Lost in the overwhelming glow of the 'Bruce and Denny Show' and the unbelievable Penske Porsche 917s, the Lola T70-Chevrolet of Team Surtees would have the honor of starting off the incredible Can-Am show with the championship in the inaugural year, 1966.
The championship in 1966, however, would be just another moment in which the Lola T70 would shine in international sportscar competition. In fact, the car would prove to be one of the most successful sports cars, especially amongst those that Lola would offer over the course of its illustrious history.
During the mid-1960s, Eric Broadley struck upon an idea. Broadley was an outsider. He was by no means an automotive engineer and this helped him to think outside the box more often than not. This would attract Ford for what would become the GT40 project. However, in a short amount of time, the negotiations and meetings about the build of the car would turn Broadley off to building cars for others.
Broadley had already established Lola Cars in 1958 and would become rather successful designing and building single-seaters for Formula Junior, Formula 3 and Formula 2. This would lead to the contract to work with Ford on its ambitious GT40 project. However, the staunch, established ways of doing things discouraged Broadley who was willing to push the edges of the envelope in search of an advantage.
Therefore, by the mid-1960s, Broadley was free from his efforts with Ford and was on his own again. He again was free to build the cars he desired to build, and his way. Not all from the GT40 project would be lost, however. In fact, it would lead to Broadley developing what would become the fastest sportscar in the world at the time.
Broadley came to see the advantages of the raw American V-8 powerplant offered by Ford and Chevrolet. He then realized that combining that power with a light, mid-engined design could prove to be incredibly successful.
Broadley would turn to an expert to help develop his idea. The World Champion, John Surtees, would come on board and would work hand-in-hand with Broadley to develop the idea into one of the most successful sportscars in Lola's history.
The result of the work between Broadley and Surtees would be a wonderfully aggressive-looking car weighing just over 1700 pounds and boasting of 500hp. The design and layout of the car would lend itself to being stable and predictable for the driver. And, when combined with jaw-dropping acceleration and performance, the T70 would become an instant success.
But the two men weren't done. They would continue to work on making the car lighter. Outwardly, what would become known as the MKII would be very similar to the original T70. However, Broadley would go down a road he had come across in his discussions with Ford on the GT40 project.
In one of the meetings, Broadley had expressed a desire to use a combination of steel and aluminum in the chassis of the car. This combination would further help to lighten the car without severely hindering its rigidity. Ford, however, balked at this idea and wanted to stick with steel construction for the chassis. This would be one of the final straws for Broadley who would soon leave the project.
Well, not long after debuting the T70, Broadley would be faced with the same issue that was plaguing his own sportscar design. Broadley and Surtees had agreed on the mix of steel and aluminum in the construction of the T70. However, the decision would plague the two men who believed the car needed to be lightened even further. Therefore, Broadley would take the leap and would decide to construct the cross bracing of the MKII almost entirely out of aluminum. Furthermore, riveting, instead of welding, would be used in other areas in order to maintain strength but to shed even more weight. After a little more than 100 pounds and other detail changes, the new MKII would be unveiled.
In the hands of Surtees, the MKII would make an immediate impression by beating Bruce McLaren in the Guards International Trophy race at Silverstone by more than a minute and a half. The extra weight savings would help the T70 MKII dominate sportscar racing in Europe and in North America.
One of those Lola T70 MKIIs built for Group 7 specifications would be chassis SL71/22. Offered at the 2013 Bonhams auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Lola T70 MKII represents well the period of Lola's dominance in sportscar racing.
Originally built and completed with a Ford 4.7-liter V8 engine and a Hewland LG500 gearbox, SL71/22 would be just the 7th of 32 MKII Spyders built by Lola. Leaving the Lola factory on the 12th of January, 1966, the car would be shipped to the United States and would be received by Mecom. Mecom was Lola's southwest distributor. Mecom would take delivery of the car and then would turn around and attempt to ship it to its purchaser, racing driver Rick Muther. However, Muther would decline the shipment of the car as his interests had turned to other areas.
Therefore, SL71/22 would sit at Mecom with no buyer. It wouldn't remain there long, however, as it would quickly be snapped up by Norman Smith of Ventura, California. Smith would take delivery of the car and would immediately set about changing its look. While he would not change the bodywork, he would change its finish. Originally painted all white, Smith would have the car repainted in yellow. Smith would also endure to change the car's Ford engine. Smith would remove the Ford and would replace it with a small block 5.3-liter Chevrolet V8.
Smith would make the changes to the car, but it would be quickly realized that some of the changes that needed to take place were with himself. Taking part in just two races with the powerful car, Smith would struggle to come to grips with the power of the car and would limp through the 200 mile, two-heat event held at Laguna Seca. He would, however, finish the fourth round of the Canadian-American Challenge Series but it would be well down in 14th position.
The next race in which Smith would take part with the MKII would be even less memorable. After starting the race 29th, Smith would run wide at one of the Stardust Raceway's corners. He would crash through a fence and would end up coming to an abrupt stop after striking a parked car. Smith would be unhurt but the same could not be said of the car.
Smith had bent the tub of the car. He would later try to sell it along with a brand new T70 offering SL71/22 mostly as a car from which parts could be taken. Roger Penske would buy the new T70 but would bypass the damaged MKII. Realizing he would not be able to sell the car as it was, Smith would attempt to repair the tub himself. Once again he would offer it for sale right along with the trailer that carried it.
The trail of SL71/22 grows cold for a few years until it resurfaces in the mid-1970s as a display vehicle around the Los Angeles area. In 1986, Lilo Beuzieron would purchase the car and would begin the process of having the car restored. However, before the restoration could be completed, Beuzieron would sell the car to renowned Lola specialist Mac McClendon.
McClendon would slowly and steadily progress in his work to restore the T70. He would re-skin the tub using the car's original steel bulkhead rings. However, not even McClendon would finish the restoration work before he would sell the car in early 2012 to its current owner.
The car's current owner, a vintage race car collector, would commission the restoration work to be completed. What work remained would progress quickly and the car would soon be completed. Fully restored, the car's finish would even be restored to the white livery in which it had left the Lola factory with back in 1966.
Presented with a fully-documented race history, SL71/22 has now become available for vintage races throughout North America and Europe and should be an attractive addition to the vintage racing scene with its period-correct restoration and place as one of just 32 MKII Lola T70 Spyders ever produced. Given its place in the remarkable Lola T70 history and the quality of the car, early estimates for SL71/22 prior to auction have the car garnering between $300,000 and $400,000 when it crosses the block.Sources:
'Lot 388: 1966 Lola T70 Mark II Spyder', (http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20582/lot/388/). Bonhams 1793. http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20582/lot/388/. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
'Lola T70 MKII News, Pictures and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z10508/Lola-T70-MKII.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z10508/Lola-T70-MKII.aspx. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
'Lola T70 Mk2 Spyder Ford', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/3514/Lola-T70-Mk2-Spyder-Ford.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Passion. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/3514/Lola-T70-Mk2-Spyder-Ford.html. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
'History: The Story', (http://www.lolaheritage.co.uk/history/story.htm). Lola Heritage. http://www.lolaheritage.co.uk/history/story.htm. Retrieved 9 January 2013.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Lola Cars', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 29 November 2012, 08:59 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lola_Cars&oldid=525510924 accessed 9 January 2013
Wikipedia contributors, 'Can-Am', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 17 December 2012, 23:50 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Can-Am&oldid=528553624 accessed 9 January 2013By Jeremy McMullen
In 1965 the Lola Racing Cars Group introduced the T70. During its lifetime from 1965 through 1969 over 100 examples were produced in three versions. They were designed for endurance racing with excellent aerodynamics and flowing lines. The chassis was constructed of aluminum monocoque that was both lightweight and rigid. The project was undertaken by Eric Broadley of Lola Cars with assistance from F1 world champion John Surtees. Originally, Broadley had been considered by Ford to build a racer which could defeat Ferrari at LeMans. Colin Chapman of Lotus and Cooper were also considered. After some consideration, the project was given to Broadley of Lola. Ford had been impressed with the Lola Mark VI mid-engined racer which was powered by a Ford 4.2-liter engine and produced around 350 horsepower. The sleek body had been created by John Frayling and utilized some of the most exotic materials available. By 1965 Ford had their Ferrari slayer and Broadley was ready to again work under his own supervision. He was not fond of how the GT40 had progressed and felt that it had gone in too many directions with each decision being analyzed by a committee. Work began on the T70 which would share many similarities to the GT40. In a sense, the Lola T70 was a result of Enzo Ferrari, since the GT40 had been created to defeat Ferrari at Le Mans. The first version was the MKII open-roofed version. The second version was the MKIII Coupe-version followed by the MK IIIB.
The stright back end soon gave it the nickname of 'breadvan' as it resembled delivery trucks of that era. The rear body shape was the result of lessons-learned from the GT40 project and its handling on the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans. It was designed to eliminate some of the lift created a high speeds. The GT40 created 300 kg of lift at speed while the Lola T70 only created 200 kg of down force though it did increase drag.
Though designed for endurance racing, the T70 proved most potent on the short sprint races where its lightweight body and superior handling made it very competitive. Reliability issued plagued the car on races of more than three hours. The Chevrolet small-block power-plant was unsuitable to utilize the high octane fuels which powered other racers. The engine was unable to fully utilize European fuels and as such, did not perform as well as intended in international competition.
The T70 MKII was entered in the competitive and newly formed CanAm series where it dominated at nearly ever race it entered, winning five of the six rounds. John Surtees won the title after winning three of those races in a factory car. The cars were also successful in Group 7 racing until the series came to a halt in 1966. 1966 was the final year for a successful season for the Lola T70s in CanAm racing as McLaren would dominate the following year. The T70 would win only one CanAm race in 1967. The powerful McLaren M6 racers easily overpowered the T70. In retaliation, the T70 IIIB was introduced which improved power and performance. The front was improved to separate the airflow between the bottom and top of the car, thus, minimizing pressure underneath the vehicle. Power came from a 327 small-block Chevrolet engine which was later upgraded to a 350 cubic-inch unit. It would go on to win many international endurance races. One of the most famous of its victories was the 1969 Daytona 24 Hours driven by Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons. The demise of the racer occurred when rule changes which limited the size of then engine made it obsolete. This benefited the Ferrari 312 and Porsche 917 as their F1 engines were appropriate and highly tuned.
By 1968 a new car was needed; Lola introduced the T160 which was lighter and more powerful than its predecessor.
The Lola T70 was important for sports racing for many reasons with the most recognizable being the importance of down force at a cost of extra drag. The cars won many important victories during the close of the 1960's and have continued in competition to this day, with many racing in historic racing events.
By Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2008