|The (first) Monza Eleven - revisited|
by Victor Thomas, Jay Sloane & Russ Hoenig
In the HLR magazine Volume 5
- No. 6 Vic
Thomas gave an account of the knowledge to date of the
Series 1 Eleven which so successfully
set up World Speed Records in 1956. More information has recently come to
light concerning the possible whereabouts of the car today and it is
therefore worth reiterating the whole story in order to try and `put it to
The car was brought home and repaired, raced at Castelfusano with a
1500cc FWB and then taken again to Monza early in October with American
Mac Fraser driving. This outing achieved even higher 1100cc records
cumulating in 1 hour at 137.5mph and fastest lap at 143mph. These World
Records stand today!
Although the frame survived intact this time, the vibration and distance involved caused Mac Fraser to pass blood from his bladder for some weeks later. Mac of course went on to be the star of the Team Lotus drivers from this time on, but was sadly killed in 1957 in the works FPF twin-cam X1 at Rouen the following year. The Record Breaker was brought home and according to J.C. Kilburn, a U.S. Lotus enthusiast who was around the factory at the time, it was dismantled and parts divided amongst at least three cars ------ no doubt to disguise the fact that these particular parts had been slightly "shop soiled."
Almost 20 years later with the birth of the Lotus Eleven Register
and the Historic Lotus Register the hunt was on to find what some consider
to be the most pure of line of all Elevens.
from Williams & Pritchard had noted that the “Monza car” had been either chassis
number 217 or 218 and so this was a good starting point for the search.
Eleven 218 was in the possession of LER founder Russ Hoenig in Michigan in
the 1970s, but the car was partially dismantled and almost scrap so it was
difficult to tell if in fact it had been the very one to run at Monza.
Ten years later Peter Ghormley in California purchased 217 and so
began an examination of it as a Monza contender.
At the time neither Russ nor Peter had access to detailed photographs of the actual
car which ran at Monza and so they were not in a position to prove one way
or another the history of their particular cars. Also in the late 1970s in
England a car was claimed to be the actual record breaker and so strong
was its’ owners belief that it was rebuilt with a bubble canopy and a
large Coventry Climax logo painted on the front panel. After many years of
residing in a Japanese museum, this car was shipped (complete with bubble)
to owners in Florida,
inspection has shown positively that
it is in fact chassis
which of course was much too early to
have been the Monza car.
was well-known that the Lotus-Monza
had once been owned &
raced by Frank Baptista in the USA. One
magazine article* stated: “In 1956 [Baptista]
purchased a new Lotus Mark 9
and romped to the championship. Late that
same year Frank acquired the Lotus ‘Monza’ Mark 11
which Stirling Moss
drove at the Italian Track in speed runs. Making his debut with it at
Nassau’s Speed Week, Frank finished second in class and third in the
Governors Cup race . . . while hampered somewhat by a 3.77 rear end.”
For years race reports and sale adverts continued to refer to this car
as the Lotus-Monza,
with the last trace of it in the Carolinas in the early 1960's.
As further evidence, photographs of Baptista’s Eleven show clearly the extra slot cut into the aluminium at the base of the windscreen surround to prevent misting of the inside of the bubble canopy. Also, team member Rick Kelly clearly remembers the impossibly high axle ratio and rear braking problems (from not having any vents) at the Nassau debut. The question was where had the Baptista car gone?
the late 1990's the
three authors of this article began an exhaustive search through the
records for any trace of this car amongst the survivors today. Luckily a
was found of the rear chassis of
11 #235 taken in the
1970s by Russ Hoenig, and it is possible to see clearly a weld repair to
the near-side chassis tube above the battery in exactly the place where
the car broke at Monza.
At this point
the mystery of the original cars identity seemed
inspection of more 70s-era photographs of the front of #235 indicates
that although the airbox was similar to the one at Monza (lengthened to
match the Webers
as opposed to SU`s)
original characteristics did not
A breakthrough of sorts was made by Russ Hoenig who obtained family photos of Frank working on his Lotus-Monza, and these were a revelation. As seen in these photos, the Baptista car exactly matched the details of the car seen at Monza, but also had unique features - factory modifications not found on any other Eleven yet examined. The three researchers would have to start over and re-examine about twenty cars for traces of these new and unique details.
Unfortunately Eleven #235 had been severely damaged in a crash and was totally rebuilt by 2006, when the three authors examined it at Sebring. Not even the welded tube in the 70s photo was still present. At least on forensic evidence they could not make any connection between this car and Baptista.
As for chassis’ 217 and 218, comparisons with the under-body
photographs taken during the record run at Monza
(from the first attempt
with Moss) make it
possible to say with some certainty that chassis 217
has none of the positive identity of the Monza car. Although it does have
Dzus fasteners for the body panels (instead of Terry
set higher than on the Moss car.
The limited information available on
same tantalizing similarity, but more differences to offset this.
Today, with Russ Hoenig leading the way, a car-by-car examination of forensics, and on-going search through old photos and ownership notes continues.
Will the search for the 1st Monza Eleven ever end?