The Lotus 9 project was the first Tolman “re-creation” vehicle.
The owner acquired a pile of parts that loosely represented a Lotus 9, including a complete reproduction body that had been in his own workshop for decades.
The dimensions were roughly correct, but the base was a reproduction XI chassis and the car boasted a Ford crossflow, five-speed Type 9 gearbox and live rear axle, and the body appeared to have been lowered onto the chassis and secured with two self-tapping screws.
Once the parts had been delivered to Tolman HQ, we were able to carry out a full inventory, investigate the possibilities and carry out research. It soon became clear that the chassis we had was remarkably like a Lotus 15 or Caterham 7 with very good geometry and good torsional strength.
Our client had Coventry Climax engines in his possession, so the decision was made to build the car as a homage to Colin Chapman’s Lotus 9 Le Mans – a heavily modified version with more of a Lotus Eleven chassis fitted with a 1100cc FWE.
As the car was predominantly going to be used on the road, we elected to retain the five-speed gearbox – we offer a superb conversion for the Lotus Elite with this gearbox, so the parts were already available – and a magnesium De Dion rear suspension system was fitted along with some of our road-specification dampers.
Although most of the bodywork was complete, none of it had been fitted to the chassis. Our team devised a means of mounting it and making it work on the road by including bulkheads, wheel arches and floors.
To ensure the car would be road legal, we manufactured bespoke folding headlights for the original design that includes indicators and side lights – something the race car lacked – but the client also requested a removable diagonal brace on the roll bar to accommodate his family. We were subsequently required to design and manufacture two seating options, an aluminium tonneau cover and option windscreen, enabling the owner to switch between “track and road-spec.
The finished project was not only a beautiful piece of art, but also a very fast car. Weighing only 500kgs with a Climax engine fitted, the Lotus 9 re-creation boasted 100bhp and razor-sharp handling Mr Chapman would have approved of.