Home » My Favorite Race Car Look Via Lotuses And A Cigarette Company Sticker: Cold Start

My Favorite Race Car Look Via Lotuses And A Cigarette Company Sticker: Cold Start

Cs Lotus 11 1
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One of my favorite parts of Monterey Car Week are the Historics at Laguna Seca. And it’s not really watching the racing that I like best – I mean, that’s great, but it involves a lot of trudging up steep, dusty hills and having to look through multiple layers of chain-link fence. It’s the pits that I like the best, seeing these amazing cars up close, smelling the smells and hearing the ticking of the cooling engines. One of the cars I saw struck me in a visceral and happily not physical way: a pair of Lotus 11s. I mean, look at it.

Cs Lotus 11 2

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

There were two, one polished aluminum, one painted white with a blue stripe. To me, these cars are the archetype of my favorite era of race car – aerodynamic, but as much gut-feeling aero as science, all mixed together. They’re low and lithe and swoopy and bulbous and have oddly friendly, plucky visages, eager to run, not interested in murder.

Some are oddly squashed in the middle, like someone sat on them before they were done drying. I love them, and these Lotuses are perfect examples.

Plus, the Lotus 11 only had an 1100 cc engine, and somehow kept winning race after race. Fast and light, these were such a revelation for Lotus that they even affected how future Lotuses would be named: because “eleven” starts with an “e,” so too should all subsequent Lotuses. The names come from a number!

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Cs Lotus 11a

There’s lots of nice details, too. Exposed screws and rivets, and even these lovely little streamlined sidelights inside the plexiglass headlight fairing, where their aero qualities wouldn’t even matter.

Also, these cars remind me of an image from my childhood:

Cs Camelsticker

For whatever reason – perhaps because I grew up in the tobacco-laden land of North Carolina – I feel like I saw this old Camel sticker all over the place. And the car Joe Camel is sitting upon there reminds me a lot of a Lotus 11, and I always loved the way it looked. A strange little fast sentient shoe to drive on.

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Whatever it is about these cars, they still got it.

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Dennis Ames
Dennis Ames
10 months ago

Westfield still makes a kit car of it
https://westfield-sportscars.co.uk/westfield-xi-kit

Chronometric
Chronometric
10 months ago

So what’s it like to race a Lotus Eleven? Well, first of all, the car (minus driver) weighs 1000 lbs and mine has about 130hp so it has the similar power to weight as a Porsche 911. It runs on 4.5″ bias ply treaded Dunlop racing tires on wire wheels. They are sticky but allow a large slip angle. Since the car is so underbuilt, it has to drift because too much grip will break it so the suspension is very soft and it rolls a lot. You run the track like a downhill skier.

I have a portable data system and the plots are fascinating. While other cars lose acceleration about 80mph due to wind resistance, the Eleven just keeps accelerating. On the back straight at Road Atlanta I can reach 132mph before the turn 10 brake zone. And the 4 Lockheed disc brakes will whoa you down in a hurry. The top speed and the brakes are the Eleven’s superpowers compared to its 1956 competition. Mine has a straight-cut dog box 4 speed that makes a great wail at 6000 RPM.

In the car, it is tight. The sides of the cockpit are a couple inches from your head and you literally sit on the floor with 1/8″ of aluminum between your butt and the ground. You are over the rear axle so most of the car is way ahead of you. It takes a while to get a feel for what it will do based on steering inputs. My car is the earlier model with front swing axle suspension. It has long lever arms pivoted in the center of the tube-frame chassis. When loaded up in a high speed corner, the inside front tire cambers under so as you reach the end of the turn, and the tire sets back down it gives a little shimmy. That is really scary the first time you feel it!

So why go 100mph while wrapped in aluminum foil? Because turning a fast smooth lap at Watkins Glen on a crisp Fall morning makes you feel alive.

Last edited 10 months ago by Chronometric
Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
10 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Thanks for sharing!

I sat in a Lotus 23 once. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to race any of these early cars.

Chronometric
Chronometric
10 months ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

I too have sat in a 23. I am told it is the purest racing machine ever built so someday I hope to get a few laps.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

So why go 100mph while wrapped in aluminum foil? Because turning a fast smooth lap at Watkins Glen on a crisp Fall morning makes you feel alive.

I was waiting to hear from you!

Lovely machine you have. Thank you for sharing with us what it is like to drive this thing. By chance, do you use it on public roads in traffic? I sure as hell would if I had it! It would prove to be a surprisingly fuel efficient vehicle.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
10 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

I’ve always been curious how you execute a quick tire change on a skirted car like this. Now that you describe the suspension, I imagine the wheels drop down when you lift the car. Is that how it works?

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago

I’m going to guess that it also has its bearing lubricant fed by gravity.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Ground effects?

Chronometric
Chronometric
10 months ago

Actually the front and rear are clamshells and pivot to expose the engine, rear differential, and all the tires.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/fYyjrMzUWWQeb2Ss9

Last edited 10 months ago by Chronometric
Andy Individual
Andy Individual
10 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Thanks for clarifying. I really should have thought of that. :FACEPALM:

AKA Rukh
AKA Rukh
10 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Thanks for this comment. I’ll likely never have an opportunity to drive an Eleven, and I’ve been a fan of them forever. I remember seeing one for sale at $22k in an DuPont Registry around 1990 (I might still have the issue in storage), and thinking how reasonable a price that was for such a storied car.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
10 months ago

Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Bravo. *claps*

Redfoxiii
Redfoxiii
10 months ago

Ya’ll gotta get out to Goodwood Revival some year.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago

These cars are so light and slippery(less so Cd-wise, but the low frontal area is their biggest strength), that if you converted one to electric, it would only need around 120 Wh/mile to hold 70 mph.

I’d love to build a modern interpretation that was sculpted in a wind tunnel. It would end up looking a lot like a velomobile, and would have about 1/2 the 11’s aero drag, and could still be styled in such a way to be immediately mistaken as a classic 11 to someone who doesn’t look at the details. It could be set up as a two-seater of around 800-900 lbs, have AWD with a hub motor in each wheel, and a 15 kWh battery would be all it needed for 200+ miles range on the interstate(and charge times would be very quick with such a small pack, about like filling up a gas tank). And if it made perhaps 200-300 peak horsepower, it would be an absolute riot on the race track.

I’ve considered using the 11’s headlamp style for my microcar project. It may end up looking kind of like an 11, except with 3 wheels, the proportions not being right, the driver being in the center, and the vehicle being even more narrow than the 11. The new body I’m working on is based upon a Milan SL velomobile, except it is re-proportioned to accommodate a wider front track and more ground clearance than the Milan had, while maintaining the airfoil shape of the Milan. 11-style headlamps on it would look gorgeous.

Last edited 10 months ago by Toecutter
Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

I forgot to mention, the Cd of the stock Lotus 11 wasn’t all that great. It was a 0.40. BUT the frontal area is so small that the overall CdA value is greatly less than any new car you an buy today, and also significantly less than a 1st generation Honda Insight. The frontal area is somewhere around 1.0 m^2 judging by its width and height.

And looking at its horsepower and top speed figures, its slipperiness really shows. 131 mph on 85 horsepower for the 1957 LeMans race car.

Imagine what would happen if you cut the Cd value to 1/2 or even 1/3 of its current level, in a vehicle of the same frontal area and mass, and then shoved 4x the power in it with instant electric torque on tap.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Why 3 wheels ? My aversion is you straddle a pot hole with the front, only to nail it with the back.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

I want to go with 4 for performance reasons, but my state defines a “bicycle” as having 2 or 3 wheels. I built this “bicycle”(microcar) to allow me to get around long distances without paying for registration, title, tags, plates, insurance, or any of that crap. It’s a middle finger to the Department of Revenue, and to all of the cops trying to meet their quotas. Best of all, they can’t claim it isn’t a “bicycle” because when I shut the motor off, it is 100% functional as one as I did everything to keep the weight under 100 lbs and it is so aerodynamically slippery I can out-run Lance Armstrong wannabes with the motor shut off(as long as I’m not racing them up hill). AND I found out the hard way that there isn’t much anyone can do about me speeding or hooning it about. I’ve even been pulled over doing 70 mph downhill which would normally have been felony speeding in a car given the limit was like 35. Except I was riding a “bicycle”. Officer Friendly wasn’t very friendly that day and took two hours of my time keeping me at the side of the road trying to find something he could actually get me on, but his supervisor made him let me and the “bicycle” go. 🙂

Last edited 10 months ago by Toecutter
Hoonicus
Hoonicus
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

OK then, I’ve long ago stopped giving any reason for a pull over.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

A number of officers have expressed concern for my safety in both bikes, possibly feigned as an “after the fact” reason for pulling me over once I notified them that these aren’t legally “motor vehicles”. Which is a fair point, given their low mass, and in the case of my custom build, no significant crash protection. The rear bulkhead did save my life though when a truck rear-ended it at a stoplight and crunched up the tail section, but me and the rest of the bike were unharmed. The next iteration is getting a roll cage, 5-point harness, and crumple zones.

With 13 horsepower now on tap, it is damned near uncontrollable. It was doing donuts and shredding up the rear tire when it only had 4 horsepower. One day, it might get AWD and 20+ horsepower.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Aren’t there any E class races you could qualify for ?

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

There are human powered vehicle competitions, if I were to remove the motor/controller/batteries from the “bicycle”. But for those competitions, minimum weight is a key design criterion, and I don’t need strong axles/hubs, DOT rims/tires, or a roll cage, which will only hold me back when only my legs are propelling it. And the wide front track, to help improve cornering and avoid tipping over during high lateral Gs, also means more frontal area and less speed.

The Milan SL is still unmolested and would excel at those competitions. I can hit 50 mph unmotorized on flat ground, and have gotten up to 89 mph going down a very long and steep hill. But I plan to also soon convert that to electric. With 2.5 kW, it would do 80 mph on flat ground.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Dude needs a track.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

The local race track is currently closed, unfortunately. If/when it opens back up, I plan to take the “bicycle” there and drag race some cars. Once I upgrade the battery pack voltage, 13 horsepower should be enough to run 15s in the 1/4 mile, IF I can get enough traction on launch not to have endless wheel spin.

DONALD FOLEY
DONALD FOLEY
10 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Some jurisdictions ticket speeding bicyclists.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
10 months ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

Why not go asymetrical and have the third wheel off to the side? If a Citroen DS could ride on three wheels… LOL

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago

The gas shock suspension I use is nothing near as complicated as the hydraulic monstrosities found in a Citroen, and I like it that way. It’s not adjustable on the fly, but it is easy for me to access, service, and repair. And being made of aluminum, also doesn’t rust to crap when I ride it on salty roads in the winter.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
10 months ago

Beautiful cars. There’s a green Eleven that shows up to ABFM every year, and it’s all I can do to not apend the whole day just staring at it.

And the reason why the little 1100cc Coventry Climax is enough is that there’s barely any car there. You don’t realize just how tiny and low they are until you’re towering over one.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
10 months ago

aerodynamic, but as much gut-feeling aero as science,

Agreed. I love the aero by instinct look so much more than todays CAD-rendered science projects using dozens of little wings and vents to perfectly direct every little molecule of air over, under, around, and through the car. There is just so much more beauty in the simple natural curves of 50s and 60s racing cars.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
10 months ago

I love these old cars, but when I get up close to them in the pits all I can think is “I know how to make you faster”.

Which is the reason I shouldn’t be allowed one.

Toecutter
Toecutter
10 months ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

Get a Westfield then. Nothing wrong with mutilating a replica.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
10 months ago

because “eleven” starts with an “e,” so too should all subsequent Lotuses. The names come from a number!

Insert Dr. Jimes Tooper mind blown gif here.

Seriously Torch, are we ever going to get to add images to comments?

Lew Schiller
Lew Schiller
10 months ago

Uh huh..sure..”Oh we just want an edit feature..that’s all..please?”
Now it’s images. When will this ever end?

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
10 months ago
Reply to  Lew Schiller

When we can insert AI avatars of ourselves into a virtual Autopian clubhouse in the fully rendered land of Jasonia. Giant coins included.

In the meantime, it isn’t like this is a problem that has never been solved. I mean, if they can get David to shower without spaghetti and eat caviar for a weekend, you would think they could solve the pics-in-comments crisis.

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
10 months ago

If you use the link button in the comment tools you can link to an image that will display on this site as a pop up instead of re directing
https://www.reactiongifs.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/tim-and-eric-mind-blown.gif

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
10 months ago

We’re talking Lotus and cigarettes, but no mention of the John Player livery?? To me, the whole thing is so wonderfully British to the core.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
10 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Every time they wheel out a special edition in their “iconic black and gold livery” I end up screaming at the screen “it’s not yours! Those are the colours of an evil corporation! Your colours are green and yellow!”

They usually look nice though.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
10 months ago

Similar, prefer the lines of the D type Jag.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
10 months ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

agree. Short nose, no fin XKD is the (in my mind) the most beautiful thing on 4 wheels.

https://subscribe.octane-magazine.com/features/jaguar-d-type-le-mans-prototype-drive-to-meet-norman-dewis

Chronometric
Chronometric
10 months ago

The “Silver Bullet” Lotus is owned by long-time Eleven driver Brian MacEachern from Jason’s area of Asheville, NC. He and his father raced them for years in Canada.

He and I started on the front row at Monterey in 2012. He lost oil pressure during practice so I loaned him my backup Coventry Climax 1500cc SOHC all aluminum engine. Then he proceeded to beat me to the pole by a tenth of a second!

https://photos.app.goo.gl/5RhFTqBhwUVmoEZR7

George Millwood
George Millwood
10 months ago

I remember Lotus 11s at Warwick Farm making the day with speed and elegance.

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