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1969 Lola T70 MkIII B
Lot No.: 259
Chassis Number: SL76/141
Engine Number: Not Specified
Number of cylinders: 8
CC: 5 Litres
Year of Manufacture: 1969
Estimate (£): 570,000 - 650,000
Sold for (£): Unsold
Of the many racing cars created by British designer Eric Broadley during more than four decades at the helm of Lola Cars, the T70 was the most successful and it went on to win races at all sorts of venues under a variety of regulations.
In 1958, with the help of cousin, Graham Broadley, he built a sports-racing car powered by a Coventry Climax engine, it was built around a tubular steel space frame chassis of his own design. The creation was immediately quick and in 1959 it proved itself to be a serious rival to the previously unbeatable Lotus Eleven. Following a crash at Goodwood, that resulted in a trip to hospital, Broadley then made the decision that his future lay in the design and fabrication of racing cars rather than driving them.
Introduced in 1965, the T70 involved some chassis details that bore a resemblance to Ford's famous GT40. This was because the initial GT40 design owed much to Broadley and his 1962 Lola Mk 6 GT sports-racing coupé was often regarded as the prototype Ford GT40.
The first T70, was completed in 1965 and driven by 1964 Formula One world champion John Surtees. The monocoque structure and suspension were similar to the GT40, but minus a roof, even so the steel and aluminium Lola was substantially lighter than the Ford thanks to careful ‘weight engineering'. A 4.5-litre Oldsmobile V8 engine was installed initially, but this later gave way to a more potent 5.9-litre Chevrolet V8 built by Traco Engineering.
With the T70 Spyder doing well, Lola's development group got to work on the T70 Mk 3, which included plans for a coupé version. Broadley hadn't forgotten his Mk 6, the design predecessor of the GT40, and thanks to extensive wind tunnel work with ‘aero' guru Tony Southgate, Broadley's new Mk 3 had better aerodynamic properties than the GT40, which tended to display alarming lift at high speeds.
Although Lola was a successful enterprise, its works competition budget was far from bottomless, and the company never fielded a formal works team. Endurance racing success eluded Lola T70 racers almost every time it went out. The famous exception was at the 1969 Daytona 24-hour, when Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons drove a Penske Racing Mk 3B to victory.
Acclaimed as certainly one of the most beautiful sports prototype cars of all time, the Lola T70, particularly in coupe form, is regarded today as the car to have, especially if you want to race and win in the vintage category for World Championship cars.
Offered for auction is this stunning Lola T70 MkIII B bearing chassis number SL76/141. This chassis number was originally entered by Norinder's Sportscar Unlimited racing team. Ulf Norinder raced the car throughout 1969, partnered on occasions by Jo Bonnier, Jackie Oliver and Robin Widdows.
Completed in early January '69 for Ulf Norinder of Switzerland, the car was flown straight out to Daytona for its first race without ever having turned a wheel in anger. Nor, it would seem, invoiced by Lola who didn't get around to doing so until the middle of April. The car arrived in at Daytona in pieces "We're still building it" exclaimed Jo Bonnier shortly before practice. Bonnier had already placed an order for a new MkII B, which wasn't ready, so he negotiated to share Ulf's car.
Bonnier ran with the leading group but dropped back after the first hour when he got wedged between two back markers, thus sustaining damage on both sides. Norinder suffered the same fate, but this time he got pushed into the banking. Ulf brought the car into the pits with a broken wheel, suspension and driveshaft. The team worked on the car but eventually gave up and pushed the car away.
After the rigours of Daytona, SL76/141 was repaired and repainted in white, red and blue livery after Norinder secured a deal with Valvoline as title sponsors of the car for two races. With his own car still not ready, Bonnier was once again partnering Norinder. Practice, unlike at Daytona, went without any problems with the car qualifying in 7th behind the usual horde of factory Porsche's. At the start, Norinder was a bit late in getting away, but easily ran in the top ten for the first couple of hours until the handling started to deteriorate as did the gear change which was getting harder. A pit stop to check a broken exhaust header also revealed that a suspension radius rod had started to pull away from the monocoque so it was decided to retire the car rather than to try and continue.
For the BOAC 1000 Kms at Brands Hatch in early April, Norinder was partnered by Robin Widdows who would be replacing Bonnier who on this occasion would be driving the Filipinetti entered Mk3B. Qualifying 15th fastest in practice, Widdows took the start and ran in the first dozen laps until Norinder took over. Within a few laps, the car was back in the pits with a puncture. Ulf resumed some way down the field and set about making up the lost ground until an off-side top rear suspension strut broke. With the wheel leaning and tucked up under the chassis, Ulf managed to get back to the pits where the mechanics set about a lengthy repair job. After an age in the pits, they managed to get the car back out on track where it then ran fast and strongly without any further problems managing to complete 170 laps to be classified 21st overall.
For the Monza 1000 Kms held on April 25th, the car was repainted in white with a broad red centre stripe. As at Brands Hatch, Robin Widdows, who had acquitted himself well during the BOAC event, would again partner Norinder. After the rear suspension breakage suffered at Brands Hatch, a problem that had in fact afflicted all the T70 Mk3B's entered, the rear wishbones were ‘boxed' and the rear shock absorber mountings strengthened. The car qualified 7th fastest in practice around the combined road and infamous banked circuit. On the first lap, Widdows got tangled with Depailler's Alpine and Gardner's Mk3B with all three cars coming into the pits for the bodywork to be checked, just in case it came flying off on the banking with catastrophic results. Having lost a lap, Widdows rejoined but didn't get too far as the transmission broke after only seven laps.
A week later, Pico Troberg, waiting on his new Mk3B, hired the car for one race at Magny-Cours and finished fourth. The next three events were at Silverstone, the Nurburgring and Le Mans (where it was a reserve entry). Despite having entered the car Norinder didn't actually bother showing up, he was too busy with his parallel F5000 programme. When SL76/141 eventually re-appeared for the Scandinavian and Nordic Cup races, it had been repainted once more and was now in dark blue with a broad gold centre stripe.
First event for SL76/141, in its new livery, was at Anderstorp in June for the 20 lap ‘PR for Men Trophy' race where Norinder finished 3rd. Followed by the Swedish GP at Karlskoga where an exhausted Norinder finished seventh. The Nordic Challenge Cup followed on directly after Karlskoga with the first round the Finnish GP at the Keimola Motor Stadium on August 24th. However it almost all came to nothing when the organisers decided to lower the start and finish money just before the race. After a lengthy meeting between the organisers, the teams and their drivers, just about everyone withdrew including all the T70's, which included the Norinder entry.
The second round of the championship was at Mantorp Park a week later on August 31st. As Norinder was going to be busy racing his F5000 Lola at Hockenheim, and also for the rest of the season, he hired Jackie Oliver to race SL76/141. Oliver qualified 5th fastest in practice and stayed in that position in the early laps having an almighty wheel-to-wheel battle for fourth place with Muller's Filipinetti MkIII B. On lap 12 Oliver pitted and was quickly back out but in haste spun on the next lap. For the rest of the race Oliver ran 9th closely behind Bonnier who was holding him off. Both made up a place when Attwood's T70 expired with Oliver finishing 8th at the end of the 40 laps.
The last round of the three race Nordic Challenge Cup was on September 14th at the Scandinavian Raceway at Anderstorp in Sweden. Oliver was once again entered in SL76/141 and was up against more or less the same entry as at Mantorp Park. After a steady drive Jackie finished sixth, two laps down. This was the last time the car was raced in '69 as Norinder's F5000 commitments took precedent.
The 1970 Argentine Temporada held in mid-January provided a handy opportunity for all the factory teams to get their cars up and running as a dress rehearsal for the Daytona 24 Hours. As well all the factory teams from Porsche, Alfa Romeo and Matra-Simca, there were hordes of Lola T70 MkIII B's. Because of customs restrictions placed on privateer cars, which could see them having to wait more than a year to get a race entry, so all the Lola's were entered as ‘factory' cars so they were exempt from the restrictions.
The first race of the Temporada was the Buenos Aires 1000 Kms in which a young Argentine hotshot, Carlos Reutemann, was signed to partner Jackie Oliver in SL76/141. Oliver qualified the car 11th fastest in practice and the car ran well enough in the early stages, if a bit off the pace of the factory prototypes. Carlos later got involved with another competitor's incident and crashed. He brought the car in and the damage was fixed sufficiently for the car to continue and finish 11th.
The second race at Buenos Aires was a 200 mile event the following week and this time Oliver drove solo to qualify 7th and finish 4th in the race. This was the last time the car raced. In the middle of the year, the car was sold to Steve McQueen's Solar Productions film company for his film "Le Mans".
For the film "Le Mans", Steve McQueen used five Lola T70's, two MkIII's and three MkIII B's, including SL76/141 which had been purchased through David Piper directly from Ulf Norinder. The car was repainted yellow with racing number "11", skid school king Rob Slotemaker was filmed spinning the car on the downhill approach to Indianapolis Corner after having been baulked by a slower Porsche 911.
SL76/141 was then whisked away and dressed up to look like a Gulf-Porsche 917 for a scheduled crash sequence with the cloned car being driven by remote control. Up to this point in filming, the production crew had managed so far to destroy two T70 MkIII's dressed up as Ferrari 512's when the remote control equipment failed both times. Ultimately, the equipment was dumped from the cloned Ferrari in favour of simply firing the car from an air cannon, which certainly did achieve the spectacular desired effect.
The crew didn't give up though and fitted the equipment to the cloned Porsche 917 in the hope they had cured the problems encountered before. The scheduled stunt was pretty much as before with the driver of the 917 being distracted by an exploding Ferrari, then swerving to avoid running into a much slower 911, and finally crash into the barrier. The start of the stunt went exactly as planned with the cloned 917 successfully managing to swerve and avoid the little 911 and then hit the barrier. However the aerial for the remote control was taped inside the left hand side of the tail and after the car hit the barrier for the first time side on, it fell off. The 917 was now out of control with the throttle stuck wide open at maximum revs. It then went on to play pinball between the Armco on the run towards Maison Blanche. The results were spectacular, and much better than expected, and it was all caught on film by multiple cameras.
The car finished up buried in the Armco and sat there with its rear wheels spinning as the engine revved away at full throttle. Everybody stood back and watched hoping that sooner, rather than later, the fuel would run out killing the engine. However someone put rather more fuel in the car than was needed! After several minutes, by which time the rear tyres had ground away to the rim, a brave, if rather foolhardy soul walked over to the screaming wreck, reached inside the shattered cockpit and flicked the kill switch.
After filming was finished the car was disposed of along with the rest of the crashed cars from the film set. They were taken away by Kilmene Latours of France Etablissements de Kilmanie at Chambray-les-Tours.
Kilmene Latours then sold the car to Roger Bolton for spares or repair. In 1971 Clive Unsworth bought the rebuilt car which was painted red and road registered. In 1975 the car was placed in storage until sold in 1994 to John Starkey, a noted and published Lola T70 historian. He rebuilt the car for racing and finished it in red with a white centre stripe. John Starkey successfully raced the car until selling it in 1998 to the owner of Lola Cars, Martin Birrane.
Martin Birrane raced the car for numerous years before the car was then bought by our vendor out of Birrane's private museum in 2004. The car was then restored to its original "Valvoline" racing livery and until recently, it has been successfully raced in various historic championships.
Whilst in the hands of our vendor the car has raced at the iconic and exclusive Le Mans Classic Race - both in 2004 and 2006, along with successful races with podium finishes at other legendary circuits including Silverstone, Spa-Francorchamps and Monza in the Masters Historic Racing Series and the Classic Endurance Racing series.
Maintained regardless of cost by Nigel Morris of Valley Motorsport, with whom the vendor has enjoyed recent wins at both Spa and Monza, the car is presented ready to race with a fresh Tim Adams fuel injected, magnesium engine that has done one race - along with a fully rebuilt gearbox and new differential. Fox Racing, Lola Specialists and founders of Lola Heritage, have also checked the chassis.
Accompanying the car is a letter of authenticity from Lola Cars, current and previous FIA papers, along with a spares package.
01/1969: Ulf Norinder Racing, Switzerland
Invoiced by Lola 23/04/69
For film "Le Mans"
Acquired crashed car
Purchased for spares and repair
Purchased car as spares
Restored and painted red with white centre stripe
Entered and prepared by Zul Racing
Restored in Valvoline racing livery
02/02/69 - Daytona 24 Hours, USA - U.Norinder/J.Bonnier - #60 - Rtd
22/03/69 - Sebring 12 Hours, USA - U.Norinder/J.Bonnier - #14 - Rtd
13/04/69 - BOAC 1000 Kms, Brands Hatch - U.Norinder/R.Widdows - #6 - 21st
25/04/69 - Monza 1000 Kms, Italy - U.Norinder/R.Widdows - #42 - Rtd
01/05/69 - Criterium Nivernais, Magny-Cours - P.Troberg - 4th
17/05/69 - Martini Trophy, Silverstone - U.Norinder- DNA
01/06/69 - Nurburgring 1000 Kms, Germany - U.Norinder/R.Widdows - #58 - DNA
29/06/69 - Le Mans 24 Hours, France - U.Norinder- #57 - DNA
29/06/69 - PR Trophy, Anderstorp - U.Norinder - 3rd
17/08/69 - Swedish GP, Karlskoga - U.Norinder - 7th
24/08/69 - Finish GP, Keimola - U.Norinder - DNS
31/08/69 - Mantorp Park, Sweden - J.Oliver - 8th
13/09/69 - Anderstorp 1 Hour, Sweden - J.Oliver - #8 - 6th
11/01/70 - Buenos Aires 1000 Kms, Argentina - J.Oliver/C.Reutemann - #22 - 11th
18/01/70 - Buenos Aires 200 Miles, Argentina - J.Oliver - #22 - 4th
Documenting the history of racing cars can frequently prove to be a difficult task. Many are subject to hard use, crashes, modifications or uprating, which only makes the task of substantiating their provenance more challenging. The exact cars used for the movie Le Mans and their eventual fates have provided much fodder for speculation over the intervening decades and as a result prospective buyers must be aware that there are currently other Lola T70 MkIII B's contesting historic racing series bearing the same chassis number. This car, however, is the only car showing on the official Lola register.