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The Lotus 19 was a remarkable car from the fertile mind of Colin Chapman during a period when he was at his most creative. A two-seat, mid-engined sports racer with a particularly beautiful fibreglass body clothing a classic Lotus spaceframe and powered by a willing 2.5-litre Coventry-Climax, it emerged as the proverbial giant killer taking on the V8 Chevys and Buicks that were being raced at the time – and any number of the more fancied Jaguars and Ferraris. Chapman named the car ‘Monte Carlo’, ostensibly as a tribute to Stirling Moss’ victory in the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix but possibly as a friendly poke at John Cooper whose considerably heavier and less petite Monaco was named after the marque’s similar success at the same event in 1958. Most testing of the new Lotus 19 was undertaken by Stirling beginning on 25/07/1960, and in his hands, it made a winning race debut on 07/08/1960 at Karlskoga in Sweden. A total of 17 cars were constructed.
Chassis 953 was built in 1960 equipped with a Coventry Climax 2.5L FPF engine and a Colotti gearbox. Over the seasons, it competed with Climax engines of capacities ranging from 1.5 to 2.75 litres and was hugely successful winning at home and overseas, driven by many of the top drivers of the era including Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Innes Ireland and Stirling Moss. #953 was first raced in April 1961 by the British Racing Partnership (BRP) alongside the team’s other two 19s - #950 and #952, however for 1962, only #953 was retained.
BRP was a UK-based racing team established in 1957 by Alfred Moss and Ken Gregory - Stirling Moss’ father and former manager respectively - to run cars for Stirling, when not under contract with other firms, along with other up-and-coming drivers. For the 1961 and 1962 seasons, BRP was renamed UDT-Laystall Racing as part of a sponsorship deal. UDT was United Dominions Trust who, amongst other holdings, owned Laystall Engineering, the principal supplier of crankshafts to the British automotive and aviation industries. Their race cars sported a distinctive green livery, a McGregor tartan noseband (possibly at the request of a certain Robert McGregor Innes Ireland) and a golden hare emblem. For 1963, the team reverted to its original name, pleasingly retaining that lovely pastel hue which, to this day, is known as "UDT-Laystall Racing Green".
In 1961, the UDT 19s completely dominated the races in which they competed. During the early part of the season, all three cars were achieving podiums in every race, although it is often unclear which chassis number finished in which position. On the back of their success, the team planned to run all three cars in the Nurburgring 1000km in May 1961. New knock-on hubs were fitted to two of the 19s to enable fast tyre changes for endurance racing, however, at Crystal Palace the week before the Nurburgring, the hubs - which had not been correctly heat-treated - sheered on the cars driven by Henry Taylor and Mike Parkes resulting in the German expedition being cancelled. It has been suggested (and noted in 953’s competition history on racingsportscars.com) that 953 was also entered for that year’s Le Mans 24-Hours and (sensibly) withdrawn. A Lotus 19 was entered by Lotus Engineering, but the chassis number has not been confirmed. During the late season, much underrated Belgian Olivier Gendebien (four Le Mans wins, winner of the Sebring12-Hours and Nurburgring 1000 Km) raced #953 in Canada and the US, achieving class wins at Riverside and Laguna Seca.
In 1962, #953 was the dominant sports racing car in the UK winning six of the seven races entered at Oulton Park, Goodwood, Aintree, Silverstone and Snetterton (and finishing 2nd in the seventh race at Brands Hatch) in the hands of Innes Ireland and Graham Hill. For the first time in a sports racing car, Graham lapped Snetterton in #953 at an average speed of over 100mph. Internationally, #953 competed again in Canada and the US with American Masten Gregory winning the Players 200 at Mosport. In April 1963, Innes raced the car at the Easter meeting at Goodwood, taking 3rd in the Lavant Cup, the race in which Stirling Moss had been critically injured the previous year. For whatever reason, Stirling chose this car and this meeting to venture on to the circuit as part of his planned return to racing. Stirling's times on a damp track were competitive, but he felt that the automatic flow of driving a racing car on the limit had gone and he was having to think consciously about each command to steering and pedals, so following the test in the little Lotus, he decided to retire, making #953 the last racing car he drove as a professional driver.
Innes achieved two further podiums at Aintree and Silverstone and South African Tony Maggs secured 4th in the Guards Trophy at Brands Hatch before BRP decided to sell #953 which was subsequently listed in Autosport on August 1963 stating that #953 had been "Probably the most successful sports car to be seen in the past few seasons".
Following his purchase of 953, Mike Pendleton raced it for the remainder of the 1963 season with a win in the ‘Over 2-litre class’ at the Autosport 3-Hours at Snetterton with two more outings in the Governor’s Trophy and Nassau Trophy in the Bahamas.
In 1964, George Pitt became owner and driver and later that year Entwistle and Walker Ltd, a Bolton car dealership, bought the car and entered it with George and Brian Barton as drivers, with a victory at Aintree. However, the highlight of the season was at Oulton Park. George was entered in #953, but Jim Clark’s car failed before the race and so George withdrew and gave the drive to Jim who went on to win outright. Entwistle and Walker went into administration in November 1964 and subsequently, the Lotus was sold to Harry O’Brien, one of the team’s drivers.
In March 1965, Harry raced #953 in the Senior Service 200 meeting at Silverstone which was held in torrential rain. He started from the back row of the grid after problems in practice but worked his way up to 3rd behind Jim Clark’s Lotus 30 and John Surtees’s Lola T70. However, the left front brake disc broke up locking the front wheel which turned the car sharp left into the bank between Stowe and Club badly damaging the chassis. When the time came to rebuild the car it was realised that the chassis was damaged beyond repair, however, Harry managed to source a brand new chassis from Lotus Components and drove down to Cheshunt to collect it. The car was rebuilt, complete with new body sections and returned to competition at Aintree in the BARC meeting in late July 1965, although it had to be pushed off the grid after a minor fire. A few days later the Lotus was offered for sale in Autosport as follows, "Lotus 19 now completely rebuilt with many new parts including chassis and brake calipers, spare body. Fitted 2.5-litre Climax engine, five-speed Colotti Francis gearbox. Ex-Innes Ireland car."
The freshly rebuilt car didn't sell on this occasion so made its return to the circuits at Aintree on 11/09/1965 and finished 1st in the unlimited sports cars race but sadly was disqualified for a push start. The bad luck didn't end there, however, as in 1966, the 19 was very badly damaged in a fire at a storage building which Harry used to keep his cars. The fire had been intense and according to Steve O’Brien, Harry's son "The chassis, though complete, was in a bad way due to the heat".
With his finances in a poor state after his loss, Harry was not in a position to restore what was left of the 19 and we understand, that after a couple of years it was moved into storage. And then, in 1996, a chap named Kelvin Jones became involved in the purchase of the 19's remains. He bought the chassis, sent it to a man who had built Lotus 19s in the period, Ken Nicholls of Nike Cars in Devon, and asked him to repair it. Kelvin's purchase of the damaged chassis is corroborated by three important pieces of original documentary evidence held in the history file which is available at our Documents Desk: A sales receipt dated 10/02/ 1996 for 'Lotus 19 chassis number 953’ signed by Harry O’Brien, Beryl O’Brien and Kelvin Jones (and wishing Kelvin ‘good luck with the restoration'); a detailed repair estimate dated 02/06/2000 addressed to Kelvin for repairs to the chassis from Nicholls Engineering and Development Limited (which refers to the ‘ravages of time and fire and rust’); and, a receipt from Nicholls dated 05/03/2001 for payment for the chassis repairs.
Confident that the car would be ready, it was provisionally entered for the 2006 Madgwick Cup at the Goodwood Revival, but the restoration was still not quite complete and the car didn’t materialise. Three years later, its second career still on hold, Bromsgrove-based Lotus specialist Paul Matty acquired the car and commissioned Andrew Tart of ATME to complete the restoration. “I’ve worked on many Lotuses,” Tart says, “but this was the first time I’d done a 19. It was a complete car, but it had just been dropped together to keep all the components in the same place. Ken Nicholls had done a good job repairing the chassis, but there was still some aluminium work to be done – floor, sills, complicated areas around the radiator – and we did all of that. It was taking time, though, and Paul was getting a little bit anxious about the number of hours that were going into it, so decided to finish it off in his own workshops. We’d completed it as a rolling chassis, though we didn’t start the engine because we felt sure it was suspect, however, it was now sitting properly on all four wheels, with the suspension set-up all done. It just needed a few basic bits and pieces and, importantly, a decent engine. Paul had the details finished and in 2012 did a short demo run at Shelsley Walsh, during a Lotus celebration, and then put it on display in his showroom”. During that weekend, the attending Stirling Moss signed the engine cover – a detail that still survives to this day.
#953 was to remain in pride of place in Paul Matty's showroom until January 2017 when the current owner purchased it with the intention of returning it to competition for the first time since 1965. Our vendor had admired the car whenever he passed his friend Matty's premises. “I love the way the car looks and its very particular history,” he says. “I just think it’s a magical symbol of motorsport from that era”. Inevitably, it was returned to ATME to be primed for a full racing return.
Andrew Tart is further quoted, “There are lots of original bits and pieces, including the steering wheel and the gear knob, both beautiful pieces of kit. The gearbox is original, too, a Colotti Type 32 that was used as an alternative to either the ZF or the Lotus transaxle. It took a long time to get some of the bits right. It just takes time, but it’s worthwhile because it’s a proper bit of kit and you want to do the job as well as you can. We made a new wiring loom, cotton braided as it once was, and went to a lot of trouble to find original switches, fuse boxes and so on – all nice bits of late 1950's/early 1960's automobilia. The gear linkage has a nice interlock mechanism, which was unfortunately missing, but coincidentally I had a Lotus 18/21 Grand Prix car in the workshop with the same linkage, so was able to copy it”. At the end of February 2019, sitting on a nice set of Borrani wire rims, the car was taken for a gentle shakedown at the Curborough sprint course, in Staffordshire – almost as far removed as it’s possible to be from some of the venues where it achieved its period successes. “It has taken longer than anticipated to get it ready for competition,” the current owner says, “but we felt it was such a special car that we didn’t want to cut any corners. It was important to get everything right – and I think Andrew and his team have done a fantastic job”.
During testing last Summer, it was decided to replace the engine with a fresh Coventry-Climax 2496cc unit (dyno sheet on file showing approx 240bhp) and this was naturally entrusted to Andrew Tart. The work was carried out to his normal exacting standards and although complete and virtually 'race-ready' the car has not been 'shaken-down' and that will have to be done by the new owner. Andrew Tart has stressed that he is happy to talk to interested parties about the new engine and indeed any other aspects of #953, a car with which he has been so closely involved over the years.
#953 is currently having FIA HTP papers prepared which will hopefully be ready in time for our Race Retro auction ensuring that this significant Lotus will be welcome at all the best classic motorsport 'Blue Riband' events and will undoubtedly be sought after by the organisers. The car is also accompanied by an extensive history file including race results, period race programmes, artwork as part of a series on ‘Clark's Winning Cars’, the 1962 BRDC International Trophy (1st in Class) and much more.
Having been raced by Moss, Hill, Gendebien, Maggs, Masten Gregory and Innes Ireland, driven to a win by Jim Clark and played a pivotal role in the career of Stirling Moss, this is an important car with impeccable provenance. The subject of much recent expenditure and now superbly presented makes it very desirable as does the fact that, unbelievably, it hasn't been offered on the open market for 55 years until now - what an opportunity.
Video of the Lotus 19 Chassis 953