Lotus was one of the earliest manufacturer to truly investigate, study, and implement aerodynamics on a racing car. Colin Chapman understood that aviation techniques could be applied to the design and manufacturer of the bodywork, leading him to hire a De Havilland Aircraft engineer by the name of Frank Costin to commission an aerodynamic road car. The car that followed, the Lotus Eleven (it was spelled out so not to be confused with the MK II), was available in 3 various forms that included the Sport model, a Club, and the Le Mans Sports racer. The Sport came with a 36 horsepower Ford engine, the Club had a Coventry Climax engine offering 75 horsepower, and the Le Mans had a 1462cc Coventry Climax powerplant. Despite a wide variety of engine displacement sizes powering the Eleven, they were primarily built to contend the 1100cc class where it was one of the most success cars during the mid- to late-1950s. All of the engines were backed by an MG-sourced four-speed manual gearbox.
Production lasted from 1956 through 1958 with 270 examples built (as both complete cars and as kits), including 150 of the S1 examples. Specifications varied depending on intended use. The engines were mounted in the front of a tubular space frame chassis derived from the prior Lotus Mark 9 and given a deDion live rear axle suspension with braking handled by Girling discs. The front suspension featured swing axles and coil springs and the overall weight was around 1,000 lbs.
Both privateers and the Works team campaigned the Lotus Eleven. At LeMans, a Lotus Eleven won its class and placed 7th overall. A specially prepared Eleven was built near the close of 1956 and fitted with a special canopy to help reduce drag and powered by a modified 1,100cc Coventry Climax engine, with a pair of twin-choke Weber carburetors. It was built for high speed runs at Monza, where Stirling Moss set new 50 km and 50 miles record at 218 and 214 km/h respectively. Mackay Fraser also set a fastest lap of 230 km/h.
In preparation for the 1957 season, the Lotus was upgraded to Series 2 (S2) specification which came with a revised double-wishbone front suspension. The Lotus Eleven LeMans trim level received a strengthened chassis and a stronger deDion axle. These modifications were done to cope with the new twin-cam version of the 1.5-liter Coventry Climax engine. With the help of two Weber carburetors, the engine offered 150 horsepower.
This list of accolades achieved by the Lotus Eleven in 1957 include a class victory at Sebring by drivers Colin Chapman, Joe Sheppard and Dick Dungan. At LeMans, the Eleven repeated its class victory in the 1.1-liter category, with a 1-2 finish.
When production of the Lotus Eleven came to a close, it was replaced by the Type 15 and Type 17.
by Daniel Vaughan | Feb 2020
Related Reading : Lotus Eleven History
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