Posts Tagged ‘Lotus Elan’

What a couple of pert, perky, taut little tooches!? I do like a finely formed little rump, the Lotus Elan and Jag E Lwt, two of the tightest…

Its Leo Geoghegan chasing Bob Jane through Hell Corner for the blast up Bathurst’s Mountain Straight, I’ve my money on the punch of the Jag’s mid-range torque not to forget its beefy top end over the delicate little Elan. Timeless, twin-cam designs both.

I’ve written about these blokes often enough for international readers to know they were both prominent Australian champions- Bob best known for exploits in touring cars and Leo in open-wheelers. Here they are on ‘neutral ground’, sportscars, during the Easter meeting in April 1965.

(unattributed)

Jane got the better of Leo in both the 5 lap preliminary and 13 lap NSW Production Sportscar Championship, winning both races from the Sydneysider, top speeds of the cars were 147.05 and 142.85 mph (Elan) on Conrod Straight.

I notice Bob’s Jag has a Victorian number plate. The successful businessman lived just off Kew Boulevard in Melbourne’s leafy inner east, no doubt the racer was exercised on that marvellous stretch of road from time to time.

I’ll get around to a comprehensive article on Jano’s Lwt E Type one day, for now enjoy these snippets and shots great sixties sporties.

Etcetera: Jano and his E Types…

(D Lupton)

The Jane Jag E Lwt and Mk2, plus Fiat 2300 at Calder 1964- the E Types first race was here on 8 December 1963.

Its said that the car was a gift from Sir William Lyons via Australian Jaguar importer Jack Bryson. Bob was a Jaguar sub-dealer and had done amazing things to promote the marque in Australia via his race exploits in his Mk 2, an Australian developed car.

Bob and his brother Bill Jane later raced the car in the UK- Jane retained it until 1980 when it was reportedly sold at auction for $A80,000- his ex-works Maserati 300S was sold for a similar figure. He said ‘it was the biggest business mistake i ever made’…

 

Jane at Bathurst looking fairly hot and dry, Easter 1966 perhaps (T Smith)

 

(H Schendzielorz)

Jane in the Lwt heading up Templestowe Hillclimb in Melbourne’s outer east, circa 1964.

Bob’s Lightweight was his second E Type, as most Australian enthusiasts would be aware.

He bought his first, a series 1 red-roadie in the UK in 1961 complete with Warwickshire rego-plate ‘2152WK’- the car’s chassis number was RHD 621.

It was continually modified and as a consequence was a more successful racer than the Lightweight which competed against sportsracers rather than production sportscars. It competed in 21 race meetings in only 15 months, incuding third in the 1963 Australian GT Championship when driven by Bill Jane, Bob’s brother.

Jane at Longford circa 1963 (unattributed)

 

Lakeside 1963. Bob’s multi-Oz touring car championship winning Mk2 and E Type FHC (J Psaros)

When Bob bought the lightweight in late 1963 he sold the Fixed-Head E to Adelaide’s Clem Smith, prominent racer and Mallala circuit owner- he raced it twice more.

Soon after it was sold to a member of the RAAF and disappeared, presumed crashed in the Adelaide Hills in the 1960’s or 1970’s.

In more recent times research via Jaguar racer, Mark Trenoweth and Jaguar Magazine have tracked the car to Toowoomba, north of Brisbane where it was owned by a group of enthusiasts- still fitted with is aluminium bonnet and other goodies.

The magazine reported that the car had several owners after that and at one stage was fitted with automatic transmission- the ‘case’ has now gone cold again, do get in touch if you can shed some light on its whereabouts.

(Nantes)

The photograph above is unmistakenly Sandown’s old pits, and one of the first shots of Bob’s FHC, the car still looks in standard specification- more than likely this is the circuit’s opening meeting in March 1962.

(unattributed)

Wet Lakeside meeting above and Bob is alongside Frank Matich in his Lotus 19B Climax, wet international meeting in 1963 at a guess. Elfin Streamliner on the second row plus other cars you pick yourselves. Matich might have won this race…

And below at Mallala, circa 1963, with Bob ‘half-out-the-window’ as he is in quite a few shots of this car!

(Smith Family)

Etcetera…

 

(unattributed)

The red E FHC, i suspect after Bob had sold it, but where, when and who is the driver are my questions!?

Superb shot of Jane heading for the apex of Pub Corner in Longford Village circa 1963.

Credits…

autopics.com.au, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, Dennis Lupton, Heinz Schendzielorz, Jock Psaros, oldracephotos.com, Nantes Family, Clem Smith Family Collection, Terry Smith

Tailpiece: Geoghegan and Jane leaning into Hell Corner, April 1965…

Finito…

 

Geoghegans were the Australian importers and distributors of Lotus cars from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies when Jim Smith’s Peter Manton Motors in Melbourne stepped up to the plate

The brothers Geoghegan are no doubt well known to most primotipo readers by now, even you international mob. Between them they had ‘Taxis’ or Touring Cars and Open-Wheeler racing covered in Australia. Ian or ‘Pete’ Geoghegan was a multiple national champion aboard cars with a roof and Leo was similarly credentialed in the more rarefied and refined single-seater world.

Whilst the Lotus Racing Halo internationally was huge in the mid-sixties for all of the obvious reasons, the Geoghegan connection must have polished the Lotus brand considerably in this part of the world too.

Who wouldn’t want to buy a car from them and then have it serviced there? Why, if you were lucky during February, you might even time your trip to have your Elan’s Webers tickled with the visit of Team Lotus who operated from the Paramatta Road, Haberfield dealership during the Warwick Farm Tasman weekend.

(Dalton)

The Lotus franchise in Australia is a bit of a ‘hot spud’ really- no one has distributed the things for a long time.

Not even those who were multi-franchise dealers and therefore had the earnings of other marques with greater volumes to support the lower financial contributions of what has always been a very niche brand in Australia, the brothers Geoghegan probably the longest lived of the dealers.

Some well known motor racing names have been involved in flogging the wonderful but idiosynchratic cars down the decades.

Alec Strachan was the original importer, he was based at Waitara, Sydney and negotiated the rights with Chapman off the back of purchase of a Lotus 6-the first of Chapman’s machines in Australia. Then Derek Jolly with his impeccable racing and engineering connections to Chapman himself took over, but that was never going to really work, Adelaide is a long way from the main East Coast markets especially back then given the transport and road infrastructure. Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and Hobart had tiny populations for such a niche product.

Performance Automobiles sold a few in Hobart and in Melbourne John Roxburgh, and Dick Thurston’s Pitstop Motors on the Nepean Highway, Brighton waved the Hethel flag. At the same time Lance Dixon sold plenty of used ones, many times I rode by bike from North Balwyn to Doncaster to dream about a red Europa or Elan. Simply Sportscars of South Melbourne have the rights now- these blokes are hard-core enthusiasts and should do well where others have failed.

Whad’ll she do mister? Leo Geoghegan’s ex-Clark Lotus 39 Repco sitting forlornly on the 253 Parramatta Road lot in 1970. Leo raced the car finally, having acquired it from Team Lotus after the 1966 Tasman Series, in the 1970 Tasman, then it was put to one side to sell whilst Leo raced to Gold Star victory in a new Lotus 59 powered by a Waggott 2 litre DOHC, 4 valve injected engine (Fistonic)

These photos by Milan Fistonic capture the late-sixties flavour of the Geoghegan’s dealership in Sydney’s Parramatta Road, ‘Auto Alley’.

The shots are very much dated as being late 1970, the year in which Leo stopped racing his evergreen ex-Clark Lotus 39 Repco V8. There it is, the 1969 JAF Japanese Grand Prix winner sitting on the used car lot just waiting for a punter with the necessary readies. Click here to read my article about this wonderful car; https://primotipo.com/2016/02/12/jim-clark-and-leo-geoghegans-lotus-39/

It was not an easy car to move at the time with F5000 in the process of becoming the new ANF1, to replace the 2.5 litre Tasman Formula. The nutbags at CAMS made F5000 cars eligible to contest the 1970 Tasman Series but not the domestic 1970 Gold Star- that title was won by Leo G in the Lotus 39’s replacement, a brand new Lotus 59B to which he bolted a superb circa 275bhp 2 litre Waggott engine built not too far from the dealership. The 39 fell into the very best of hands, John Dawson-Damer, who did a brilliant job restoring it to its original, ex-works 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engined form. It’s still in Australia, happily!

It seems fitting to provide some period written flavour to accompany the photos.

To do so I have reproduced the wonderful recollections of ‘DanTra2858’ he contributed to ‘The Nostalgia Forum’, Daniel worked for the brothers Geoghegan at that time, the late sixties. I’ve positioned his thoughts around several different headings to preserve some semblance of flow.

(Dalton)

On assembling Lotuses in Australia.

The cars arrived by ship from Hethel ‘CKD’ or in Completely Knocked Down form… ‘…1969, also working there at the time was Barry Lake (racer and very well known racing journalist) and Wally Willmott (for many years Bruce McLaren’s right hand in the nascent years of BM Motor Racing in the UK) Service Manager was Bob Everitt.

With a little help to remove a Europa from its crate and the motor/gearbox and diff assemby, it took me about 10 hours to assemble a car ready for registration.

There were some long days assembling the cars mainly due to the clutch plates attaching themself to the flywheel. Of course this did not show up until the installation of the motor/gearbox into the car on initial start up, sometimes it could be rectified by starting the car in gear but not always. Then out with the motor/gearbox as that was easier than split, fix the problem then put it all back together again, good days!

When Lotus cars were imported…they came in a open frame wooden crate with the car wrapped in plastic sheeting, that was the full extent of protection (during the long voyage from England) The motor/gearbox assembly was in a wooden box complete with the suspension, tailshaft , diff and wheels. Each crate/box had identification numbers on them to match the motor to body, so the first thing to do was match up the components to assemble a car.

When this was done the body crate was opened, plastic wrapping removed and using 2 trolley jacks the body was moved into the workshop and placed on modified jack stands. Then the motor box was opened and all suspension parts/wheels were removed and taken into the workshop ready for assembly, by this this time it was time to stop work for morning tea!

Now refreshed it was time to fit the suspension and wheels so the car was now a roller which made it easier to work on. When assembling the rear suspension the diff, drive shafts, Hillman Imp rubber doughnuts etc were all fitted. Now for lunch.

So with a full belly it was time to bring in the motor/gearbox, tailshaft and fit them into the car, along with the exhaust system. When this assembly was bolted in, cooling hoses, electrics and other parts were fitted. Then it was time to present to this ‘new arrival’ its first full meal of lubricants including brake fluid, so we then bleed the brakes. By this time it was about 4 in the afternoon so a cuppa was in order, then back to work.

Now that the car was fully assembled the work really started. Re-check that all previously assembled parts were correctly assembled and all bolts/nuts were tight, oil levels were correct and that there were no leaks in the brake hydraulic system and fluid was at correct levels. Next I checked that the clutch operated correctly and if not then one of two steps were taken to rectify the adhesion of the clutch plate to the flywheel/pressure plate. If there was no trouble with the clutch it was time to connect the battery and start the motor, let it warm up, check for fluid leaks and bleed the heater system in the cabin of the car by slackening the bleed screw on top of the heater core remembering to tighten it after all the air was bled off. If there was clutch trouble the first thing we did was to start the car while in gear, this usually caused the clutch plate to release then operate correctly. If not then it was out with the motor/gearbox assy to fix the problem then pop it back into the car- this would add 3 hours to the assembly time.

If all went well it was now about 6 pm but still the to-do list list included wheel alignment, checking that all lights operated correctly and that all of the electrics worked. Then tyre pressures were set with a final check for leaking fluids. By this time it was about 8pm and another 12 hour day was complete leaving the road test for first thing the next day- that also included cleaning up wood crates and plastic wrapping. Then onto normal service work with another assembly starting the next day. Well folks that is how it was done at Geoghegans, I may have missed a few steps somewhere along the way, it is a long time from 1969…you have the picture’.

Plenty of lonely S2 Europa’s in 1970 (Fistonic)

On The Hot Sellers of the Lotus range…

‘The sales section always required stock on the floor that covered the Lotus range excluding Super 7’s. (Not sure why they were not imported to Australia, Chapman didn’t do the deal with Graham Nearn at Caterham cars to take over the rights to build 7’s until 1971 from memory, so Lotus Components were certainly still building them in the late sixties)

The slowest moving car was the Elan Plus 2 so every time one was sold we would assemble another but that did not happen often, the most popular was the Elan Coupe followed by the Europa, we would assemble 2 or 3 a week depending on sales of the model.

I found the Europa quicker to assemble than the Elan. My first experience driving a Europa along Paramatta Road (a main artery into and out of Sydney in the days before freeways it was the ’normal’ way to go between Melbourne and Sydney so there was plenty of local and interstate traffic inclusive of large semi-trailers) was just straight out frightening especially when a double decker bus pulled up alongside me while waiting for the traffic lights to change to green. Sitting in the Europa I found myself looking up at the centre of its wheels with the bus towering over me, a feeling of vulnerability quickly came over me.’

Tried and true technique of naked ladies to get us blokes to scan the pages of a brochure in a thorough manner. Lotus Elite brochure , must be US issue, way too racy for 1960 Australia (Dalton)

On Painful Customers…

‘Pete Geoghegan did not come down to the service section much at all…on one of those times he was showing off on a motor bike, doing wheel stands in the lube bay then the 6 foot dash from the lube bay through our parts area into the Lotus workshop then back again with the biggest smile I have ever seen on a guy that has just achieved what no-one else has done.

One Elan FHC I do remember very well.

Its owner arrived at our service area unannounced while we were having morning tea wanting something fixed right away, I told him that I would look at it as soon as I finished my coffee but that was the wrong answer for this guy.

He then spoke to Bob Everitt, the Service Manager and was told by him that I would look after his car as soon as I had finished my coffee, this slowed him down a bit but he kept on looking to his watch. So I finished my coffee quickly…went into the service bay held out my hand and introduced myself, without a blink he shook my hand introduced himself and told me what the problem was, I fixed it in 10 minutes and he was on his way, oh his name…Warwick Brown, I serviced his Elan from then on…’(In 1969 20 year old WB would have just been starting his racing career in a little Brabham owned by Pat Burke- who was still his patron when he won the Tasman Championship in 1975 aboard a Lola T332 Chev F5000)

Photographer Milan Fistonic with an eye for Plus 2 Elans (Fistonic)

Lotus equals ‘Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious’…

‘Whilst at Geoghegans I only worked on one Elite and was very impressed by the construction of the car as a full mono-fibreglass enclosure setup…it was on sale in the yard so it would have been a quick mechanical check up prior to the car going on sale. The main thing that had to be done, as with all fibreglass Lotus’ was to make sure that the electrical earth set up was not corrupted by corrosion on the body to chassis alloy mounting bobbins in the body. That was number one check on all Lotuses even new ones. The alloy bobbins on the Elite are for suspension mounting, but there again steel bolts into alloy bobbins, which means corrosion of the bobbin which have been known to become loose in their fibreglass enclosure- meaning fibreglass repairs.

Lotus Elans were bad for water leaks at the top of the A-pillar and in the boot. We tried re-gluing the door sealing at the top of the A-pillar but all to no avail as the inside plastic section of the seal kept on pulling it down leaving a small opening at the top where the seal assembly transferred to the horizontal. The final Geoghegan factory fix was to push the seal assembly up as hard as you could into the top of the A-pillar while your offsider drilled a one eighth inch hole through the vinyl inside section of the seal and into the fiberglass body, then insert a pop rivet and pull it home and there was a permanent fix with nothing but happy customers. By the way we didn’t leave the pop rivet just plain silver so it would show, we concealed it by painting it with a black texta.

For me the hardest thing while working at Geoghegans was learning how to spell their name, Smith or Brown would have been much easier!’…

Photo Credits…

Milan Fistonic

Bibliography…

DanTran2858, The Nostalgia Forum, Stephen Dalton Collection