Lotus Eleven Chassis 538 leading 188 at Lakeside on the 26th of November, 1961. These cars will reunite at Sydney Retro Racefest this June. Image courtesy of the Brier Thomas Collection.
Sydney Retro Racefest will bring together a record gathering of Australian Lotus Elevens this Queen’s Birthday long weekend to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the classic sportscar racer.
Eight of Australia’s eleven Lotus Elevens will make their way to Sydney Motorsport Park this June 11th and 12th to take part in Sydney Retro Racefest. The gathering marks the 60th anniversary of the Eleven, and will see the cars displayed in a special marquee as well as compete in Regularity events.
“The idea was really based on the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Eleven at Watkins Glen in the US. They were able to bring together a decent proportion of the American Elevens, and had eight or ten of them out on the track.”
“I kicked the idea around with Ed (Holly) for a bit and we started having conversations back in March last year. We’re now up to eight of the eleven cars here in Australia, which is amazing!”
“All four New South Wales cars are going to be involved and we have four coming down from Queensland. The guys bringing cars down from Queensland are making an impressive commitment, so I’d like to send a special thanks to them!”
“We’re going to put together a marquee, à la the race teams back in the day, where we will be displaying the cars. Several will be heading out to the track to compete in Regularity throughout the weekend as well.” – Ashton Roskill
Gathering eight of the eleven Antipodean Elevens is a significant achievement, especially when you consider that only fifteen Lotus Elevens came to Australia in period, and only 270 of the cars were built during their three years of production.
Renowned for their light weight and aerodynamic shape, the cars feature a stunning aluminium body that wraps around a light steel tubular chassis. Horsepower is handled by either a sidevalve Ford four cylinder or a, more desirable, Coventry Climax all alloy 1100cc engine.
The Le Mans models feature four wheel discs that provide world-beating stopping power. A rack and pinion setup gives the cars very direct steering, and coil sprung suspension, with swing axle front suspension in the early cars, completes a very handy handling package.
“The Mark Eleven came from a succession of cars, the Nine and the Ten, but the Eleven was the first real production car. They’re absolutely gorgeous with their flowing lines that are so iconic of the 1950s, when cars were designed by eye rather than wind tunnel.”
“In the mid-‘50s the Elevens were virtually unbeatable in the small sports racing capacity. They swept everything before them in the 1100c up to 1500cc classes, mainly using Coventry Climax motors.” – Ed Holly
The cars were extremely successful in sportscar racing overseas and have only become more desirable as they’ve matured. Just fifteen eventually made their way to Australia to go racing, and they were no less successful here. Since their period racing career they’ve enjoyed a renaissance of sorts with several receiving world-class restorations and continuing their race-winning form in historic motorsport.
One such car is Chassis 538, which is the only car to have been sold new into Australia and will be taking part in Racefest this Queen’s Birthday Long weekend.
Upon its completion Chassis 538 was test driven in the United Kingdom by Count Steve Ouvaroff and then put on the boat out here. It went to George Jamieson, who had been racing a Jaguar XK 120 with Les Agnew.
“They were both in awe of the car! It was much more of a race car than the XK.”
“One thing which really stood out to them was the brakes, especially in such a light car. Having those four massive discs on a car that weighed just 400 kilograms meant that they could still be on the power well after most of the cars around them had to jump on the brakes.” – Ed Holly
From Jamieson the car went to Bevan Flemming, who achieved some good results in it. Joe Hills then bought it, eventually selling to John Partridge who owned it for almost 40 years.
Ed Holly bought it in 2010, restoring it to its stunning contemporary condition and taking it to the Lotus National meeting in Canberra in 2013. That was its first run in 46 years and it acquitted itself well, running a 1:19 around Wakefield Park and winning the biennial event’s concours d’elegance.
Ed’s car will be joined by seven other Elevens on track and in the paddock at the upcoming Sydney Retro Racefest this Queen’s Birthday long weekend over the 11th and 12th of June. Take the opportunity to enjoy this momentous gathering, to see the cars in action on the track and to get up close and personal with them in the pits and paddock.
Tickets will be available at the gate. Entry for kids under 12 is free.