1974 an XI was
offered for sale after a long period in the wilderness.
It had a very pretty Gull-Wing Coupe body fitted to
an otherwise conventional Series 2 car.
An English dealer named Rod Leach purchased the XI, had it
finished and made into a running car.
Mr Leach never disclosed the exact source of his purchase
at the time and so tracing the car prior to this is quite
an article written by Rod and published in the HLR newsletter, the
design and building of the car was attributed to Frank Costin,
aerodynamicist brother of Mike Costin.
The actual work was claimed to have been done by the
apprentices School at the deHavilland aircraft company in
Hatfield. Two other
sister cars were mentioned, but there have never been any signs of
these. It was
suggested to Rod that the GT XI was commissioned with the
intention of it being raced at Le Mans.
Lotus XI Registrar at the time and in spite of some efforts, I
failed to meet anyone who could give a first-hand account of the
history of this car. I
did take the trouble to talk to Frank Costin at his home during
this period and unfortunately he could not recall a
single thing about this project ---- the impression I
gained at the time was that he had not actually been involved.
I now believe that those who gave Rod Leach their memories
of the car from the early 1960s were probably simply describing
one of the numerous XI GTs
that were raced during this period.
remains a great mystery in XI history as to who instigated the
building of this excellent project and as to whether it was in
fact built at the deHavilland factory. The following is the body
of the article written by Rob Leach in 1976 with notes in Italics
indicating current knowledge.
car that I owned was certainly never completed and it is
say at what stage it had reached when it was finally moved
out of the workshops
under a tarpaulin outside the DeHaviland factory.
I have been told that an engine
in the car but subsequently 'removed'.
This is certainly possible but judging from the difficulties we had installing
and running another similar engine in recent times, I would say that the original
engine certainly never
in the car, or was properly mounted etc.
It is also impossible to say how much of the interior fittings and trim were installed
back in the late 50's,
the shape of the seats and the way they have been built,
interior details lead me to believe that a fair amount was
done at the
the car was originally built.
Certainly the car from the scuttle back seems to 'fit together' as a total cohesive whole,
both internally and externally and does not appear to have been added to
or messed about with over a long period of time. Anyway, there is much room for conjecture but
is certain is that the car certainly remained under the
for many years until it was rescued (if you can call it
'private' dealer who I believe removed the engine and the
bonnet for nefarious purposes.
I believe he got
'just desserts', however, as the engine subsequently blew
up and he
ran over the bonnet while it was removed from the car!
Subsequently the car was sold without engine and bonnet and from
the late 60's to 1974 it passed through several dealers' hands, each one
making a quick turnover profit,
nothing but damage the vehicle's reputation in the
process. I received a telephone call from one of these people in June
1974 and immediately went to see the car where it resided in a very large workshop
near Huddersfield, Yorkshire. Amazingly
it looked quite presentable and I was able to get inside,
and underneath the car since it was located over a deep
pit (this is
I have subsequently not been able to do - you know what
of an Eleven is like.)
The bonnet, of course, was missing but there was a 1098 cc. engine and gearbox both dismantled in
an oil bath which were to be sold with the car. The interior trim was partially removed but all
the suspension; brakes, diff, etc. were complete and
no handles and the under-bonnet space was totally empty
apart from a
tank and radiator. I
immediately bought the car and decided that now was the time to complete it some 17 years after its
Lynx Engineering at Rye in Sussex who are well-known for
on D-Type Jaguars etc. and produce the Lynx Replica
D-Type; they agreed to take the car on as a project and
from initial observation estimated the
would take about 4 months.
of course, the 4 months turned into 18 months!
I would stress
this was purely due to the amount of problems we
encountered with the car,
and was in no way due to any inefficiency on Lynx
Engineering's part. On
the contrary, I am full of praise for their engineering
and development work
on this car which must ultimately have been an absolute
nightmare for them,
as each aspect they turned to was found to be useless or
certainly do not intend to detail all the problems we
encountered, but let me
just mention that once the engine, etc. was installed
using the existing mounts,
depression of the clutch pedal moved not the clutch, but
the whole engine
itself! [because the gearbox
mount was incorrect] Back to the drawing board!
Ultimately they stripped every mechanical part off
the car and rebuilt it.
Obviously this would have been necessary in the
case of the brakes, the cylinders of which had long since
seized, but to be on the safe side we decided to tackle
every other part of the car too.
The trouble was that although everything looked
complete, like the instruments etc., upon closer
inspection it was found that nothing worked or could
properly work given the system that had been installed.
The only part that wasn't stripped and
reconstructed was the engine which had been build up by
the workshop in Yorkshire and arrived as a complete unit.
was assured by the person who sold me the car that the
garage in question had
a very good reputation I decided to leave that part of it
alone - we had enough
problems already! A
new bonnet was made by a local firm, lights were
the chrome wheels which had badly pitted were shotblasted
enamelled, windscreen wipers and all other road equipment
was added and a
U.K. MOT was obtained, so that the car could be road
registered. (For this latter
purpose I had to provide a chassis number.
Needless to say there was no
number to be found anywhere on the car so we had to make
up our own. This
11LM56/018 - this being interpreted as 11 Le Mans, built
in 1956, [Series 2 cars like
this one were not built until 1957] and finally
arrived with me 18 months after I first saw the car!)
The first thing we did with the car was
to take it to Silverstone and enter it in a gentle historic race
for Group 1 cars
(i.e. sports racing cars built from '45-60).
We used the original type of road tyres (!) and had to remove
one of the doors since 6'0" driver + crash helmet could not
fit inside. I
have a lovely photograph of the car's first lap with the
domed top of the driver's crash helmet sticking out above the
some unknown reason the engine would refuse absolutely to
pull more than 4,000
rpm and the general consensus of opinion was that the
Weber carburettors were
too small. [although to
original Climax specification]
Anyway we finally gave up after 5 laps, as although
the car had plenty of urge in the lower rev scale, as I
mentioned it refused utterly to rev and thus was cruising
around at 60 mph. After
the race meeting I decided to send the engine to Tony
Mantle of Climax Engine Services who pulled it engine
apart to decide to what stage of tune it had been
simple answer to this one is that it was prepared to stage
said that he had never seen such a standard original
engine in all his life and it probably would have done
stalwart service as the original fire pump unit, even
having the original flat pistons [low
reckon that with a single 1 1/8" SU carburettor, the
engine would have run beautifully
up to its maximum rev. limit, and would have given about
50 bhp. We
were trying to use twin 38 DC0E carburettors and had
debated increasing the
of these! On
top of this Tony found such little gems as gaskets made
Kelloggs Cornflakes packets and various other disasters
which the so-called experts
in Yorkshire had built into the engine during its
engine block and main components were, however, in
extremely good order and
we decided, therefore, to develop what we had to the
customary Stage II+ (i.e.
road/race spec.), and obtained about 95 bhp from the unit. This has now been
done and the car goes and behaves as it should.
We have not yet had it out
at any race meeting but I intend to do so next Spring,
once I have obtained some
decent racing tyres for it (this can also be a problem as
the inner wings is very limited [because
of the Series 1 bonnet] so I shall have to pick
and choose carefully). I
have, however, covered some 122 miles in the car now, and
say that it has an original 122 miles on the clock from
new! It will certainly
pull 7,000+ in the gears and comes on strong at about
3,500 rpm -much
quicker in fact than I had anticipated though, of course,
the proximity of
the road and the general 'feel' that one gets once
installed inside, makes even
50 mph seem impressive!
I do not know what the final drive ratio is but I am
about 16 mph per 1,000 rpm in top, so you tell me. [4.55:1]
a few words about the car's construction.
The thing that impresses me
most about it is the internal and external aluminum work,
carried out to the
extremely high standard one would expect in an aircraft
[most parts are original
Williams and Pritchard].
Unlike most Elevens, every internal panel is boxed
and shaped to perform
its particular function and then beautifully riveted in
of the underneath is totally enclosed in the riveted
undershield, save a
very small hole for the sump [normal
for an XI].
The edges of this undershield are beautifully
and wired, and they still bear the original aircraft
marking for the individual
panels [ie aluminium
manufacturers stamp]. Nice as this looks, however, it is of course a nightmare
keep clean, and makes the adjusting or overhaul of
is however an access panel to the rear brakes from
the car so perhaps one shouldn't be too critical.
I wish I could show
you details of some of the interior aluminum paneling but
unfortunately a lot of the work that I have been referring
to is tucked away under the dashboard in similarly
inaccessible places. I have managed to retain the original spare wheel
which has its original chrome [?]
in excellent condition, and
the special 3-eared
hub caps too [modernElan
All the windows including the windscreen are
perspex (I do not dare use the windscreen wipers and hope
I never get caught out in the wet in any event) and we
have put in a ventilating window in the drivers side.
with the rear window removed, however, on a sunny day the
is phenomenal. Although I have considered spraying the
car in Lotus colours,
the general consensus of opinion and my own too, is that
it would be a
sacrilege to cover the exterior aluminum work with paint.
Perhaps the most remarkable
feature about the whole car, however, is the interior
trim. As I mentioned
before I am not sure when this was installed but it would
not surprise me
if it was done at the time the car was built.
All the seats, dash and some rear
panels between the seats are genuine best quality pigskin!
The cappings on
the inside of the doors and along the top of the door
openings are made of teak;
the floors and other parts of the car are carpeted.
There used to be a radio
aerial in the rear wing which we have removed, though we
have retained the
cigarette lighter and ashtray!
(Did the private Le Mans entrant intend cruising
down the Mulsanne Straight at 140 mph smoking a cigar and
Radio Luxembourg!!) There
was also a vast panel of switches in the middle
the dashboard which we have also taken out but the rest
in and out of the car is undeniably difficult though we
have now installed
struts to prop up the doors in the open position.
Once in, however, it
is very comfortable though extremely bumpy and noisy. The car is remarkably
however and goes like a well-prepared Eleven should,
road users into total apoplexy!
There is really no need for me to describe
the car, for you are only too well aware of what an Eleven
is like --simply
imagine one totally enclosed with all the accompanying
and you have exactly the picture.
intend to get it out racing next year, but in the meantime
I merely intend
to give it the occasional road outing if the weather is
dry. Actually October/November
is the ideal time for it really was a sticky experience using it in July and August!