1963 Lotus Cortina MK I
Year of manufacture1963
Number of seats2
The ex-Team Lotus, Jim Clark, Trevor Taylor, Dan Gurney, Sir John Whitmore, Peter Arundell, David Hobbs
1963 Lotus Cortina MkI Competition Saloon
Registration no. 166 RUR
Chassis no. 274C002384K
As historic competition saloons go, they don't get much more important than this car ? one of the first ever Lotus Cortinas to be raced. '166 RUR' was built in February 1963 at the Lotus factory in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire and first turned a wheel in anger on 20th September of that year at Oulton Park ? the Lotus Cortina's racing debut. Driven by Lotus works driver, Trevor Taylor, '166 RUR' finished 2nd in class behind Jack Sears driving a similar car. It was the start of a legend.
Throughout the 1960s, Ford had pursued an ambitious and wide-ranging motor sports programme - 'Total Performance' - that would see the 'Blue Oval' triumph at Le Mans with the GT40, while Ford-powered cars also won at Indianapolis and took the Formula 1 World Championship. In Group 2 production car racing the firm was just as dominant, thanks to one particular model: the Ford Lotus Cortina.
Ford's Walter Hayes commissioned Lotus boss Colin Chapman to develop the Group 2 competition version of the new Cortina saloon; Lotus would then build the 1,000 cars required for homologation. Launched in 1963, the Lotus Cortina - Cortina Lotus in Ford parlance - featured the Elan's Ford-based, twin-overhead-camshaft, 1,558cc engine in the two-door bodyshell. McPherson strut independent front suspension was retained, with revised spring and damper rates, while the rear leaf springs were replaced by coil-spring/damper units, axle location being achieved by trailing arms and an 'A' bracket. The latter arrangement was not entirely successful; reversion to Ford's standard leaf-sprung axle improved reliability.
Production of the Lotus Cortina began in February 1963 but it was not until September of that year that it was eligible to race. Lotus Cortinas dominated saloon racing's 2-litre class, often challenging for outright honours. Works cars were driven by Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Peter Arundell, and Jackie Ickx among others.
Its early outings had proved that the Lotus Cortina was fast, but the handling was far from perfect and designer Len Terry was asked to make the necessary changes to the rear axle's locating arrangements. After the axle change, the hitherto fragile Lotus Cortina proved a highly capable rally car, works driver Bengt Söderström winning the Acropolis and RAC rallies in 1966.
'166 RUR' is recorded in Lotus works mechanic Bob Dance's records of the time, which show its first outing at Oulton Park and the second a week later at Snetterton. It was driven at the Norfolk circuit by newly crowned Formula 1 World Champion, Jim Clark, who finished 2nd in class on his first drive in a Lotus Cortina. This was a period when a Formula 1 driver might compete in three or four different categories at the same race meeting, and Clark proved himself every bit as capable of driving a 'tin top' as a single seater. Driving a Lotus Cortina, he won the 1964 British Saloon Car Championship with ease, and anyone fortunate enough to have witnessed him cornering these cars on three - and occasionally two - wheels will never forget the spectacle.
'166 RUR' was then sent to the USA for the 1964 season as part of the 'English Ford Team', making its Stateside debut at Sebring on 20th March 1964 driven by Dan Gurney. A fortnight later Sir John Whitmore chalked up the Cortina's first class win, at Pensacola, and followed that up with a 5th-in-class finish at Laguna Seca on 3rd May. In the meantime, Peter Arundell had driven '166 RUR' to a 6th-in-class finish at Riverside on 26th April. There were further outings with various drivers, including David Hobbs, throughout the rest of the 1964 season, at the end of which the car was sold to Harley Cunningham of Charlotte, North Carolina.
In late 1990, the Cortina was discovered in Florida by touring car racer Andy Middlehurst and brought back to the UK. Unusually, the bodyshell was rust-free and not accident damaged, and the car still retained its Cosworth-built engine, 'bullet' gearbox, and 'A'-bracket rear suspension. '166 RUR' was subsequently restored to FIA Appendix 'K' specification by McKenna Motorsport. It was raced in the Goodwood Revival's St Mary's Trophy in 2003 by Andy Middlehurst and Tiff Needell, and later on was owned by musician Chris Rea.
The Cortina was still owned by Rea when it featured in Octane magazine's January 2007 edition (copy on file). At that time the car was being prepared by Legends Automotive for Rea to race in the 2007 season, complete with a fresh Connaught-built engine.
In 2012, the current vendor purchased '166 RUR' for his private collection from well-known historic racer Kevin Kivlochan, who in turn had bought the car from Chris Rea. Kivlochan had raced the Cortina at the Goodwood Revival meeting in 2011 with Emanuele Pirro, and 2012 with Melanie Nahum. In 2013, the car ran again at the Goodwood Revival, on this occasion in the Jim Clark Tribute event driven by Claude and Melanie Nahum. Offered with FIA HTP (dated 2009) and a UK V5C registration document, '166 RUR' represents a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a very early works Lotus Cortina driven by some of the greatest champions of the day. Its historical importance cannot be over-stressed.
Please note that should this vehicle remain in the UK local import taxes of 5% will be added to the hammer price.