The story of this unique and beautiful race car started in June 2012 when an unfinished project came up for sale. The accumulation of parts with the view of reproducing one of Lotus’s lesser known sportscars was the ambition of four-time British Hillclimb Champion Roy Lane, who first saw the car at Silverstone in the early Sixties.
The story goes that he was so impressed with both the speed and the beautiful curves, he vowed to one day own one.
Lotus only produced 17 Lotus 19 chassis between 1960 and 1962, four of which were shipped empty (less engine and transmission) to the United States. Many of the cars were written off and rebuilt, but very few ever come up for sale and the exact number surviving is debated.
Tolman was commissioned by Mr Christopher Ross in the summer of 2012 to complete the build after the parts were bought from the Lane family estate. The brief was simple: build the best racing car to FIA specification.
During Tolman’s extensive research, which took it as far as Denmark, it was only able to verify the whereabouts of a handful of these rare sports racers. The Lotus 19 was an extension of the Lotus 18 F1 car, utilising the same 2.5 litre Coventry Climax FPF engine and Lotus’s own sequential five-speed transaxle gearbox (often referred to as a “queer box”).
The chassis was almost identical to the 18, retaining the cruciform bulkheads, suspension geometry and suspension layout, but wider to accommodate a passenger seat. The body was composed of fibreglass front and rear clamshells and fabricated aluminium doors. The chassis was constructed from tubular steel with aluminium stressed panels, and it was also one of the last to be fusion welded.
Roy Lane’s dream had been to make one of the more powerful versions that had emerged from the States with V8 power. He had managed to source a chassis, a Buick V8 engine, Hewland HD transaxle gearbox, most of the critical suspension components and some reproduction bodywork.
Some work had been carried out in skinning the chassis and installing the engine, but only to a mock-up stage.
It was soon established that a great deal of work was needed to fulfil the brief, as many aspects of the chassis were too inaccurate to make a genuine reproduction and a great race car.
The entire chassis was measured and replicated in CAD to ascertain the extent of the discrepancies so a plan could be formulated to rectify the geometry and layouts to accurately reproduce the chassis.
In order to create accurate reproductions of the installation and fittings, a great deal of research was carried out. Peter Denty Racing supplied some of the parts and helped with original pictures and drawings, and all the engine and transmission mounts were subsequently modified, the entire front of the chassis was replaced and roll over protection installed.
The entire car was then assembled before establishing the dimensional accuracy required for the FIA papers. A preliminary inspection was welcome and proved vital, as it was decided the engine would have to be changed to an Oldsmobile V8 and turned into a wet sump with four weber carburettors.
The fluid lines, wiring harness and the bodywork could then be finalised, although many of the smaller components like tanks, gear linkages, roll bars all had to be manufactured. In fact, over 80 per cent of the entire build was manufactured in-house.
Once complete, everything was stripped down to component form and the process of painting and plating carried out. The transmission was overhauled, a fresh engine built and dyno’d prior to installation, and a custom-designed racing fuel cell installed. However, a bespoke exhaust system that would be both accurate for the papers but could be quickly adapted to meet the current noise regulations required a lot of lateral thinking.
A few weeks of assembly followed by systems testing saw the completion of the 12-month project, and a second inspection by the FIA’s appointed stewards resulted in a full FIA Historic Technical Passport six weeks later, to the delight of all the Tolman team and the car’s owner. In fact, to the best of our knowledge this is the world’s first Lotus 19 re-creation to have attained FIA HTP papers.
History of original Lotus 19-965
The original car that this re-creation is based upon – chassis 19-965 – was the last Lotus 19 built, followed only by the Lotus 19B Special, ordered by Dan Gurney. It was delivered new without engine to John Mecom Jr, and the Mecom Team’s drivers were AJ Foyt, Walt Hansgen and Augie Pabst. Hansgen and Pabst are documented as drivers of 19-965, but Foyt likely drove it as well.