Simulators Sixties Style…

Posted: October 23, 2021 in F1, Obscurities
Tags: , ,
(Victor Blackman)

‘Daily Express’ motoring writer David Benson races a Lotus 31 at the Racing Car Show, Olympia, London January 19-26, 1966…

These days no self-respecting race-team from F1 down would be without their race simulator to sharpen their drivers preparation and performance. Like so many innovations from the mid 1950s to the mid 1980s, Lotus paved the way with a small number of sims they built for commercial/entertainment use in the sixties.

Aviation led the simulation way of course. French commanders Clolus, Laffont and Clavenad built the Tonneau Antoinette, regarded as the first ground training aircraft. Progress was swift, by World War 2 The Allies produced 10,000 Link Trainers to assist 500,000 new pilots into the sky.

Whether Colin Chapman’s motivation was broadening the appeal of racing by putting anyone in the driving seat, building the Lotus brand, or perhaps another profitable line of business is unclear. A small number – about 18 – were built and sold to dealerships and large corporates such as BP. The Avengers tragics may recall the ‘Dead Mans Treasure’ episode in which the woman behind the wheel had to keep driving fast or otherwise receive a deadly electric shock…

The car is a reproduction of an F3 Lotus 31 (it would be intriguing to know the differences between the real deal and the sim cars) fitted with all of the track-bound instruments and controls. “The course reproduction mechanism, located behind a screen, projects a complete image of the track and its surroundings.”

“The disc on which the track is laid out is quickly changed to allow a change of circuits. For the faint of heart, a disc showing normal street driving is available. From the cockpit the driver receives a complete picture of his driving efforts. With scale speeds up to 120mph, the full sensation of handling, maneuvering the course, braking and accelerating are completely controlled by the driver.”

“Naturally, driver error doesn’t go unnoticed. Incorrect control on a corner causes the car to virtually run off the course, at the same time sounding a buzzer. Late braking or excessive speed will cause the car to leave the track,” – while technology has advanced a tad, that much remains unchanged!


Victor Blackman, Golden Gate Lotus Club




The elapse of a half-century – Toyota F1 race simulator circa 2008, and current TS050 Hybrid sim below, pretty much the only thing which cannot be replicated are the g-forces but doubtless that will come!



  1. Wayne Giles says:

    I think I drove this, or something similar, at around that time at the racing Car Show in Melbourne at the Royal Exhibition Building. It may have been Jim Abbott’s first show.

  2. Peter Finlay says:

    I had a drive of one of these in Sydney 1971. The operator was pretty amazed how I handled the car on Brands Hatch. Of course, I was very familiar with single seaters, having raced Formula Vee for 3 years at that time, although I was yet to experience Brands.Funny, though, how I cannot handle modern sims.I tore down the garage wall at Eastern Creek when I attempted to drive one there circa 2010.

  3. Peter Finlay says:

    In 1982 I had two drives of the Qantas analogue Boeing 747 simulator. Managed to land on both occasions. I just followed Reg’s instructions over the head set. I held a Commercial pilots’ licence on single-engined light aircraft, even so it was a huge step up to the big jet sim.

    • markbisset says:

      Hi Peter,
      A lifetime ago I was going out with gorgeous Lizzie Maloney, her dad, Captain Bill Maloney – ‘Biggles’ to me – was a TAA pilot on DC9 or 727 I guess. He was an Exec Pilot actually, still flew a bit but otherwise had some management role.
      Anyway, he organised for Liz and I to have a whirl on the TAA simulator circa 1979-81, it was in a building on the other side of the Tulla Freeway opposite Essendon Airport – I think Qantas still use it for that purpose.
      Anyway, Biggles showed us how it was done then Liz and I destroyed a good percentage of TAA’s fleet…not easy without ANY knowledge base, a memorable experience such a long time ago!

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