Posts Tagged ‘Penfolds Wines’

(Drage)

Kevin Drage changes a Jaguar XK140 wheel with Derek Jolly’s Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ on the trailer enroute to Gnoo Blas, Orange, New South Wales in late January 1960…

Derek Jolly lead a full life, he was a man of many parts.

A visionary with money who had many interests including motor racing, business, photography, music, science and technology, the arts and fine wine. Something of a renaissance man really.

Born into the wealth of South Australia’s Penfold Wines family, he played an important role in improving the performance of early Austin 7 engined Lotus cars, designed, built and raced his ‘Decca Specials’ and then two Lotus 15’s with much success in Australia. He played a role in Australia’s nascent music industry from the 1960’s and was seminal in the redevelopment of the Melbourne Street North Adelaide precinct in the 1960/70’s. Later in life he lost a good deal of his wealth on Australia’s property market. Undeterred he moved back to the Barossa Valley and commenced a new business there.

The focus of this article is Jolly’s two Coventry Climax engined ‘Decca Specials’ and his Lotus 15’s chassis # 608/626, the car raced with much success by Derek and later a shooting star named Bevan Gibson. In fact Jolly’s 15 was not one but two chassis, albeit both had the same chassis number or chassis plate as you will see.

This article is drawn from several sources. An unattributed article in Unique Cars, the recollections of Kevin Drage, a very prominent Adelaide engineer (who deserves his own detailed story) who was Jolly’s mechanic/pitcrew for much of the time he raced the Lotuses. Kevin’s account and the dialogue about them on ‘The Nostalgia Forum’ are content and context rich. John Blanden’s seminal book ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ was used. Various issues of Australian Motor Sports magazines provided race results for the two Deccas, I’m not suggesting it is a complete list however. AMS also provided the technical specifications of Decca Mk2. Where there were divergences of the story as to fact, I have expressed the alternative suppositions or views.

As will be shown Derek progressed from Austin 7 based cars to his own lightweight Coventry Climax FWA powered Deccas and finally to the Lotus 15, then amongst the fastest sportscars of their type.

The powerful 15’s or more correctly ‘Fifteens’ were fitted with the Coventry Climax FPF, twin-cam, 2 valve, four cylinder engine in either 1.5 (140bhp and 112 lb ft of torque) or 2 litres (170 bhp and 160 lb ft) in capacity. The chassis was an evolution of the Chapman/Costin Lotus 11 design. About 30 were built.

Chapman’s cars were famous for their light weight, the Fifteen tipping the scales at 445 kg and was competitive with far more powerful cars which were nominally, on paper at least, faster machines. The cars were light, slippery, turned in beautifully and, with a De Dion rear end put their power down well. During 1958 a well driven Fifteen would see off Jaguar D Types and were only challenged for outright wins by the works Lister Jaguar and Aston Martin DBR1’s in the UK.

Lets start with some background on Derek before turning our attention to the cars he built and raced.

Jolly at Le Mans 1959 (ABC)

Derek Jolly…

 Jolly was from a wealthy background, a member of the Penfold family, the founders of Penfolds Wines, still one of Australia’s greatest winemakers which originated in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

Penfolds was founded on 200 acres at Magill in 1844 with vines brought from France by Christopher Rawson Penfold. Penfold’s daughter married a George Hyland, the descendants adopted the Penfold Hyland name. Derek’s mother Mrs Ernest Jolly (doncha love the patriarchal terminology of 1940 Australia) was the only daughter of HL Penfold Hyland who entered the family firm in 1904. What is not clear to me is what role Derek had at Penfolds, although its said he worked alongside Max Schubert in the 1950’s, for generations the most legendary of Penfolds winemakers especially of ‘Penfolds Grange’, which is not a bad drop in global terms..

Like so many drivers of the period he cut his racing teeth on Austin 7’s, in fact he was one of the most competitive racers running these cars.

Derek was given one as a twenty-first birthday present by his parents and with encouragement from fellow South Australian A7 expert Ron Uffindell, he went racing.

Ron knew all of the secrets of these machines having competed extensively in them including two Australian Grands Prix. He was 7th in the 1936/7 AGP at Victor Harbour and 8th at Bathurst in 1938. In that race won by Peter Whitehead’s ERA, Ron drove his little A7 Special from Adelaide to Bathurst, raced it to 8th place and then drove home again via Victoria’s Great Ocean Road!

Derek’s car was a 1931 Ulster replica chassis ‘11517’ initially raced in chassis form, and for hillclimbing had its radiator mounted behind the engine. For road racing a lightweight body was fitted. Into the late forties and early fifties the car was a regular at events in SA, Victoria and New South Wales, perhaps it’s most notable result was third in the under 1500cc handicap at the 1950 October Bathurst meeting.

The exact specifications of the car ‘had an aura of mystery grow up against it’ according to the 1950-51 Australian Motor Racing Annual given that ‘such an ordinary looking diminutive side-valve runabout can circulate in company with all but the very hottest TC MG’ with ‘light weight and meticulous attention to detail’ it secrets of success.

Derek lifting the inside wheel thru Hell Corner on the way to 3rd behind the Brydon and Pearse MG Spls in the Under 1500cc Handicap at Bathurst in October 1950, Austin A7 Ulster Spl ‘11517’. Car now in the UK ( G McGrath)

The published specifications of the car include a 3 main bearing engine made of new parts, of 747cc, side-valve, cam with standard timing but higher lift. Compression ratio was 7:1 with a single horizontal SU carb, coil and distributor ignition. Gearbox was Big Seven 4 speed, the front brakes slightly modified with a floating anchor pin, brakes standard cable operated. A special lightweight 2-seater aluminium racing body with a rounded tail was built with maximum speed quoted at 92 mph.

It was in the context of racing Austin 7’s that Colin Chapman wanted to meet Derek. Colin was just starting the transition from trials competition to racing and was keen to learn more about the secrets of Derek’s A7 engines.

Derek went to the UK with his girlfriend, Pamela Strange as well as his very competitive, powerful A7 engine and gearbox as baggage on the Otranto. His presence in the UK was noted in the August 1951 issue of Motorsport which recorded his three-bearing Austin 7 racing success in Australia.

Depending upon which story you source the engine either arrived with Derek or in advance of his time in the UK. Whatever the case (see Appendix) Chapman, after examining the engine, adapted Jolly’s inlet manifold ideas, which in essence turned the siamesed 2 inlet port standard side-valve A7 engine into a 4 port motor considerably increasing its power and performance. At this point let’s note that Derek’s A7 secrets were mainly Ron Uffindell’s in terms of apportioning credit where it is due.

Chapman, in typical style claimed in Ian Lawrence’s book the initiative as his own ‘…an idea which had suddenly come to him after a rather hectic Christmas party…’- maybe Derek Jolly was at that party!?

Whilst some publications ignore the important role Jolly played in the performance of a very significant Lotus raced by Chapman himself in 1951, Derek’s role is now more widely acknowledged.

The Lotus Mk III ‘was constructed and probably very successful due to the assistance of the Allen brothers and Colin’s access to Derek Jolly and his Austin 7 engines’- ‘the car conceived and built between June 1950 and its first race in May 1951’ the Colin Chapman Archive and Resource notes in its ‘The Hills, Spills and Thrills’ article.

Jolly contested a Prescott Hillclimb aboard a Lotus Mark 3 powered by his engine/box but ‘broke down’, John Blanden does not identify the cause of the failure.

Whilst in England Derek spent as much time at Hornsey as he did on Penfolds family business, which was supposed to be the primary trip purpose!

Clearly very strong relationships were created between the two men, Jolly later acquired two Lotus 15’s, was entered as a works driver at Le Mans in 1959 together with Graham Hill and Chapman awarded Jolly the franchise for Lotus cars in Australia in the later mid-fifties.

Jolly posing with Decca Mk1 Climax FWA in 1956 (ABC)

Decca Mk1 Climax…

Derek returned to Australia and continued racing his A7 Spl but he soon realised he needed a more sophisticated car as the Australian scene progressed with drivers building cars to modern design themes or imported racers from Europe.

He had watched Lotus’ progression through the Mk9 and later the 11 and decided a car powered by the Coventry Climax 1100cc SOHC FWA engine was the way to go. He acquired an FWA, MG TC gearbox and Borg and Beck clutch on one of his trips to the UK.

His concept was a lightweight Clubman type car of spaceframe construction, with a de Dion rear end. The car, inclusive of its aluminium body and cycle-guards was built by Arthur Williams in Sydenham Road, Norwood, Adelaide, Derek’s home town of course.

The Decca Mk1 Climax made its debut at Port Wakefield on 31 March 1956 but caught fire during the 50 lap ‘Wakfield Trophy’ won by Tom Hawkes Cooper T23 Bristol.

Damage was light with the car racing again at Templestowe Hillclimb in Melbourne’s outer east in May. In a busy day he won the 1100cc sportscar class, then took his cycle guards off and was 2nd in the 1100cc racing car class with only Lex Davison, Bruce Walton and Murray Rainey quicker than the little Decca, regardless of capacity in their Coopers, and Walton Special.

Derek and Decca Mk1 shortly after it’s debut, Port Wakefield, SA

Back at Port Wakefield on June 4 Derek started a period as one of the most prolific racers in Australia for the next several years. In those days race meetings were not plentiful, if a competitor wanted to race frequently, he had to travel interstate.

The car raced locally of course at Port Wakefield, again on 8 October for 2nd in the ‘B scratch’ with a class win in the 20 lap sportscar feature won by Bib Stillwell’s Jag XKD. The day was topped off by a win in the 20 lap racing car handicap, 1100cc of Coventry Climax triumphed over the Chev V8 engined Tornado of Ted Gray.

At Collingrove he took 1st in the 1100cc sportscar class during the SA Hillclimb Championship on 6 October. The car was fourth quickest up the hill that day outright.

At Fishermans Bend in outer Melbourne on October 13/14 Derek won the sports and sedans race, was 2nd in the racing and sportscar race and also contested the 52.8 mile feature ‘Astor Trophy’ getting experience of longer events. He ran as high as 8th, the race won by Doug Whiteford’s Talbot-Lago T26C grand prix monoposto.

The little car was fast, in the ’56 Melbourne Cup, November meeting at Rob Roy, in Melbourne’s Christmas Hills ‘Derek Jolly continued to embarrass the locals with his amazing little Decca Special…’ that day his 27.97 secs was the third quickest time of the day the only faster machines the specialist hillclimb single-seaters of Lex Davison and Bruce Walton.

Jolly on the inside at Port Wakefield, SA circa 1957, Decca Mk2 Climax FWA, design of car Lotus 11 inspired (unattributed)

So successful was the Mk1, always intended as a prototype to test suspension ideas, that Derek decided to build a quicker car around the same major components.

Mk1 exists today in Fiat engined form but the little car donated its engine, gearbox, rear suspension and wheels to the new machine.

Work commenced on Decca Mk2 in August 1956 ‘using an army of thirty amateur and professional mechanics, the car quickly took shape’ John Blanden wrote. The cars inspiration was the Lotus 11’s Jolly saw on a trip to Europe in early 1956 and was again of spaceframe design and construction with the all-enveloping slippery body formed in aluminium.

See ‘Etcetera’ towards the articles end for full technical details of this great little car.

‘Brand spanking new’, road registered Decca Mk2 Climax in the Albert Park paddock in November 1956 accompanied by a lovely lady and a couple of Melbourne’s finest. Lines of car derivative but distinctive (K Drage)

Decca Mk2 car was completed 5 days before the Australian Tourist Trophy at Albert Park in November 1956. Derek’s prolific racing schedule continued with many impressive results, inevitably he won his class but the car was often also an outright contender.

In a splendid debut he was 13th in the 100 mile event behind vastly more powerful cars and won the 1100cc class. On the second day of the AGP carnival won by Stirling Moss’ works Maserati 250F Jolly showed the speed of the car again by finishing 7th in the 25 mile ‘Argus Trophy’ behind two Coopers, a D Type, Paul England’s Ausca Holden Repco and two Austin Healey 100S.

Derek towed the car back up the Western Highway towards Melbourne and then around Westernport Bay to the opening meeting of the Phillip Island circuit on the 15 December 1956 weekend.

He contested the ‘Bill Thomson Memorial Trophy’, Thomson was a three times winner of the Australian Grand Prix on the original Phillip Island road circuit in 1930/32/33.

Jack Brabham won in a Cooper Bobtail from Stillwell’s Jag D Type, Paul England’s Ausca Holden Repco and Ron Phillips Austin Healey 100S. Derek duelled for 3rd with England and Phillips but retired on circuit with undisclosed dramas with 2 laps to run. The competitiveness and speed of the car seems apparent from its earliest of events.

Sportscar support race, 1957 Caversham WA Australian GP meeting. Derek at left Decca Mk2 Climax, J Wynhoff Healey, R Ashley Healey, #39 A Collett MG T Type, #30 Paul England Ausca Holden Repco, A Melrose Healey, E Kinnear Healey and out front Ron Phillips Healey 100S. Derek was ahead before battery problems intervened giving the win to Phillips AH 100S (E Steet)

In early January 1957 Jolly and his small team towed the Decca across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth to contest the Australian Grand Prix carnival at the Caversham ex-airfield circuit, the meeting was held in notoriously hot conditions.

Derek was 4th in his qualifying 20 lap AGP heat from Brabham’s Cooper T43 Climax on the Saturday.

25,000 people arrived to watch the races on Monday which was even hotter than the preceding days.

Derek lead the 40 lap sportscar preliminary until a battery lead came adrift, Jolly jumped out of the car near the Olympic Hairpin and remedied the problem but by then Ron Phillips AH 100S had passed him, a lead he was not to lose.

Not only that but Derek doubled up and contested the 70 lap AGP, held to F Libre rules. It was an amazing act of endurance, some drivers including the winner, Lex Davison, Ferrari 500/625 had a co-driver (Bill Patterson in Davo’s case) whereas Jolly did the race on his own and finished in 7th place! The achievement was even greater as Jolly’s crew were still refuelling Decca when the flag to start the race fell. Jolly was push-started by his crew after the rest of the field had departed.

In the AMS report of the race, an outright event, the days of handicap Australian Grands Prix were over, they list handicap placings which give Jolly 4th behind Syd Anderson Alta s/c, A Melrose AH Healey 100/4 and Len Lukey Cooper T23 Bristol.

Derek Jolly & Decca Mk2 at Caversham during the ’57 AGP weekend, wonderful colour shot of the cars lissom lines (D Foley)

In March Derek again won his class and finished 5th outright at Albert Park in the 100 mile 1957 Victorian Tourist Trophy, this time the ‘heavy metal’ in front of his small car comprised Doug Whiteford’s Maser 300S, Bill Pitt in a Jag XKD, Bill Patterson’s Cooper Climax and Paul England’s Ausca Holden Repco.

He returned to Victoria in June to race the car in the VSCC Fishermans Bend Sprint meeting, with the AMS report quipping ‘Derek Jolly once again took the opportunity to visit us with his spectacular Decca. His XK140 is probably able to find its own way back to South Australia..’

Travelling even further afield to Broken Hill in July, Derek took fastest time of the day at Peak Hill ‘..the glamour car of the meeting scored an easy victory..’

Undeterred by the 520 km trip to Broken Hill Derek pointed the trusty Jag in the direction of Sydney where the car was to stay until after Bathurst.

Derek contested the New South Wales Hillclimb Championships at Silverdale, near Camden on 15 September taking the 1100cc class AMS reporting ‘…the Decca went up very quickly and treated all corners with utter contempt’ taking a class record in the process. The car was the sixth quickest present that day, a few future big guns present were Frank Gardner Jag XKC , Leo Geoghegan in a Holden FX. Lets not forget Ron Tauranac Ralt, Lex Davison Cooper Irving s/c and Brian Foley Austin A30 too.

Next on the agenda was a trip from Sydney to Coonabarabran for some record breaking for a whole swag of Commonwealth Oil Refineries supported drivers, of whom Derek was one.

On 28 September 1957 he set a Class G Australian Land Speed record in Decca Mk2 at Coonabarabran recording 116.75 mph, the little car modified to suit by fitment of a head fairing.

Off to Bathurst for the ‘Bathurst 100’ meeting in October Derek competed as an F Libre car rather than a sportscar.

The event was a scratch race as part of the Gold Star, the Australian Drivers Championship but was run as a handicap. Derek actually lead the race (on handicap) for quite a long way until easing towards the end with a brake duct that was coming adrift. Lex Davison’s Ferrari 500/625 won the race from scratch in 75.54 minutes with Jolly third on handicap in 83.54 minutes behind Tom Hawkes Cooper Holden Repco and Frank Gardner’s Jag XKC.

Home in Adelaide Derek contested the Gold Star meeting at Port Wakefield on the 14 October weekend. He placed 5th in the championship ‘Wakefield Trophy’, behind the single-seaters of Davison, Hawkes, Lukey and Keith Rilstone’s Zephyr Spl.

It really makes you wonder how DJ would have fared in one of the more competitive single-seaters of the day. A Lotus 12 with a 2 litre FPF could have been quite a good thing in Australia in 1957/8.

On the road again to Hepburn Springs Hillclimb, not as far as Melbourne, over the Victorian border, Derek took his customary first in the 1100cc sportscar class on 20 October.

Still in Victoria for the Phillip Island Gold Star round on 27 October Derek placed 2nd in the sportscar support race behind Bill Patterson’s Cooper Climax and then 4th in the F Libre Gold Star race behind Lex Davison Ferrari 500/625. The Melburnian won the very first Gold Star awarded that day, Tom Hawkes Cooper T23 Holden Repco and Eddie Perkins (father of Larry) Porsche Spl were second and third.

Derek stayed in Melbourne for the week for the Victorian Hillclimb Championship final on the 5 November, he was again first in the 1100cc sportscar class, Bruce Walton took FTD that day at Rob Roy in his Walton JAP Spl.

Into 1958 the cars competitiveness continued with first in class and 8th outright in the F Libre Victorian Trophy at Fishermans Bend.

On 7 April Derek again won his class at the SA Hillclimb Championships at Collingrove.

In 1958 he contested several rounds of the Victorian Hillclimb Championship; he was first in the 1100 sportscar class at Rob Roy on 4 May, and again at Hepburn Springs on 18 May.

It was time to move on and up to a faster car. As a driver and car constructor Derek had certainly proved his capabilities over the last two years. So he placed an order with Chapman for a Lotus 15. In a wonderful piece of symmetry, Derek raced his new Lotus to 2nd in the 1958 ATT at Bathurst in October whilst Gavin-Sandford Morgan was 1st in class and 5th outright in the borrowed Decca Mk2 Climax!

Decca Mk2 raced on in the hands of Victorian John Ampt in 1959/60, he very much did it justice. The car lives on in Frank Moore’s collection of Australian Specials in Queensland and has done for many years.

Lets now turn ourselves to Chapman’s Lotus 15 design.

Lotus 15 cutaway (Tony Lofthouse)

Design and Construction…

The first Fifteens (lets do 15’s to save space) had the engine laid over at about 60 degrees to starboard, allowing a flat, gorgeous bonnet line between the wheel arches. There was a trade-off though in that there was an absence of space for additional diagonal bracing to the top of the engine bay. In all other ways, the early Series One cars did not noticeably differ from the finalised Series One. Derek Jolly’s car ‘608’ as landed in 1958 was to later S1 form.

The chassis of the 15 was a 30 kg space-frame in 18 and 20 gauge mild steel with the 15 and F2/F1 Lotus 16 having many components in common. The front suspension with wishbones incorporating the roll bar as the front half of the top A-arm components were common with the Series Two 11’s, the 7’s, the Elite and Lotus first single-seater, the F2/F1 Lotus 12. The 15 and 16 also shared the variations in engine inclination and Chapman Strut rear suspension.

The 15 was delivered with either wire or cast-magnesium 15-inch wheels to customer order, which, like the Eleven, had the same rim width front and rear. In 1958 this was four inches, carrying 4.50 front and 5.50 rear tyres and in 1959 perhaps four-and-a-halves. Chapman’s primary design priority until around 1960 was minimisation of unsprung weight by keeping both wheel and tyre as small as possible. The 15 had the standard Lotus track and wheelbase of the day – that is, an 88-inch wheelbase and just under 48-inch track. These dimensions, established with the 11, were used with the 7, 12, and 16.

Also carried over from the single-seater Lotus 12 was the controversial Lotus five-speed gearbox, the ‘Queerbox’.

‘A thing of Swiss-watch subtlety and elegance, but still of doubtful reliability nearly a year after its introduction. Rear-mounted, in unit with the differential, it carried its five ratios in less than nine cm (3 1/2 inches) of length, with the output gears fixed on the long differential pinion shaft, and the input gears spinning free until progressively selected by a migrating spline which was itself splined to the tailshaft. This gearbox was very much the Achilles Heel of the 15, and in fact substitution of the less-subtle, but infinitely more reliable, BMC B-series gearbox bolted to the engine, and of the proven Lotus Elite diff-case, distinguished the Series Two cars introduced later in 1958’ Unique Cars reported so eloquently.

Rear of the Jolly 15 ‘608’ at Bathurst in October 1958, 2nd in the Australian Tourist Trophy to David McKays Aston DB3S that weekend (unattributed)

‘At the start it was the engines that gave the biggest headaches. For Lotus aficionados it is almost heresy to consider what Lotus committed on those early engines, and the engineers at Coventry Climax undoubtedly felt the same way. To accommodate the inclined engine, one of the dry-sump scavenge pumps was discarded and the other modified, and the sump itself was drastically reshaped; the inlet ports were counterbored to take spigots for the manifolding, which had to incorporate a 30-degree droop. No matter how hard Climax tried (and to give them their due, they tried hard) the inclined engine was about nine horsepower short of upright-engine figures, and suffered cooling and oiling problems’.

None of these things was happening to the FPF engine in rival Coopers, so for Le Mans Lotus bit the bullet and produced two cars (a 1.5 and a two-litre) with engines inclined a mere 17 degrees the other way – just one degree different to the Cooper! This gave the upright-engined 15’s a distinctively long and slim bonnet-blister which, not so aerodynamically strong, but reliability was improved. Apart from a continuing series of enlargements to the water and oil cooling radiators, the 1958 15 had been finalised.

Lotus 15 ‘608/626’ in Series 3 form at Longford in March 1960 during the Australian Tourist Trophy weekend, a race the car won. Kevin Drage is changing plugs, note the chassis engine bay cross bracing tube referred to in the text. 1960cc CC FPF (K Drage)

‘For 1959, the Series Three car was announced, offering a simpler chassis mainly resulting from re-positioning the front anti-roll bar to become the rear link – instead of the front – in the top wishbone. Engine position, and the important diagonal across the top of the engine bay, carried on from the upright-engine 1958 car. A small change was visible in the cockpit, where the Series Three now had two small down-tubes from the dash, meeting a transverse tube which ran across the floor, whereas the earlier 15’s had relied solely on the stressed tailshaft cover to strengthen the floor and to provide gearbox mounting for the B-series box’.

‘Press pictures of the 1959 car show it with the BMC gearbox but at least two cars were built with the very compact, front-mounted ZF S4-12 all-synchro four-speed box, and another had a unique development of the Lotus five-speeder which carried the gears astern of the differential. The existence of at least two ZF-gearbox cars can be supported because there were two such cars in Australasia – one the Leaton Motors Frank Matich driven 2.5-litre car, the other a 2 litre which went to New Zealand for Jim Palmer. A unique five-speed box was fitted to Derek Jolly’s car. That raises the question of how a 1959 gearbox found its way into a 1958 car. The answer involves what is probably the most contentious item of 15 history’.

Jay Chamberlain/Pete Lovely works Lotus 15 FPF 1.5 ‘608’ at Le Mans in 1958 DNF accident (Revs)

Jolly’s car, chassis ‘608’, was one of two 15’s Team Lotus ran at Le Mans in 1958.

‘One was a 1.5-litre, the other a 2 litre FPF which caused quite a stir with its fast practice laps, but which retired embarrassingly early (blown head gasket) in the race itself. The 1.5, shared by the American Lotus drivers Jay Chamberlain and Pete Lovely, went well in patches between pit stops, and became one of the victims of violent rainstorms during the night when it crashed avoiding a slower car and was in turn centre-punched by a spinning Ferrari’.

Jolly was initially offered chassis ‘607’ by Chapman but it was allocated before Derek responded so he acquired ‘608’ instead, the car raced by Chamberlain and Lovely. It was repaired after Le Mans and raced by Cliff Allison on 19 July at the British GP meeting at Silverstone in a sportscar support event.

Lotus records show the car was then prepared for sale to Jolly equipped with tonneau cover, long-range tanks and fitted with 1475 cc CC FPF #1054. It was popped on the SS Orsova and arrived in Australia in August 1958.

Derek’s choice of the 1.5 litre FPF rather than a larger one may have been a function of availability or choice. It may be he saw it as a stepping-stone from the 1100 single-cam Climax FWA used in his Decca Special’s, perhaps he also thought it a gentler companion for the Lotus-12-type gearbox fitted to the car.

Jolly in 15 ‘608’ upon its Australian debut at Forrests Elbow, Bathurst, Australian Tourist Trophy in October 1958. 2nd behind the McKay ex-works Aston DB3S (unattributed)

The cars first event in Australia was at Bathurst, the October 1958 Australian Tourist Trophy, which was contested by a field of great depth.

The ATT was the support event to one of the most thrilling Australian Grands Prix of all- the spectacle of Lex Davison, Stan Jones and Ted Gray battling away in Ferrari 500/625, Maserati 250F and Tornado Chev V8 on this toughest of road circuits is one held in reverential terms by those who attended the meeting.

David McKay won the race in his ex-works Aston Martin DB3S from Jolly’s little Lotus off grid 3, and Ron Phillips Cooper Jaguar. A gust of wind took one of the favourites, Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S out of the race and into the barriers on Conrod Straight.

The following day Jolly scored his first win, walking away with the sportscar 10 lap support race to the Australian Grand Prix, from the D Type Jag of Bill Pitt and Frank Matich’s Leaton Motors C Type- the speed of the Lotus, which was timed over at 137.4mph on Conrod Straight was not lost on Frank who would get his hands on his own Lotus 15 in time!

Jolly raced the car closer to home, at Port Wakefield a week later on 13 October finishing third in the F Libre Wakefield Trophy behind a pair of Cooper Bristol single-seaters.

The little car was then towed to Melbourne a week later for the Victorian Sportscar Championship meeting at Fishermans Bend.

In a very successful weekend Jolly won the race- like Bathurst, a power circuit, from Bob Jane, making his race debut in his ex-works Maserati 300S, Derek’s task was made easier by Phillips DNF in the Cooper Jag with a broken oil line.

Jolly at Fishermans Bend prior to winning the Victorian Sportscar Championship in 1958, Lotus 15 ‘608’. Lotus 11 behind, various Austin Healey 100S and Coad built and driven yellow Vauxhall Spl to right (K Drage)

The Lotus then returned to Adelaide to be prepared for a fortnight of racing at Albert Park on the 23 and 30 November weekends.

In the 100 mile Victorian Tourist Trophy Derek was an excellent 3rd behind Whiteford’s 300S and Ron Phillips Cooper Jag. Phillips and Derek had many dices when they were racing the Decca and Austin Healey 100s, Phillips, like Derek had stepped up to a bigger car, in his case a Cooper Jag. On the following day in a support event Derek was split between Doug Whiteford’s winning Maser and Bill Pitt’s Jaguar XKD.

The feature event the following weekend was the Formula Libre Melbourne Grand Prix won by Stirling Moss’ Rob Walker owned Cooper T43 Climax.

Derek’s heat went well enough, he finished 5th or 6th. But things went terribly awry whilst running in 7th place during the main race.

Kevin Drage ‘The front anchorage point of a rear radius arm failed…and the Lotus rear steered into a tree. Derek was taken to hospital for facial surgery where the Perspex screen impacted on his visor and fractured his cheekbone. I think he also fractured an ankle’.

John Blanden’s account of the accident is that ‘halfway around on the last lap Derek crashed badly. He later put the accident down as three-quarters due to exhaust fumes and tiredness and the balance perhaps contributed by the left hand radius rod pulling away from its mounting. No amount of research revealed whether the radius rod pulled out and dug into the roadway or whether, while on that side of the road to take a left-hand bend, the offside front wheel mounted the kerb as he ‘blacked out’- as the car had done this two laps earlier, it is the more likely explanation. All Derek could remember was a sudden jolt (probably the wheels mounting on the kerb) and the tree looming up in front which was hit a split second later’.

In essence, was the broken radius rod anchorage the cause or effect of the accident? The answer is that nobody can be certain.

Kevin Drage ‘The Lotus was extensively damaged. Derek took photos of the failed anchorage point and asked Colin Chapman to rebuild the car free of charge. Chapman agreed on the condition he could run the 15 as a factory entry at Le Mans in 1959. Derek in turn agreed on the condition he co-drive at Le Mans and retain the 2.5 litre FPF engine to be fitted’.

Whilst there is no doubt that bits were transferred from the original chassis to the rebuilt car, what was contentious was whether or not the original chassis was repaired or replaced.

Drage picks up this point ‘I was Derek’s race mechanic/pitcrew during most of the time he had the 15 and was always under the impression that the car that returned to Australia was ‘rebuilt’ not a new one. Of course the car was extensively damaged at Albert Park and it may well have been a new chassis and panels’.

John Blanden provides the answer to this repaired old/new chassis point it seems.

When ‘608’ was returned to Cheshunt, it was stripped by works parts chief Jay Hall who assessed the frame as not being economically repairable. The chassis was scrapped (taken to the tip), the 1475cc CC FPF engine fitted to another chassis and what undamaged bits were left built into a new chassis, frame number ‘626’.

Blanden cites photographic evidence of this chassis (626) plate at Le Mans but before being shipped to Australia- the car went back to the factory, a new ‘608’ chassis plate was affixed complete with the correct 2 litre Coventry Climax engine number- ‘1160’.

The Lotus invoice to Derek characterised the work done as chassis repairs and replacements to remove the obligation for Derek to pay Australian import duty on what was a new chassis rather than a repaired one. This kind of jiggery pokery is what still goes on of course, why wouldn’t the ‘fiscal fiend’ be avoided if at all possible- but it does create havoc for historians decades hence.

Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’…

In terms of the new cars identification, lets call it ‘608/626’ as John Blanden i think correctly does.

Series Three features were used wherever possible in the build of the car. Externally, the most easily recognised is the later style of bonnet, which extended right to the dashboard and carried the centre section of the carefully-curved perspex screen – whereas Series Ones and Twos had a shorter bonnet and a separate scuttle panel, very much in the style of Lotus Elevens.

Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ at Le Mans during scrutineering in 1959. Car driven by Graham Hill and Derek Jolly. The largely new car was fitted with chassis plate ‘626’ at Le Mans but replaced by a new ‘608’ plate before shipment back to Australia (John Hendy)

Team Lotus had earlier in the year announced its intention to contest Le Mans with a pair of customer-owned 2.5-litre 15’s, in the end the factory entry was none other than ‘608/626’, with Jolly’s co-driver, soon to be rising F1 star, Graham Hill.

The car arrived at La Sarthe initially fitted with a 2 litre FPF, ‘this was replaced with a Lotus-owned 2.5 after the first practice session and the untested gearbox showed itself keen to unscrew the nut on the end of the pinion shaft because this shaft now rotated in the opposite direction to previous gearboxes. Nonetheless, despite these indications of preparation haste, the car survived practice and in fact ran for more than 10 hours of the race’.

‘Graham Hill at one stage had the car as high as 7th outright – before its habit of jumping out of gear caught Jolly out at 120 mph, changing up to fifth on the very fast run to Arnage. In traditional Climax fashion, number four rod hacked the block almost in half, and demolished the starter-motor for good measure’.

Having again failed at Le Mans, the car was returned to the factory, now moved from the cramped Hornsey site to a large factory in Cheshunt, to be readied to go to Australia.

Drage recalls that a 2.5 litre crank could not be obtained in time for the post Le Mans rebuild so the car returned to Australia with a 2 litre crank inside a 2.5 litre block and therefore raced at a capacity of 1960cc.

In rebuilt form the car also had a very different style of engine bulge – wider based, more gently curved, and open at both ends. There may have been aerodynamic reasons for this.

‘Additionally, the original five-speed gearbox – in which the gears were carried just ahead of the differential – had been replaced by a new design, with the gears astern of the crown-wheel and pinion, but on the same fore-and-aft centreline. This meant gears could be swapped far more easily, and it was announced this box would be an option for sports cars. In fact, it seems likely that only the one box was ever built, although the same principles were used – in a slightly different casing – for Grand Prix Lotus 18s, and the closely-related Lotus 19 sports car’, Unique Cars reports.

Derek looking pretty happy with the car ‘608/626’ in the Gnoo Blas paddock February 1960. Is that Jack Myers he is speaking to? Jolly’s tow car XK140 behind, car with bonnet up is Tom Sulman’s Aston DB3S. You can see the slight canting of the FPF engine, cars spaceframe chassis and cross bracing in the engine bay referred to in the text (Kelsey)

Returned to Australia aboard the SS Athenic in August 1959 and then Adelaide, the Lotus was not raced for a while given mounting business pressures.

Entered at Gnoo Blas, Orange in New South Wales in the Australian Touring Car Championship meeting on the 1 February 1960, Derek took a first up win in the ‘South Pacific Sportscar Championship.’

The photo which starts this article is of Kevin doing a roadside wheel change between Adelaide and Orange- a distance of 1150 Km, the new cars first Australian meeting was a long way from home base!

No doubt Derek had tested the car around the Port Wakefield circuit or the Adelaide Hills to ensure everything was hunky-dory before the long tow north. What a mouth watering thought that is, there are some marvellous roads in the hills close to Adelaide. Some of these very roads were explored by Fangio, Moss and other stars on the ‘Climb To The Eagle on The Hill’ which was an annual part of the Adelaide GP carnival. Fangio blasting a 300SLR past at speed up the hill is a straight-eight image and sound I will never forget!

Kevin Drage attending to the 15’s mirror, ‘608/626’ in the Gnoo Blas paddock, February 1960, note the twin-choke SU carbs on the 1960cc Coventry Climax FPF, silver car #29 is Brookes Austin Spl (Kelsey)

The win at Gnoo Blas was a good one defeating David Finch in a Jag D Type, Tom Sulman’s Aston DB3S and others.

The car was giving away plenty of capacity but the its power to weight ratio, aerodynamic properties and ability to put its power to the ground ensured its competitiveness. As a driver Drage said that Jolly ‘On his good days was a pretty good driver on other occasions he could be just average. When Derek got the bit between his teeth and had a bit of a challenge he usually rose to the occasion’.

‘I can remember towing the Lotus 15 all the way from Adelaide to Sydney to the opening very wet meeting at Warwick Farm.(1960) Derek putting it into the fence after 1.5 laps of practice and then having to turn around and drive all the way back to Adelaide. Derek flew. The only good part was that the tow car was an XK140 Jaguar’. Of that car KD recalls ‘the XK140C with C Type specs…as certainly quick. I recall one trip with Derek (without trailer) from the outskirts of Melbourne to the outskirts of Adelaide in a bit under 5.5 hours’. Quick to say the least!

At speed at Longford en-route to Australian Tourist Trophy victory in March 1960 Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ (J Ellacott)

Success at Gnoo Blas was a portent of even better to come at the Longford International meeting in March 1960.

On the same 5 March weekend that Jack Brabham won the Longford Trophy in his Cooper T51 Climax Jolly triumphed in the 24 lap Australian Tourist Trophy from Doug Whiteford’s Maserati 300S.

Three time Australian Grand Prix winner Whiteford was somewhat impacted by a slipping clutch, but it was a great win with Frank Matich in the Leaton Motors D Type 3rd. In a thrilling weekend for the Adelaide driver Victorian John Ampt was 4th in the race in Decca Mk2.

Kevin Drage recalls that weekend with pleasure ‘When we went to Longford for the Australian TT in 1960 Derek wasn’t keen to pay for the tow car and trailer on the ferry (from Port Melbourne to Launceston- an overnight trip). Fortunately he had somehow managed to have the Lotus 15 road registered so I left the Jaguar and trailer in Melbourne and had the ‘onerous task’ of driving the Lotus from Devonport to Longford and back again. Perhaps this may have been the last time a TT winning car was driven to and from the meeting?’ Kevin mused.

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Derek being congratulated after his 1960 Australian Tourist Trophy win at Longford (Walkem)

His recollections of the ‘Queerbox’ are also of arcane interest. ‘An interesting fact about the Lotus Queerbox is that the gear change lever on Jolly’s original 1475cc 15 always returned to a central position and as a consequence you were never quite sure what gear was engaged. When the 1960cc version returned after the Le Mans rebuild the gear change lever was a migratory type and the gear positions were marked on the tunnel and you at least knew what gear had been selected’.

The Penfolds family at the time were going through the process of listing the family company on the Australian Stock Exchange which was no doubt for the ‘usual’ reasons. As families grow larger there are many who don’t want to be involved, a public listings makes their interest more liquid and also gives access to greater amounts of capital to expand- Penfolds at the time had increased in size enormously from its original Magill base mind you.

As a consequence Derek was under pressure to devote more time to the business, one last success was achieved by the 15 when Derek won the 1962 Caversham 6 Hour co-driven by John Roxburgh. The pair won by 10 laps despite being hampered by a jamming throttle and a leaking gearbox.

The car was then offered for sale, the process took a while with Frank Coad giving it an occasional run in Victoria to remind people of the cars existence.

By 1962 the Lotus 15 was old hat of course with mid-engined Lotus 19, Cooper Monaco and the like much more competitive cars, but eventually in 1964 it passed into the hands of somebody else who made it sing.

Bevan Gibson, Lotus 15 ‘608/626’, Spencer Martin Elfin 400 Repco and Alan Hamilton Porsche 906 Spyder at Hume Weir, Albury/Wodonga, Queens Birthday weekend 1967. Shot is somewhat poignant as Bevan is to die in the Elfin at Bathurst 2 years hence. Drives in the 15 earned him the Bob Jane cars drive (Bryan Liersch)

The Gibson family are well known Benalla, Victoria racing identities, all of ‘Hoot’ Gibson’s sons raced- Bevan, Paul, Grant and Carl, in sportscars.

At the time Bevan was making a name for himself initially in karts, then in a Triumph Spitfire and was ready for the next step, into the 15 so Hoot bought the car. Bevan had just two races in it before end-for-ending it five times at Warwick Farm during the 1965 Tasman meeting in a highly spectacular crash which left him unhurt on the grass as his car somersaulted onwards.

Two months later the car reappeared at The Farm, Bevan won the race from the back of the grid. It was the start of a period in which the Gibson team campaigned the car at virtually every available Victorian and NSW meeting until the end of 1968.

The engines capacity was raised to 2.3 litres which put small-capacity lap records out of consideration, while the over 2 litre class was the territory of the big V8 cars, so that outright and class wins were relatively few, although the car held the Phillip Island sports lap record for many years. What made an impression was Bevan’s natural speed and commitment despite the 15’s inherent shortcomings against much younger cars.

The bodywork was progressively hacked about to repair minor damage and to accommodate wider rims and tyres, and the gearbox needed lots of caring fettling.

The Gibson family owned Lotus 15 Climax ‘608/626’ in the Winton paddock circa 1970, Paul starting out not long after Bevan’s death. Journalist Ray Bell wrote about the family maintenance of the ‘Queerbox’-‘they sometimes wore out their crownwheels, these were too expensive for cinema operator Hoot to replace thru Lotus spares (ZF made them exclusively for Lotus) and so Vauxhall crownwheels were lapped in running with grinding paste on the lathe overnight to suit. The gearchange was always dicky with this car, but when Grant Gibson took it to England he was able to set it up properly with a hacked-up unit alongside and found some spacers in the wrong place’ (G Clarke)

But by early 1969 the old beast had served its purpose, Bevan was recruited by Bob Jane as one of his drivers doing some laps in the Brabham BT11A vacated by Spencer Martin and becoming the primary driver of Bob’s Elfin 400 Repco sportscar.

This car was a very serious weapon powered by a 4.4 litre ‘RB620’ V8, unfortunately Bevan died in it at Bathurst in 1969 whilst pursuing Frank Matich’s much quicker Matich SR4 Repco, that day slowed by a fuel injection problem. The Elfin took to the air on one of Bathurst’s Conrod Straight humps. This story is well told in my article on the Elfin 400. Click here to read it; https://primotipo.com/?s=elfin+400

Ugly as a hatful of arseholes, awful innit?! Bevan Gibson at Hume Weir in the 15 in 1969, with modified nose. The old beast ‘608/626’ had done a few tough race miles by then (oldracephotos.com.au)

The Lotus 15 remained in the Gibson family for decades raced by various of the boys before being restored by Grant Gibson, partially during the period he worked as Nigel Mansell’s engineer whilst at Williams.

The car looked fantastic when completed but sadly left Australia a few years ago, its still alive and well…

What Happened to Derek?…

After the Penfolds float Derek moved away from the racing scene, the Geoghegan family in Sydney took over the Lotus franchise after Jolly relinquished it.

But he was a big mover and shaker in swingin-sixties Adelaide.

He built Gamba Studios in ‘Deccas’ Place’ at what is now 97 Melbourne Street, North Adelaide, its a wonderful part of town i lived in Sussex Street for 3 1/2 years not so long ago.

But back then it was moribund, Derek’s development included a restaurant and state of the art recording studio with the highest quality recording equipment available. He encouraged an open door policy inviting musicians and performers to use the studio to experiment. To enhance that he imported the first Moog synthesiser in Australia, in fact its said to be the first used outside the US.

Derek at right in the Gamba Recording Studio, Deccas Place circa 1971 (ABC)

Many Adelaide folk of a certain age remember the ‘Futuro’ house, a flying saucer like round pre-fabricated building in Melbourne street in the 1970’s and 1980’s. It was originally designed as a ski-house by Matti Suuronen, a Finn. It was seen as a home of the future by Derek, eventually less than 50 were built. Derek’s was relocated to a country site some years ago.

Derek planned Decca’s Place as a cultural centre with his initial drive and enthusiasm being credited as responsible for the mix of shops, restaurants, apartments and boutiques in the area today.

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Deccas Place and Futuro house in the 1960’s, at what is now 97 Melbourne Street, North Adelaide (ABC)

Unfortunately Derek lost much of his fortune in the 1987 stockmarket crash although he continued to be a force in the arts. He and his wife Helen moved back to the Barossa Valley in 1996 opening a multi-media gallery, they were instrumental in establishing the annual Barossa Music Festival which is still held today.

Jolly still popped up to the occasional car event, a close friend who owns a Lotus Elite Super 95 once Derek’s recalls him as guest of honour one year at the Lotus Club Of Australia annual Easter get together.

Derek died in 2002, aged 74 as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident 12 months before- his stationary car was slammed into by an out of control driver at about 90kmh. It was a sad end to a man of many parts, he was also battling cancer at the time.

Jolly was a man of considerable achievement, he used his inherited wealth to achieve much in motor racing, business and the arts.

Its tempting to speculate what he may have achieved had he raced on rather than retired in his early thirties but the scene was becoming more professional- his own racing of the Fifteens is an example of that. In that sense his career bridges post-War amateurism with late fifties-early sixties professionalism.

Lets remember one of the largely forgotten men of Australian motor racing…

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Jolly in his Lotus 15 ‘608/626’ at Warwick Farm during the summer 1961 International meeting. He was second to Frank Matich’s Leaton Motors Lotus 15 2.5 FPF during this meeting, giving away some power to the quick FM driven car- the fastest sportscar in Australia at the time (J Ellacott)

Bibliography…

Uniquecarsandparts.com.au, ‘Historic Racing Cars in Australia’ John Blanden, Colin Chapman Archive and Resource, ‘The Story of Lotus 1947-1960’ Ian Smith, ‘History of The Australian Grand Prix’ G Howard and Ors, ‘Australian Motor Sports’ magazine various issues, ‘Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing’ John Medley, northkentlotusgroup.org, The Nostalgia Forum, Ray Bell

Special Thanks…

Kevin Drage, Ellis French and Rob Bartholomaeus- in Kevin’s case for the recollections and photos on The Nostalgia Forum which inspired this article and in Ellis’ and Rob’s case material from their collections to plug important research gaps

Photo Credits…

Kevin Drage, John Ellacott, John Hendry, ABC, Doug Foley, Tony Lofthouse, Bryan Liersch, oldracephotos.com, Geoff McGrath, Gary Clarke, Ellis French Collection, Walkem Family Collection, Eddie Steet, Ron Lambert, Kelsey Collection

Etcetera…

Austin 7 Engine..

At the time Chapman was starting out to race his Lotus 3 the UK 750 Club rules required the use of the standard two siamesed inlet ports, which could be opened up to improve performance.

Derek Jolly’s secret, probably learned from South Australian Austin 7 exponent Ron Uffindell was to de-siamese the ports.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The technique Jolly used was illegal in the UK as noted. Chapman’s interpretation was to have Michael Allen create an illegal four pipe inlet manifold with two hidden sparators attached to the manifold face which slid into the opened out ports when fitted thereby effectively creating four rather than two ports. They bound up the manifolds four pipes using asbestos tape to hide the pipes and make it appear that it had just two. Unless the manifold was removed the development would be invisible.

The Lotus Mk 3 was a very successful car in 1951 with Chapman behind the wheel. Its speed was due to a combination of Chapman’s talent, the chassis and the engine.

Decca Mk2 Climax FWA..

Whilst superficially similar to the Lotus 11 the Decca is different in many respects.

The chassis is a spaceframe with two tubes either side spaced 12 inches apart vertically . The lower tube is one inch square 17 gauge, the upper one one inch round of 20 gauge. It has only one intermediate cross member at the bellhousing, most chassis bracing is left to the 24 gauge sheet aluminium undertray which is fastened to the lower side tubes and to the tail shaft tunnel, this acts as a large box section.

Jolly jumps back aboard the Decca Mk2 during the 1957 Caversham AGP support race, battery sorted but race lost. He then contested the AGP itself finishing 7th in the amazing, pretty little car (unattributed)

In front a massive box section crossmember welded up from 15 and 20 gauge sheet steel gives massive strength and torsional rigidity. To this is attached 1956 Renault front suspension more or less complete together with its rack and pinion steering gear modified to give 1 3/4 turns lock to lock. The brakes are 9 and 8 inch Alfin drums front and rear.

Decca Mk2 Climax, Collingrove Hillclimb circa 1957. Coventry Climax 1097cc FWA SOHC, 2 valve, twin SU carbed engine to ‘Stage 2’ tune giving circa 83 bhp @ 6800 rpm (K Drage)

At the rear a de Dion system is used. The diff housing is cut down Austin A70 with inboard rear brakes built to it. The driveshafts are as long as possible, their outer universal joints contained within the hub housing, these having been machined down from 6 inch solid duralumin. The de Dion tube itself is made of 3 1/2 inch chrome molybdenum tube and is located by twin trailing arms on each side and a Panhard rod for lateral location. Coil springs are used and tubular shock absorbers.

Wheels are Borrani with 4.5 inch and 5 inch X 15 inch tyres, front and rear.

The car is 11 feet 3 inches long, 5′ wide and 28″ high at its scuttle, its weight 9 1/2 hundredweight. The body itself is made of 18 and 20 gauge aluminium welded together and is arranged such that with the removal of three bolts the whole upper shell can be removed. More routine maintenance can be done with front and rear body sections which are hinged.

The 8 gallon tank gave a racing range of 200 miles and was raced in ‘touring trim’ – and road registered which would have made it a mighty fine, fun, fast road car!

Lotus 15 ‘608/626’..

Wow Factor: Lotus 15 ‘608/626’ in the Longford paddock in March 1960, Jolly’s Australian Tourist Trophy winning weekend (R Lambert)

Tailpiece: Lets end the article the way we started- Equipe Decca in Adelaide, before the long trip to Gnoo Blas, late January 1960…

(K Drage)