Pared to the Minimum: Lightweight racing cars from Speedmaster Cars
The lower the weight of a racing car, the more rapid its acceleration and the better its response when braking and cornering. Have a look at the pair of cars offered for sale by James Hanson of Speedmaster. Both offer a ‘low weight’ – but in very different ways.
First, there’s the 1963 Lotus 23B. On this little car, nothing is superfluous. It’s a racing car through and through. As a two-seater, it might be classified as a ‘sports car’, but in reality it’s a variation on Colin Chapman’s single-seater of the day, and was designed for one person only in the cockpit: the driver.
Behind the lucky man would sit a highly tuned, small-capacity four-cylinder engine. In the 23B this was a twin-cam Ford 1600cc unit and, with such power (perhaps 150bhp) in a small and light chassis, the car was a veritable rocket. Incredible as it might seem, variations appeared in the USA with 289 Cobra engines in them – the forerunner of the Can-Am cars.
But that was defeating the object: lightness plus compact performance and a superlative chassis equalled sensational outright speed. The Colin Chapman way.
Another method, of course, with production-based racing cars, is to take a high-performance road car and make it even better.
That’s what Jaguar did with the official Lightweight E-types in the early 60s. By replacing much of the standard car’s steel monocoque and body panels with aluminium, and casting a special alloy block, the racing version of Jaguar’s ‘E’ could hold its own against a Cobra, a Ferrari GTO or an Aston Martin DB4GT.
And outside the select club that is genuine Lightweight E-type ownership, many hundreds of road cars were converted to racing cars in period.
Today, a lightened E-type – with uprated engine, steering, suspension and brakes – represents a terrific way to go historic racing. The car you see here, for example, is ready to race in British and European events in 2013.
You can see all Speedmaster's cars for sale in the Classic Driver Marketplace.
Text: Classic Driver