment of a 7.6 litre Lycoming aircraft engine in an act of mechanical butchery- in the sense that the conversion was a back of the paddock, crude, blacksmith’s exercise.

It was comprehensively burned to a corn-chip in an accident during the AGP weekend at Lowood, Queensland in 1960.

Ern Tadgell In ‘351’ or Sabakat at, still 1.5 CC FPF powered (autopics.com.au)

Unsuccessful in his endeavours to acquire the ex-Hill ‘353’ circa 1970 racer/historian Graham Howard created a replica of Sabakat with the assistance of many of his friends and contacts, most notably Tony Caldersmith who fabricated the chassis and brought the project together.

Whilst Graham is sadly no longer with us ‘Sabakat’ still is- every time I see that car I am reminded of that kind, decent man and uber-enthusiast. This car has been well chronicled over the years not least by Graham himself in Australian ‘Sports Car World’ magazine eons ago.

‘353’s history is covered in even greater detail as the current owner for many years, Adelaide’s Mike Bennett, obtained so much information in the process of researching the car he wrote a limited edition book about it- ‘Lotus 12 Chassis No 353: The History’ no doubt some of you have a copy (I don’t).

Lets focus on ‘353’ initially, Sabakat is in many ways the more interesting story, we will come back to it later on.

Mike Bennett picks things up- ‘353 is one of the two cars which took part in Lotus’ first GP at Monaco in 1958 where it was driven by Graham Hill, the other Lotus 12, chassis ‘357’,  was driven by Cliff Allison. Graham went on to drive ‘353’ at the Dutch and Belgian GP before he moved over to the Lotus 16. These Monaco cars survive today after they both spent many years unused and in storage.’

‘353’ was a 1957 build car, the very first race for of a 12 was Cliff Allison’s Lavant Cup entry on 22 April 1957, he was classified seventh in the race won by Tony Brooks Cooper T41 Climax FWB.

The Twelves missed the following British Silverstone, Brands and Snetterton meetings in April/May but Herbert MacKay-Fraser raced ‘351’ to second place behind Jack Brabham’s Cooper T43 FPF at Brands on 9 June.

Hill in ‘353’ Goodwood, Easter Monday 1958

‘353’ first raced (using the F2 Index as my reference source- it is probably more up to date than some of the books I have I suspect) in the BRDC International Trophy meeting at Silverstone on 14 September. Both Allison and Henry Taylor drove it in the heats with Allison retiring in the final.

Hill raced it in the Woodcote Cup at Silverstone in late September for fifth place- Roy Salvadori won from Brabham, both aboard works Cooper T43’s with Allison third in ‘357’.

The 5 October Oulton Park International Gold Cup was an F2 event in 1957, Brabham and Allison were first and second with Hill eleventh in ‘353’.

Over the Winter ‘353’ and ‘357’ were prepared for an assault on the 1958 Grand Prix season primarily by changing the 1.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF with engines of 2 litres in capacity. It would be some while yet until Climax invested in a 2.5 litre version of a motor which became iconic. With a lot of work the Lotus sequential ‘Queerbox’ was gaining some semblance of reliability led by Keith Duckworth, we will come back to that in a little bit.

Before the commencement of the 1958 European Championship season in Monaco- Moss took an historic mid-engined victory in Rob Walkers Cooper T43 Climax at Buenos Aires in mid-January, Hill and Allison raced their Twelves in several non-championship F1 events in the UK.

The first was the F2 Lavant Cup at Goodwood where Hill and Allison were second and third behind Brabham’s Cooper T43. During the same 7 April meeting they also raced in the F1/F2 Glover Trophy- a DNF for Hill in ‘353’ and fourth place for Cliff in ‘357’ behind Hawthorn’s Ferrari Dino 246 and the works Cooper T45 Climaxes of Brabham and Salvadori.

At the BARC 200 at Aintree on 19 April Hill was seventh and Allison eighth and at the BRDC International Trophy Meeting at Silverstone on 3 May Hill was eighth and Cliff sixth in ‘353’ and ‘357’ respectively.

Some days prior to 18 May, the Lotus entourage headed off in the direction of the famous Principality.

Graham settles himself into ‘353’ whilst Roy Salvadori, Cooper T45 Climax comes past. Silverstone, BRDC Intl Trophy 3 May 1958 (J Ross)

At Monaco Allison was sixth in ‘357’ and Hill, DNF engine as he was in both the two following rounds at Zandvoort and Spa- Allison was sixth and fourth. Graham had shocking reliability issues in 1958- worse was to come in 1959 mind you!

At Reims both Lotus’ had engine dramas and did not finish albeit Graham raced a Lotus 16, as he did for the balance of the season. He raced ‘353’ in the F2 support race but failed to finish in the Coupe International de Vitesse won by Jean Behra’s converted Porsche RSK.

Hill’s best result amongst a shocker of a season reliability wise was sixth at Monza whereas Cliff’s Q5 at Aintree for the British GP was fantastic toting 2 litres and seventh at Monza were his best, in addition to the Spa result. It was a corker of an F1 debut year, without doubt Cliff proved both how fast he and the 12 were.

Cliff Allison looks on at left, and Colin Chapman at right as Graham sets off for some practice laps in ‘353’

 

Hill In ‘353’ ahead of Tom Bridger, Cooper Climax during the French GP F2 support race, GH car may be ‘352’ (LAT)

 

Hill In ‘353’ during the Monaco weekend. Note front upper and lower wishbone suspension and Girling disc brakes- outboard front and inboard at the rear

After Hill started to race the Lotus 16, chassis ‘353’ was put to one side of the Hornsey workshop but was soon sold to John Fisher in Portsmouth, he engaged a number of drivers to race the car in 1958.

I don’t know much about Mr Fisher but he was a motor-cycle and car dealer based in Portsmouth and became one of a rare breed- F1 private entrant in that he fielded a Lotus 16 for Bruce Halford to race in many championship and non-championship events throughout 1959. The 12 seems to have been a ‘toe in the water’ exercise for the ‘John Fisher Equipe’ as he named his team. At least one source suggests he was Lord Mayor of Bristol later but I can find no hard evidence to support this- I am intrigued to know more about Fisher if any of you can oblige.

Maurice Michy raced ‘353’ in the F2 Trophee d’Auvergne at Clermont Ferrand in late July 1958 and Bruce Halford ran it at the Brands Hatch Boxing Day meeting.

No less than Maria Teresa di Filippis was entered at Syracuse in late April 1959- Stirling Moss won the F2 IX Gran Premio di Siracusa in a Rob Walker Cooper T43 Borgward from Jean Behra’s works Ferrari 156 and Jack Brabham’s Cooper T45 Climax, di Filippis was out with an oil leak after completing 10 of the races 55 laps.

Crystal Palace’s London Trophy was raced to F2 rules in 1959, Bruce Halford raced ‘353’ again without success, he had an undisclosed mechanical problem which outted the car after 20 laps- Salvadori’s Cooper T43 Climax won.

Bruce Halford aboard ‘353’ at Brands on Boxing Day 1958. Mike Hawthorn looks on. Mike has less than a month to live, he died on 22 January 1959 (J Ross)

In 1959 Frank Gardner arrived in the UK from Australia, buying the car from John after a demonstration by Bruce Halford.

After a few brief outings it was shipped back to Australia in 1960 where it has been ever since. Whilst John Blanden claims Gardner raced the car in the UK I have found no evidence in terms of published race results to support that, but it is entirely plausible that he tested it. ‘It lay unused for some 27 years in New South Wales due to a failed crown wheel and pinion which is unique to the car. My friend Don Asser and I acquired the car in (the annual Adelaide Grand Prix auction) in 1991 and we returned it to its former glory over four years’ wrote Mike Bennett.

Frank Gardner had been running the Mobil Service Station at Whale Beach, a superb place on the northern end of Sydney’s Barrenjoey Peninsula (the stretch from Manly to Palm Beach in simple terms) with ‘Len Deaton calling around to put fuel in his motorbike and a friendship grew. It seems that Len funded the process of getting them all to the UK’, that is Frank, Len and his wife Veda and children Rik and Ti.

Frank, with a strong track-record in Australia in his C and D Type Jaguars did rather well in the UK but in the early days he was just another youthful (but not what you would call young) racer from The Antipodes trying to make his way in a much bigger pond than the one he left in Australia.

FG and Rik Deaton running amok, possibly Mallory Park (L Deaton)

 

FG at work in the ex-Allison/Team Lotus transporter, place unknown (L Deaton)

 

FG services the transporter supervised by Chief Mechanics Ric and Ti Deaton (L Deaton)

Along the way they acquired the ex-Team Lotus transporter not from Lotus but from John Campbell-Jones at the ‘Cornwall Garage and Engineering Co’ who had bought it from Lotus earlier.

‘The unit had originally been built by Cliff Allison, probably using a bus from the family business in Cumbria and taken with him when he joined Lotus. The swing-out crane on the side was Cliff’s way of being able to lift out engines etc at circuits.’

In time honoured fashion, part of the business model of Australian racers from John Snow pre-war to Alan Jones and beyond was to acquire competitive, or thereabouts, racing cars in the UK and ship them home to Australia to a scene which was not quite as hot as that in Europe. In that process valuable cash was raised to keep the racer afloat for season in Europe.

And so it was that the Leaton’s and FG bought three cars- the 12, a Lotus Eleven and a Cooper FJ- the latter ‘in fact was an ex-Rob Walker 2 litre Climax car raced raced by Moss and converted back to FJ before sale’ Bennett’s research found.

All three cars made their way to Australia- the 11 and 12 are still here whereas the Cooper ended up in the US.

The photo of the Lotus 18’s on the way to the docks below is taken with the SheppErton Film Studios behind the wall. On a trip in 2010 Bennett managed to find the exact spot from the the passing road and glimpsed the block of flats, the only difference with the elapse of fifty years being the satellite dishes attached to the abodes!

(L Deaton)

During 1960 Gardner was racing Lotus 18 Formula Juniors supported by Jim Russell’s school, I am sure the proprietor didn’t notice the missing company truck for a few hours to deal with FG’s commerce to keep his racing career afloat. Isn’t it a wonderful shot to show what it took in those days?

In 1960 Frank Gardner raced a Cooper T52 Ford Formula Junior and in 1960 a Lotus 20 Ford entered by the Jim Russell School, Deaton and his family returned to Australia setting about selling the three cars.

The Twelve was advertised for 2200 pounds, eventually selling to Joe Hills in July 1962 who removed the Climax engine. Later that year it was sold to a partnership of Ian Stewart and David Conlon who fitted a 1500 Ford engine- in 1963 it reverted to the sole ownership of David Conlon who retained it, running it on only several occasions when driven by Garry Berman until 1967.

That year David Holyoake acquired it and retained it all the way through until 1991. ‘For many years the car was stored in his Camden, NSW tyre store surviving with its original chassis, alloy bodywork, suspension, radiator, 5-speed sequential gearbox, fibreglass fuel tank in the tail, wheels, seat etc.’

Back to Mike Bennett.

‘During the painting process we discovered the ‘No 2′ centre punched in all the body panels which identified the car (with the assistance of ex-works mechanic Willie Griffiths) as the one driven by Denis Jenkinson on public roads in Hampshire on Christmas Day in 1957.’

‘This secret jaunt started from The Phoenix Hotel in Hartley Wintney and was witnessed by Colin Chapman, Bill Boddy and Merv Therriault. Merv, a Canadian mechanic at Team Lotus had nothing better on offer for Christmas Day than to go to The Phoenix and start up and warm up the car ready for Denis to drive.’

‘Inevitably, of course the car broke down with a lucky family having a surprise visitor over Xmas lunch when Jenkinson sought the use of a phone to alert the Lotus lads to an inert Lotus. In a wonderful touch Merv, now 83, is coming over from Vancouver to mechanic on the car’ in Mikes Goodwood Festival of Speed run in 2012.

‘The car driven by Cliff Allison at Mallory for MotorSport was in fact chassis ‘359’ the ex Ivor Bueb car not his ‘old-banger’ chassis ‘357’ which is now being raced in the UK by Nick Rossi. Chassis ‘357’ lay dismantled for many years’ in a mixture of Aldershot, just adjacent to the north-east of Farnham, and the village of Bentley, nearby to the west wrote a combination of Bennett and Doug Nye.

Mike Bennett continues in relation to ‘353’‘…Gary Berman was involved with the car, he drove it for David Conlon, the owner at the time. David had the car when he operated the BP service station in Silverwater, Sydney…Regarding the use of an MGA gearbox, to clarify this, two Lotus 12 cars came to Australia, #351 and #353.’

‘#351 had it survived (in original form) would have been a real piece of Lotus history, it was the first Lotus single-seater to turn a wheel’ as the second 12 built. It was fitted with a 1.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF (F2) engine as all Twelves originally were but the Queerbox had not been finished because the ZF gears were delayed.’

As a consequence ‘351’ was fitted with an MG Magnette gearbox attached to the engine with a stepped-down special rear diff in the tail- a BMC B Series differential inside a Lotus casing with a specially made three gear 1:1 transfer case to lower the driveline under the driver’s seat. All of the later cars had the five speed Lotus Queerbox.’

Chapman in amongst it July 1957- two 12’s in front of him, 6 built in 1956 and a similar number in 1957 (J Ross)

 

Chapman tests ‘351’ at Silverstone in March 1957 (G Goddard)

 

Team Lotus Lotus 12 ‘351’ March 1957 Silverstone test session- standing are Chapman, Ron Flockhart and Graham Hill, kneeling left is Willie Griffiths whilst Mike Costin is in the cap on the right. 351’ still fitted with de Dion rear suspension at this early stage (G Goddard)

#351 was Lotus’ first test bed’. The car was the chassis run during the very first test at Silverstone on 11 March 1957 attended by Mike Costin, Graham Hill, Willie Griffiths and Colin Chapman, the car was driven that day by the chief and Hill.

Chapman and Herbert MacKay Fraser were entered in ‘351’ at the Lavant Cup, Goodwood in April but failed to start. MacKay-Fraser was second to Jack Brabham in the BRSCC F2 race at Brands in June but missed the final of the London Trophy at Crystal Palace as the transmission failed in his heat- that 10 June meeting appears to be the ‘351’s last in the UK.

Its intriguing why, at that stage of the game Ern Tadgell chose a Lotus rather than a Cooper but perhaps his choice was around personal preference rather than the way the wind appeared to be blowing in terms of the competitiveness of mid-engine cars.

Coopers had made a huge impact in Australia- both air and water cooled, Jack Brabham won the 1955 Australian Grand Prix at Port Wakefield, South Australia in the Cooper T40 Bristol he knocked together quickly enough to make his Championship GP debut at Aintree during the 1955 British GP.

‘It (351) was sold ‘new’ to Ern Tadgell…and imported into Australia in the belly of a cropdusting aircraft which somehow bypassed a few customs officers- thereafter it was known as Sabakat. After blowing its (Climax) engine it was fitted with a Lycoming aircraft engine, crashing and burning at Lowood, Queensland in 1960’ during the Australian Grand Prix carnival in a preliminary race.

‘It was totally destroyed, however, Graham Howard, with the skills of Tony Caldersmith, made a replica of Sabakat…#353 always had its 5-speed sequential gearbox but when the crown-wheel and pinion failed and could not be replaced, an attempt was made in David Holyoake’s ownership to fit a VW gearbox transaxle in the tail, but its installation was never completed’ wrote Mike Bennett.

(M Bisset)

 

(M Bisset)

 

(M Bisset)

‘The gearbox for the Lotus 12 was a unique design and a major challenge for Lotus.’

‘It was a five-speed sequential gearbox with a reverse. The hard steel components for the gearbox were made for Lotus by ZF in Germany. In fact Keith Duckworth’s first overseas visit was to ZF to oversee the ZF component’s manufacture. The gearbox was also used in early Lotus 15s.’

‘The LSD carried a unique crownwheel and pinion with a large hypoid offset. This was necessary to get the prop shaft below the drivers seat. The rear universal joint is right under the drivers seat in a safety cage. One wag noted that if the UJ broke the driver gets to join the Vienna Boys Choir!’

‘David Holyoake told us that he and his brother drove the car with its failing crown wheel and pinion until it would move no more. The remains of the crown wheel attest to this. Attempts were made by David in the 1970’s to get a replacement from ZF without success.’

‘In around 1984 Bill Friend in the UK had a small batch of these CW&P made and we acquired the last one as a spare. Currently there is another run of CW&P being planned for the handful of Lotus 12 owners in the world. It is one spare part worth keeping on the shelf as they seem to get made once every 30 years!’

‘Keith Duckworth made a significant contribution to making the gearbox reliable, his positive stop gearchange worked first time as well as his fabricated “sump” around the crown wheel which holds the oil in close proximity. Initially the gearbox was planned to be dry-sump but in Team Lotus hands the front gear case was closed off and remained “wet”, the dry sump pump being only used to squirt oil onto the CW&P. The scavenge and pressure pump is the engine oil pump off a Velocette MSS’ continued Mike.

‘353’ again at Motorclassica in 2018 (M Bisset)

 

(M Bisset)

 

(LAT)

Let’s exit Europe more or less where we started, with a great photograph- this time Cliff Allison at Monaco in 1958, doesn’t ‘357’ look rather purposeful and pretty.

 

Lotus 12 ‘351’ aka Sabakat…

 

(unattributed)

Ern Tadgell in the Gnoo Blas pits during ‘351’s first race meeting in Australia, the South Pacific Championship Gold Star round, over the Australia Day long weekend in January 1958.

In his research Graham Howard unearthed the factory ‘351 build card’ which records ‘Chassis 351 fitted with FPF engine No 1003 & MGA gearbox sold to Tadgell’.

Hungry bell-mouths of two twin-throat SU’s, car still, in ex-factory specification inclusive of lovely red leather bound steering wheel.

Bill Turnbull, who helped Tadgell with the car in Toowoomba recalls ‘that Ern used methanol fuel which did not suit the cork carb floats, and that there were overheating problems which warped the head.’ The little FPF blew during the Longford Trophy weekend in 1960. Turnbull believes Tadgell picked up the ‘Sabakat’ name in the Middle East, somewhere on the flight between England and Australia!

Tadgell and Miller were a couple of ‘Boys Own’ type characters, the likes of which are not around any more. Sadly.

The duo met in the dying days of World War 2 in the Royal Australian Air Force and like so many pilots post-war attempted to parlay their newly developed skills into a career, and so it was that Super Spread Aviation Pty. Ltd. was incorporated in 1952, aerial crop-dusting was new at the time.

That they found motor racing was a common path for many of those who fought and survived the war and needed some excitement to fill a gap in their lives.

The Edgar Percival EP.9 was demonstrated in Australia by way of a sales tour conducted by popular British racing pilot, Beverley Snook between May and July 1957. In June 1957 Super Spread placed an order for two aircraft, the dynamic duo made their way to the UK in the months prior to their marvellous adventure return flights to Australia.

The two Super Spread Percival EP.9’s at Moorabbin in 1961- how easy would a stripped Lotus 12 or Cooper T41 chassis fit in there!? This plane still exists and nicely in Austin Miller’s son’s hands. He and the late Austin bought it in 1996, it was restored and then added back to the Civil Register of aircraft in July 1998. In another racing sidebar, one of the many owners of this plane down the decades was Lionel Van Praag, the pre-war champion speedway bike racer about whom I wrote not so long ago (G Goodall)

They left Stapleford Aerodrome in Essex, where the aircraft were built, on 19 September 1957- each of the planes contained their new racing cars, the chassis of which would have been accommodated easily, contrary to some reports that have it that the cars were ‘cut-up’ and re-welded back together again in the Land of Oz.

Austin’s ex-Paul England Cooper T41 was the more astute purchase but Ernie’s Lotus was not to be sneezed at, although neither were outright contenders amongst the Gold Star grids of the day- 1958 topliners were the Lex Davison Ferrari 500/750, Stan Jones Maserati 250F and Ted Gray’s Tornado Chev, but on a good day they were certainly point-scoring machines. Click here for an article on Aussie’s Cooper;

https://primotipo.com/2015/05/20/aussie-miller-cooper-t41-climax-trevallyn-hillclimb-launceston-tasmania-1959/

After 32 stops between England and Australia! our two intrepid adventurers flew their EP9’s into outer Melbourne’s Moorabbin Airport, where they were based, on 27 October 1957.

Germane to the story and Sabakat’s new engine is a third EP.9, chassis or frame number 32, which Super Spread acquired a little later. It was air freighted to Australia in parts and assembled locally by the company. This aircraft provided the engine which was soon to be fitted to Sabakat.

On 15 April 1958, after completing a rebuild of that plane following a crash on Flinders Island in February, Austin and engineer Bill Symons took to the skies at Moorabbin and ‘immediately after take-off the aircraft climbed steeply, stalled and crashed to the aerodrome. The elevator cables had been installed so as to reverse normal operating sense’ the official report into the accident recorded. Both guys were seriously hurt, the badly damaged airframe was struck off the aircraft register on 28 April 1958.

Whilst the planes wings and other parts went into EP.9 #46, the Lycoming engine was aok and sat unused in Super Spread’s workshops for a little while…

Doug Whiteford, Maserati 300S from Tadgell- note that the car by this stage is red…Longford 1959 (P O’May)

 

Tadgell, Middle Ridge, Toowoomba 1958 (D Willis)

Ern raced the Lotus extensively throughout Australia from the time it arrived contesting some Gold Star events, including Lowood- where he took the lap record, Bathurst, Longford and other circuits. In addition, he also had occasional drives in Norman Hamilton’s Porsche 550 Spyder, the car these days in Lindsay Fox’ collection in Melbourne.

At some point he based himself in Queensland, the preparation and modification of ‘351’ was done up north. I know from discussions with Austin Miller’s son Guy, that Aussie, apart from being a very talented pilot could also wield machine tools with the best of them- his cars were self prepared inclusive of maintenance and rebuilding his FWB and FPF Climaxes. I doubt Aussie was involved in the work on ‘351’ at this stage but am intrigued to know exactly who modified ‘351’.

All was fine with Ern’s Climax engine until the March 1960 Longford Trophy when the motor let go during the race won by Brabham’s Cooper T51 Climax, by then Austin had a T51 too, his 2.2 litre FPF engined car failed after 3 laps, so not a good weekend for the two aviators.

What to do next with three months until the AGP at Lowood on 12 June was Tadgell’s challenge?

The percentage play would have been to rebuild the Climax engine to 1960 cc which Ern’s block would have accommodated- but the potential to run up the front with a 270 bhp powered Lotus, oops, Sabakat was too great a temptation!

The dogs breakfast- Sabakat Lycoming presented for scrutineering at Lowood in 1960. ‘Take it home matey’ appears a reasonable response by todays standards, but they were different times of course. Note the immense width of the Lycoming flat-6 compared with the slender Climax inline-4 (SCW)

 

(B Miles)

 

Inlet tracts and stub exhausts of 7.6 litre, beefy Lycoming clear (B Thomas)

The Lycoming engine fitted to the EP.9 was a member of the O-480 family of six-cylinder, horizontally opposed, air-cooled, two overhead valve motors. All were of 7.86 litres in capacity but there were at least five variants all with an additional prefix preceding the ‘480’ to indicate the specific configuration of the engine.

Until recent times Sabakat’s Lycoming engine type and capacity has been the subject of conjecture, Ern didn’t help by listing the capacity of the engine in the AGP program as 8150 cc which just does not fit. Some photographs, most notably those of Bill Miles and Brier Thomas posted online in recent years make it clear the engine was a Lycoming horizontally opposed six- not a four. Publicly available information about the engines fitted to the EP.9’s also makes the detective work easier than pre-internet times as well.

The exact specification of the engine is unknown but it was normally aspirated by carburettor- and unsupercharged which suggests a power output between 270-295 horsepower at circa 3000 rpm. Geoff Goodall’s aviation site quotes the EP.9 engine type as Lycoming GIO-480.

270-295 bhp sounds great of course but the engine, despite lots of alloy was big, bulky and heavy at 498 pounds. The 1475 cc Climax FPF was small, compact and light at 280 pounds, so the little, svelte, beautifully triangulated Progress chassis all of a sudden had another 220 pounds in weight, and lots of girth to cope with. Magazine reports of the day indicate the chassis was lengthened to accommodate the Lycoming.

It goes without saying that in a straight line, everything would perhaps be hunky-dory but the propensity of the machine to change direction with anything other than disinterested alacrity would be something else, unless some supreme engineering was involved.

But the photographic evidence suggests that that was not the case and that rather, ‘automotive sodomy’ was performed with a ‘rough as guts’ insertion of Lycoming, to put it politely.

Note the jury-rigged external fuel tank above and long, three inlet tracts from carburettor atop the engine and (below) stub exhausts.

It is not clear whether Tadgell and his team had time to test the car prior to race weekend but reports of the day suggest not.

This account is by Romsey Quints aka Bill Tuckey in Sports Car World ‘Last of all (entrants) to arrive was a pink painted monster barely recognisable as what had been once Ern Tadgell’s 1.5 litre Lotus-based Sabakat. Peeping like bare skin at a concubine’s waist from among the odd tubes and chopped up-panels of the poor baby’s lengthened frame was 8150 cc (we now know it was 7860 cc) of grinning air-cooled flat-six Lycoming aircraft engine.’

‘Towards dusk an ashen Mr Ernest Tadgell, sweat streaming from every pore despite the coolth of the evening, wheeled his Lycoming-Lotus through the pit gate after covering three eye-popping laps. Muttering something about frantic understeer and three-thou at 120, he disappeared into the night.’

Australian Grands Prix back in the days of yore had a sprint race or two before the main event. Ern lined up his aero-engine special and only completed one full lap before disaster struck, accounts differ, either something broke or he ran wide on a corner but whatever the case the result was the end of ‘351’.

Sports Car World saw it this way ‘…Tadgell made one hair-raising tour of the circuit, embarked on another and then understeered off at the left-hand Castrol Corner’. Bill Turnbull says that the torque of the Lycoming engine was too much for the rear suspension hub which broke, overturning the car. Back to SCW, ‘The ungainly Lycoming-engined brute rolled on contact with the (hay) bales, tipped bold Ernie on the ground and then flopped in a blazing heap beside him. A courageous official hauled the erstwhile pilot out of the area and doused his burning clothes…from the course ambulance Ernest Tadgell Esq, announced his retirement from racing.’

 

The steering wheel appears re-usable but not much else (B Thomas)

‘All that was left of Sabakat, which had been largely magnesium alloy, were the steel wheels and hubs’- perhaps the hubs but not the wheels for they were magnesium ‘wobbly- webs’.

Tadgell impacted the result of the AGP indirectly in that Alec Mildren’s Cooper T51 Maserati broke a half-shaft on the line in the preliminary which claimed Sabakat. The fire which Tadgell started and was fuelled by the hay bales and dry grass took some while for officialdom to get under control- all of which was valuable time Alec put to good use by personally repairing his car which he then used to win the race by the slenderest of margins from Lex Davison’s Aston Martin DBR4/300. Click here for more about Mildren and a detailed account of the AGP;

https://primotipo.com/2018/06/08/mildrens-unfair-advantage/

Whilst Sabakat was dead Tadgell raced on in an immaculate Lynx Ford FJ in 1962/1963 but his lifestyle got the better of him in the end, he died of burns from a crop-dusting accident in 1965, his, like Austin Miller’s are life stories which would make stunning reading. As Romsey Quints observed, ‘Ernie Tadgell was a marvellous man who ate up life like a cat at a dish of ice-cream.’

Bill Turnbull wrote that the remains of Sabakat were stored in an aircraft hangar near Oakey, but by the time Graham Howard went searching in the early seventies whatever there was had been ‘spread by the winds’. Tadgell’s family are still involved in aviation, servicing helicopters.

Lex Davison’s Cooper Vincent s/c leads Ern Tadgell’s Porsche Spl in the very first race of the very first meeting at Phillip Island, the ‘Grand Opening Meeting’ on 15 December 1956- clearly Ern liked air-cooled cars- he had a few ‘works’ drives of Norman Hamilton’s Porsche 550 Spyder too (P Island)

 

Very rare shot of Ernest Tadgell in his Porsche Spl, no idea of the circuit but perhaps Lowood given the domicile of the photographer. Note sure about the chassis but the engine of this car was a 356 1498 cc flat-4 fitted, of course, with twin Solexes- circa 100 bhp @ 6200 rpm, box a modified VW. An ‘FV’ a decade before its time- what became of it? (J Psaros)

Lets have a look at some photos of the Sabakat Replica to round out the story.

From idea to first test was the best part of a decade- Graham Howard sought to acquire ‘353’ in 1970, the first test session for Sabakat was at Amaroo Park, Sydney in April 1979.

Tony Caldersmith working on the new Sabakat chassis in 1973 (SCW)

 

Tony Caldersmith did the Grand Tour of Europe as we Aussies all eventually do. He managed to get a job at Hornsey building pre-production Elites in 1958 and later was Service Foreman at Cheshunt, inclusive of writing the Elite Service Manual. He later switched to Team Lotus ‘in charge of their base operations, which basically meant creating an organisation that rebuilt the expired components of the last race and had new set ready for the next event’. He left to go to Handley-Page working on Victor bombers and ‘rejected a lot of sheet metal work as not up to Qantas standards! The photo at Hornsey is of the prototype Lotus 7 Mk2 Ford 1172cc on top of purchaser, and friend of Tony’s Warren King’s Riley 9 (T Caldersmith)

Howard relates how audacious a project it was in his Sports Car World article- he knew little about Sabakat at the outset, let alone that it was ‘351’, he had none of the components of the car nor drawings either.

But by 1972 he was piecing together the history of the dozen Lotus Twelves, had a set of drawings from John Player Team Lotus Team Manager Peter Warr, was sourcing the many bits he needed and critically had the support of Sydney domiciled ex-Lotus employee Tony Caldersmith who agreed to get involved and fabricate the chassis and other key bits and pieces.

‘…Tony’s contribution held everything else together. And just as he had been able to dig down into his files to produce a (12) drawing, throughout the whole project he was forever digging into his resources and producing solutions, calculations, not to mention actual components, to take the project a stage further’ wrote Graham.

Enthusiast, racer, restorer, fettler, recognised global Lotus expert, author and all round good guy Graham Campbell Howard in the early 2000’s (AMN)

 

Howard at Amaroo Park, Sabakat 2 (B Caldersmith)

I don’t propose to paraphrase Graham’s long, beautifully written and detailed SCW article other than to observe that it was an amazing triumph to build such a car by an impecunious enthusiast, supported as he was by an army of friends and colleagues who allowed the realisation of a dream. It is wonderful to see Sabakat 2 on a regular basis.

Brian Caldersmith kept a photographic record of the restoration, to complete this piece.

(B Caldersmith)

Graham in Tony Caldersmith’s driveway proving just how light that spaceframe is!- roughly 50 pounds. 1973 i’m guessing.

(B Caldersmith)

 

(B Caldersmith)

We are quite some way down the track by this stage, just use your eyes to see the multitude of bits and pieces sourced, and or fabricated by Tony.

Engine is a ‘period’ Climax 1.5 FPF from the ex-Charlie Whatmore Lotus 11- so too are the gearbox and wheels. Adrien Schagen donated a pair of smashed Lotus 11 de Dion hubs which were identical to the 12 design.

(B Caldersmith)

On wheels now, nice pair of flairs Graham- ‘Staggers’ perhaps?

Say 1977’ish, still in the pre-build stage well before everything comes apart and the chassis enamelled and re-assembled.

After getting a quote from the very prominent Stan Brown in Sydney for the body, Doug Nye introduced Graham to the Donington Collections panel man, John Cole with whom he contracted. He ended up paying pretty much the same amount without the advantage of being able to ‘chew the ear’ of a local artisan! The result was mighty fine mind you.

(B Caldersmith)

 

(B Caldersmith)

Completed.

In the Amaroo paddock, date folks- Graham’s ex-Alex Strachan Lotus 6 Climax alongside Sabakat 2. Who is the burly fellow fettling the 6?

And racing at an Historic Amaroo.

(J Lambert)

Sabakat In more recent times at an Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park display. Sabakat lives on…

Erratum…

Mike Gosbell, the current custodian of Sabakat got in touch after publication with some engine details of ‘351’.

‘The build sheet on chassis ‘351’ that Mike Bennett gave me shows that the FPF motor was ‘1031’ not ‘1003’. ‘1031’ is period to around September 1957 so Ern Tadgell got a new motor when he purchased ‘351’. I don’t know what happened to its original motor, but it may be ‘1002’ which is unaccounted for.’

‘FPF ‘1003’ is the motor that Graham Howard used in the cars re-creation ex-Jack Brabham works Cooper T43 F2, the motor that was removed at Monaco (1958) and replaced with a 2 litre FPF F1 motor so Jack could run after an accident in qualifying.’

‘I have a copy of Graham Howard’s original application to CAMS (to build the recreation) showing that the FPF motor would be ‘1005’, that was the Charlie Whatmore motor but was not used- that motor was used when Tony Caldersmith rebuilt the Mildren Cooper T51′ Mike wrote.

Tailpiece 1…

(D Beard)

Mike Bennett’s ‘353’ during the 2012 Goodwood Festival of Speed, David Beard’s creative approach pops a Lotus 29 Ford Indycar into the foreground. Nice.

Bibliography…

‘Theme Lotus’ Doug Nye, Aviation Safety Network, Geoff Goodall’s Aviation History Site, F2 Index, The Nostalgia Forum Lotus 12 and Sabakat threads in particular the contributions of Stephen Dalton, Kenzclass, Ray Bell, Dick Willis, Mike Bennett, Bill Turnbull and James Lambert, Mike Gosbell

Photo Credits…

Getty Images, John Marsden, John Ross Motor Racing Archive, Len Deaton, Australian Motorsports News, David Beard, Brian Caldersmith, James Lambert, Dick Willis

Tailpiece 2: Allison, Moss, Scott-Brown, Goodwood, April, 1958…

(Tumblr)

Allison’s 12 Climax ‘357’ leads Moss’ Rob Walker Cooper T43 Climax with Archie Scott-Brown’s Connaught B Type through the Goodwood Chicane during the April 1958 Glover Trophy.

Cliff was fourth in ‘357’, Archie sixth whilst Moss’s Climax motor had a nasty conrod failure. Mike Hawthorn won from Jack Brabham and Roy Salvadori- ‘old school’ Ferrari Dino 246 from John Cooper’s latest Cooper T45 Climaxes.

Moss took the first championship F1 win for a mid-engined car in one of Walker’s T43’s at Buenos Aries only a couple of months before on 19 January.

Finito…

Comments
  1. David E.M. Thompson says:

    Beautiful story, beginning to end.
    Did Colin Chapman ever see the re-born Lotus 12?

    • markbisset says:

      Thanks David,
      It was a fun one to write, an easy one really as I knew most of the story if not the fine detail- I would be very happy to own a 12! Sabakat 2 never left the country but I imagine Graham Howard would have corresponded with Chapman about the cars completion.
      Mark

  2. Bill Turnbull says:

    I was at the Lowood event when the Lycoming Sabakat crashed as a very minor member of its team. The cause as to the rear strut breaking was what was told to me, so I can’t confirm this. My interest started with offering to help in any capacity with Ern’s Porsche special, then right through to Lynx FJ.
    Until now I’d no idea the effort and work that went into reconstructing the Sabakat replica. As to the name, that’s just surmising on my part as the name relates to a Middle East place that may have been on his route back home.

  3. Brian Simpson says:

    Another beautifully scripted article with all the right photographs too ! . Congratulations & best regards , Brian .

  4. William L Turnbull says:

    As a very minor part of Ern’s team at Lowood there was only speculation about what caused the Lycoming engined Sabakat’s crash. More likely the suspension strut broke away at the top rather than at the hub.
    From Toowoomba, where Ern based his racers, I took an interest as a young teen doing my bit with the Porsche Special through to the Lynx FJ. At Lowood the rev limit was stretched distorting the pushrods.

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