1956 Lotus Eleven news, pictures, specifications, and information
For the 1956 racing season, Colin Chapman and his team at Lotus created an all-new racing car, the Lotus Eleven. The state-of-art car featured a tubular steel space frame with some stressed aluminum panels, an aluminum body designed by Frank Costin and powered by the new four-cylinder, overhead-cam, 1.1-liter Coventry Climax FWA engine. Early on, it hit 143 mph in speed trials at Monza and finished seventh overall at Le Mans.
This 1956 Lotus Eleven sports racer is believed to have been driven in the late 1950s by Prudence Baxter, was race from 1978-83 by Fred McNab of Oregon.
This Lotus 'Eleven' is chassis #202 and is one of about 250 cars of this type built by England's Lotus Ltd between 1956 and 1959. Lotus #202 was purchased 'at cost' by Peter Ross in 1956 from his friend Colin Chapman, as a favor for work Peter had done for Chapman in designing the early Lotus cars. This Eleven first had a Ford 803cc engine, solid rear axles and drum brakes, and was raced in 1956 at Silverstone and Mallory Park, England.
In 1957, Peter put in a SOHC FWA Coventry Climax engine and drove the car into Vienna where he placed second overall. Later that year he ran at Rouen and Monthlery. Peter crashed the car heavily in Germany and drove the damaged Lotus back to London. In 1958 Lotus rebuilt te car to meet FIA 'Appendix C' specifications, adding longer doors and full width wind screen. Peter then advertised the car for sale in February, 1959 issue of Road & Track.
The car was sold to its first American owner later that year, and in 1960 was raced by new owner Hal Stalgren of Colorado. The next owner, Les Gaylord, put in a deDion and disc brakes and successfully ran the car in Mountain division class championships and in 1964 qualified for the first SCCA 'Run-Offs.' In 1980 the car was retired and sold to Bob Colaizzi. The Lotus then went to Atlanta where restoration was begun in 1988 by Duane Davenport. In 2000, Roland Johnson Consulting of San Diego returned the car to its 1958 FIA specifications.
This car is One of eight (wide body) Series One cars built at Lotus Hornsey factory for endurance racing. It was raced at numerous tracks in Europe.
The Lotus was 'found' in Louisiana in 1983 and was immediately confirmed as one of the eight wide body 11s built in 1956 by Colin Chapman and Make Costin to run in the Historic Lotus Registry. The car today is an outstanding example of the original factory car without any modifications or enhancements. The F.I.A. has performed rigorous inspections on the car and has confirmed the originality. The car was sent to California in 2006 and has run at Wine Country Classics, Pacific Raceways and Portland International Raceway.
When the car was found in Louisiana the serial plate was missing and, therefore, it has not been possible to confirm that the 1956 Class Winner that disappeared in 1956 after the 24 Hours of LeMans, in fact, this very same car, As we speak an investigation of its American residency is being conducted to identify any of its original U.S. owners/drivers.
This is a special wide chassis and wide body car. It is one of the Lotus factory team cars and was driven in the 1956 LeMans race by the founder of Lotus, Colin Chapman, and Herbert Fraser. They retired the car in the 21st hour of the race with a thrown rod. Lotus engineering built three special cars for that race. One of these cars won its class.
After the race the car was sold to a man in Texas. He raced it throughout the Southwest.
1956 Lotus Eleven LeMans
#180 was original delivered to Tony Ellis of Great Britain in early 1956 and raced by him as a member of the Club Lotus Team of Crystal Palace and Silverstone during 1956/1957. In December 1957, the car was exported to Denmark and raced extensively by Frede Andersen throughout 1963. Different Danish drivers raced the car from 1964 through 1967. Erik Dinesen purchased this car in 1970 and raced it in Denmark for a few years.
Vintage racer Carl Larsen of Minneapolis, MN purchased the car in 1986 through Victor Thomas, HLR Mark Eleven Registrar, and had it shipped to the US. He then spent the next 10 years doing a complete, historically correct restoration. Once completed it was raced sparingly in the Midwest until 1999. The current owner, Jeff Snook of Boling Green, Ohio, purchased the car in February 2000 and has raced it at Gingerman, Mid Ohio, Road America, Road Atlanta, Sebring, Waterford Hills, Watkins Glen, and the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. It was a Race Car Concours winner at the Road America BRIC in July 2001 and was invited/shown at the 2002 Meadow Brook Hall Concours d'Elegance.
The engine is a four-cylinder Conventry Climax FWB 1460cc with Weber carburetors. The transmission is a four-speed unit from a BMC Sprite. The brakes are Girling discs in the front and rear.
Sold for $126,500 at 2008 RM Auctions
Initially, all Colin Chapman's Lotus Elevens were built with a swing-axle front suspension modified from English Ford components. These cars are general referred to as the first series of Lotus Elevens. The top-of-the-line Eleven version was the LeMans spec which featured an advanced DeDion rear setup.
The Eleven's enjoyed much success. At the 1956 24 Hours of LeMans, the works team of three cars did rather well, with Bicknell and Jopp finishing first in class and seventh overall. A little later that year, a special bodied Eleven was piloted by Stirling Moss and 'Mac' Fraser to a series of closed track world speed records at Monza. This small, 1100cc car covered 100 kilometers at 135 miles per hour with a fastest lap of 143 miles per hour.
In 1957, the Eleven had a class win at Sebring and Chamberlain and Fraser finished first in the 1100cc class at LeMans. Other Elevens finished second and fourth. A super-lightweight 750cc Eleven driven by Cliff Allison and Keith Hall was awarded the Index of Performance.
In 1958, the Eleven swept their class at Sebring, with the Weiss/Tallaksen entry finishing fourth overall.
This example is chassis number 220. It is one of about 150 first series Elevens built with total production around 270. Little of this cars early history is known other than it is a LeMans spec that was sent to the US when new. The history of the car picks up in 1984 when it was purchased by Jim Ellis of Cincinnati who gave the car a restoration during hte late 1980s.
In 1991, Mr. Ellis put the car on display at the Meadow Brook Concours d'Elegance where it earned a First in Class award. Morris Gardner of Pittsburgh was another owner of the car. The car was put in a warehouse for ten years before it was sold to Vince Irwin of New York. Mr. Irwin campaigned the car frequently with an overall win at the Rolex Lime Rock Vintage Festival in 2003. The current owner has continued its active racing career with a showing at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2006.
In 2008 this Lotus Eleven LeMans Spec was offered for sale at the 'Sports & Classics of Monterey' presented by RM Auctions where it had an estimated value of $150,000 - $190,000. It was offered without reserve and sold for a high bid of $126,500 including buyer's premium.By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2009
Chassis number 235 is a Lotus Eleven Series 1 LeMans model. It has a distinctive single seat cockpit for ultimate aerodynamics. The car has a long list of Historic Racing in the 1980s when owned by Wally Thomason; in the 1990s by Eduardo Baptista; and in the 2000s by the current owner.
The car was in Dinnis Ortenburger's 'The Lotus Eleven' and on a recent cover of Victory Lane Magazine.
After around 150 Eleven 'Series 1'cars had been produced, Colin Chapman and the Lotus Engineering Company Ltd introduced the 'Series 2' variant in the spring of 1957. By the end of production during 1958, some 270 Lotus Elevens had been completed.
This Lotus Eleven Series 1 Sports-Racing Two-Seater has been in its present ownership for no fewer than 30 years. It has competed in more than 250 Historic Sports car races on the world's leading motor racing circuits, including Silverstone, Goodwood, Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Donington Park and Oulton Park in the UK, plus the Nurburgring in Germany, the Monte Carlo street circuit in Monaco, Zolder and Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, Zandvoort in Holland, Vancouver in Canada, and at such American venues as Laguna Seca, Phoenix, Willow Springs, Portland, Tacoma and Palm Springs.
This example took the checkered flag first at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix meeting of 1983, and it won its capacity class in the British Lloyds & Scottish Championship race series of 1981-83.
In 2009, this car was offered for sale by Bonhams at the Exceptional Motorcars and Automobilia at the Quail Lodge in Carmel, CA. It was estimated to sell for $130,000 - 150,000, but failed to find a willing buyer capable of satisfying its reserve.
Sold for $100,000 at 2012 Gooding & Company
This original Lotus Eleven Series 1 LeMans model was shipped new to the United States for buyer Gary Laughlin, a 1950s-era driver from Texas. According to Laughlin, he never took delivery, but instead sold the car as it sat at port to Skitch Henderson, the original bandleader of The Tonight Show.
By the early 1970s, the Lotus was in the care of Bill 'Murph' Mayberry. It is believed that Mayberry raced the Eleven occasionally, the car the car's mileage was ultimately limited by accident damage to the rear end. Mayberry purchased the rear frame from another Eleven, chassis 218, and had it welded to MK 11/190's chassis.
In 1975, the car was purchased by Noel Thompson. In 1986, Mr. Thompson sold the Lotus to John Reich of Pennsylvania, who drove it sparingly. In the late 1980s, the engine was freshened. The current owner acquired the car in 2010.
This Lotus retains most of its original bodywork, as well as its original engine and chassis data plate. The close-ratio 'A' series transmission is also believed to be original. Over the years, it has been given several upgrades including the installation of Weber carburetors, which match the specifications of the race-ready LeMans 85 variation.
In 2012, the car was offered for sale at the Gooding & Company auction held in Pebble Beach, California. it was estimated to sell for $150,000 - $180,000. As bidding came to a close, the car had been sold for the sum of $100,000, inclusive of buyer's premium.By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2012
Sold for $209,000 at 2015 Bonhams
Even by the mid-1950s Colin Chapman's genius as a car designer was beginning to come to the fore. He was known for making lightweight automobiles that were advanced in aerodynamics and construction techniques. One of his best examples from those early years would be his Lotus Eleven.
Throughout the 1956 and 1957 seasons the Lotus Eleven would be practically unbeatable within its class. A class victory and 7th place overall finish in the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans would be proof of this fact.
Unfortunately, being so strong means a big target is painted on the back, especially when it comes to an event like Le Mans where French patriotism certainly isn't so easily hidden. This ever-present reality would force Chapman and his team to take a look at their Eleven design. To say the car was a two-seater was a bit of a stretch and measuring with the right, or in the case of Lotus, the 'wrong' apparatus could mean the difference between being legal to compete or being disqualified. This danger needed to be addressed. The obvious answer was to build an Eleven that was wider than its predecessors.
Making use of cross-bracing via additional floor tubes, the new Lotus Eleven would be increased in width by no less than four inches on either side providing the necessary room in the cockpit to enable Lotus to breathe a little easier.
Initially, just three examples of the wider Elevens would be built. Those first three would actually be produced in time for Le Mans in 1956. Three examples would be built in time for Le Mans and then would be put on display at the London Motor Show later that year. Those three, and two more that would come later in the year, would be prepared for Sebring in 1957.
In total, there would be five Lotus Elevens prepared in time for Sebring with the wider body. Those five would be extensively photographed heading into the event. Yet, what would be realized by Le Mans the year before is that they weren't really necessary. Given the way the cockpit area was measured it was found the original Lotus Eleven had the ability to pass scrutinizing.
When it was all said and done, seven of the wide-chassis Elevens would be known to be produced by the Lotus factory. Those final two would be built sometime following Sebring and would be little know to exist. Chassis MK11210 would be one of those two wide-bodied Lotus Eleven that would be built in relative obscurity.
Most of this Eleven's known history comes about in the late 1950s and early 1960s when, with a great deal of excitement, 210 would become the property of Athens, Tennessee resident William Mitchell. Mitchell would use the Lotus widely at vintage events until Michael Lavers purchased the car in 1962.
Lavers' purchase of the Lotus would come with a great deal of excitement as one of the Lotus works cars would be lost, a mystery that would extend for decades to come. Following Lavers time with the Lotus, Peter Hannan would become the new owner. Steve Hart would then become the owner and would immediately commission a restoration.
Nearly every detail of the car would be looked into over the course of the restoration efforts. Victor Thomas of the Historic Lotus Register and Alan Putt would be two of those that would take great interest in the chassis. It was believed the car may have been the missing Le Mans works car. Unfortunately, it was found not to be the case. Still, the confirmation of the chassis' identity would offer some form of excitement.
There is still no denying the history of MK11210 even though it isn't the Le Mans class winner. Still, just one of seven known wide-bodied Lotus Elevens ever to be produced and well documented, including FIA papers, there is absolutely no doubting the importance of this Lotus.
Part of Tony Hart's impressive collection, the Lotus Eleven would garner a sale price of $209,000 at the 2015 Bonhams Quail Lodge auction.By Jeremy McMullen
Sold for $209,000 at 2015 Bonhams
The Lotus Elevens dominated the 1100 and 1500cc classes in 1956 and 1957. At the 1956 Le Mans 24 Hours the 1100cc class was won by the works car co-driven by Reg Bicknell/Peter Jopp which finished seventh overall. During the first full season, almost 148 significant race wins were recorded by the Lotus Elven.
At Sebring 12 Hours in 1957, Colin Chapman and Joe Sheppard won their class. At the Le Mans 24-Hours, Jay Chamberlain and 'Mac' Fraser drove an Eleven to another class win in 1100cc class. A super-lightweight 750cc Eleven won the Index of Performance for Cliff Allison/Keith Hall.
This particular example is a 'wide-chassis' model. These wide-chassis versions were tailor-made to comply with International cockpit-width regulations and initially developed specifically for Sebring and Le Mans. The centre frame width was increased by around 4 inches on each side. They were cross-braced by an additional floor tube and the rear suspension radius rods were cranked to accommodate the width increase.
For many years, it was believed that as many as seven of these wide-chassis Elevens were built - three works cars to compete at LeMans in 1956, and two for the 1957 Sebring race. After long-term obscurity, two more period-built wide-chassis cars emerged. This car is one of those two. There is some debate if this is chassis '210' - the ex-Bicknell/Jopp car that won its class at the LeMans 24-Hour race.
Along with its wide-chassis, it was also fitted with Series 2 rear end.
This car was owned during the late 1950s or early 1960s by William Mitchell in Athens, Tennessee. In 1972, it was discovered by Jeff Cobb (a relative of Mr. Mitchell) who retrieved the long neglected and then-derelict car from a barn and trailered it back to Baton Rouge.
New owner Peter Hannan then entrusted it to Steve Hart for a restoration.
The current caretaker has owned the car for the past nine years and has raced it in vintage competition.By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2015
The Lotus Eleven began production in 1956. The 'Eleven' was Colin Chapmans next evolution of phenomenally successful sports cars. The vehicle was dubbed 'Eleven' because it was the Mark XI and due to its 1100 cc engine capacity. The Eleven was built in three variations. The 'Le Mans' version featured a deDion rear axle and Girling disc brakes. The 'Club' version had a normal rear axle and drum brakes. The 'Sports' version was basically a 'Club' variant with a Ford 10 engine. The rest of vehicles were identical.
The Louts Eleven has been credited with securing Colin Chapman and Lotus in the history books as one of the greatest sports car manufacturers of all times.
The Eleven was a new vehicle, meaning its design and chassis did not borrow from previous models. A steel-tubular space-frame and stressed aluminum panels were used. The chassis alone weighed less than seventy pounds. The aerodynamic body was designed by Frank Costin and was hand made from aluminum.
This followed Collin Chapmans weight saving, effect, and scientific design principles.
The Climax engine was planted in the front of the vehicle. The 1100cc was capable of speeds in excess of 140mph. The famous race car driver Stirling Moss and 'Max' Fraser set closed-track world speed records at Monza running 143 mph.
In 1956, three Eleven models were entered in the grueling 24 hours of LeMans race. The results were astonishing, finishing seventh overall and first in their class. The streak continued the following year where it again finished first, second, and fourth in the 1100cc class. A 750cc lightweight Eleven driven by Cliff Allison and Keith Hall won the 'Index of Performance'. The vehicle achieved similar success at Sebring and other races.
The vehicle had less under-steer than previous Lotus models due in part to the modified swing axle front suspension. A new rack-and-pinion steering unit help control the vehicle at speed.
In 1957, the Series-2 was introduced. The Series-2 had chassis and drivetrain improvements. The 'Le Mans' bodystyle received a new Lotus 12-type double A-arms front suspension.
When production ceased in 1958, nearly 270 examples had been produced.
By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2006
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