1965 Lola T70
- Year of manufacture1965
- Chassis numberSL70/1
- Lot number345
- Number of seats2
- Exterior colourOther
- Fuel typePetrol
1965 5.9-Litre Lola-Chevrolet T70 Group 7 Sports-Racing Spyder
Chassis no. SL70/1
In 1965 the immortal Lola T70 sports-racing car was introduced by Lola Cars' creator and mastermind Eric Broadley. Its Specialised Mouldings-produced glass-fibre bodywork was so exquisitely well-proportioned and (by the standards of the time) aerodynamically effective that the T70 was widely acclaimed as being the most beautiful sports-racing car ever created. In essence, if the Aston Martin DBR1 was as gorgeous a front-engined shape as British constructors have ever produced, then the Lola T70 must take the corresponding rear-engined prize.
The T70 was produced to compete in the International Group 7 class of 'anything goes' so-called' big-banger' sports car competition. In effect this was Mr Broadley's gesture of liberation from the strait-jacket of Ford Advanced Vehicles and the steel-monocoque Ford GT programme to which he had been contracted through 1963-64. There he had argued long and hard for the Ford GT to employ a largely aluminium-panelled lightweight monocoque chassis, but aluminium was not a then a material of structural appeal to the masters of America's mass-production motor industry.
From 1965 forward aluminium-hulled sports and GT production would follow the Lola T70 lead.
This splendidly presented example is, most notably, accompanied by an impeccably detailed history dossier, compiled for what is rapidly being recognized as the leading independent British authority, oldracingcars.com, by the late, much-respected, enthusiast researcher David McKinney. His dossier foreword explains: "This chassis number identifies the first of many famous Lola T70 sports cars, the semi-works car raced by John Surtees in 1965. It was subsequently re-tubbed before resale, retaining most other parts from the original car, including the body and the all-important identifying chassis plate. Following this, the car had a short but successful racing career in Japan, being restored there and in the UK after 30 years of virtual neglect. The original chassis may have survived and been built up as a separate car but its existence does not detract from the authenticity of the car featured in this dossier". Another Lola T70 bearing the chassis no. SL70/1 does exist and it may be that Mecom sold, in period, two Lola T70s designated SL70/1.
When Lola T70 chassis 'SL70/1' originated, John Surtees had just become the first man ever to add the four-wheeled Formula 1 World Championship title to his seven achieved upon two wheels in the motor-cycling arena. In January, 1965 'SL70/1' was displayed at the London Racing Car Show, finished in royal blue and white livery, before being delivered ostensibly to John Surtees's then father-in-law, Jack Burke of Eastleigh, Hampshire. In the then re-liveried red car, 'John the Great' finished second to Jim Clark's Lotus 30 and ahead of Bruce McLaren's McLaren-Elva-Oldsmobile M1A upon the car's rain-soaked debut at Silverstone that March. The combination led from pole position at the Silverstone May Meeting before its engine overheated, and Surtees then used the car to win the major Player's International '200' race at Mosport Park, Canada. He led the Martini Trophy race back at Silverstone before a developed T70 Mark II car emerged, whereupon 'SL70/1' was entrusted to new star, Jackie Stewart to drive as a second Team Surtees entry - with suitable tartan striping the young Clydesider finishing third behind John and Bruce McLaren in the prestigious Guards Trophy race at August Bank Holiday Brands Hatch. Having originated with a 4.5-litre Traco-Oldsmobile V8 engine, 'SL70/1' ran its first races with a similar-sized Chevrolet V8 before a 5.9 Traco-Chevrolet unit was fitted. John Surtees would win the inaugural CanAm Championship in the US and Canada in 1966, using a later T70 while 'SL70/1' had been acquired by Texan private entrant John Mecom Jr, apparently not being raced but used as a 'hangar queen' source of spare parts to sustain Mecom's sister T70s.
Early in 1967 'SL70/1's original bodywork and it is believed some other components were transferred by Mecom's mechanics onto a fresh T70 Mark II monocoque chassis. This car and a second T70 were then shipped to Japan by local Firestone agent Don Nichols. While he would race the second car under the pseudonym 'Roger Clark' (!) the updated 'SL70/1' went to driver Ginji Yasuda's Daikyo Chain team. Its chassis was fitted with local Group 6 Coupe bodywork for Yasuda's debut race, quickly reverting to open form for his only other outing that year, finishing second. Yasuda raced the car twice in 1968, leading Japanese star Kunimitsu Takahashi once, and in 1969 it was campaigned by Matsuaki Samada and Isamu Kasuya.
The aging Lola was then retired, being stored by Yasuda team mechanic Yoshiaki Kobayashi, surviving in storage for some 30 years before being acquired by legendary local racing car collector Yoshiyuki Hayashi. In 1999 restoration began in Japan, both Team Surtees red paint, and the original Racing Car Show blue, being found beneath Daikyo Chain's orange. That tub was considered too badly corroded to be saved. Consequently a fresh tub was produced, a new body acquired from Lola Cars and a rebuilt 5.9-litre Chevrolet V8 installed the restored car being test-driven at Mt Fuji on September 15, 2003.
In 2005 'SL70/1' as now offered here returned into British ownership, importantly accompanied by the majority of its discarded original parts including a good proportion of the original body plus other suspension, chassis and engine parts. A fresh 5.9 Chevrolet engine, complying with FIA Appendix K regulations, was fitted. The Lola has been a welcome sight at many prestigious events and most competitively raced with success.
Indeed, at the recent Donington Festival in early May last month, John Surtees was reunited with 'SL/01' and thrilled the crowd by demonstrating the car for a few laps. Being the racer he is, John sent an email to the current owner with a report on the driving characteristics and set-up. The car is also offered with a comprehensive and well presented file outlining 'SL70/1's' provenance, as well as invoices relating to the current owner's 2005-6 rebuild and preparation for historic racing. Since the most recent complete engine rebuild, the Lola has run for no more than 6 hours, including two Goodwood Revivals; test, race and demonstration at Donington; and a further race at Thruxton. The Lola is save for the usual safety checks race-ready.
As offered here this imposing and most competitive beauty has an impeccably well-documented and continuous history from 1967 and although rebuilt by Mecom Racing upon a replacement chassis (importantly in-period) in 1966-67 its derivation from the 1965 John Surtees and Jackie Stewart original 'SL70/1' is well established and understood. Three great racers there John, Jackie and this Lola T70 itself - with 11 World Championship titles between them...