1957 Lotus Eleven
One European's experience at Bonneville's famous SpeedWeek.
Through the SEMA Technology Initiative, Ford was able to collaborate with several of those companies to produce a low-volume niche vehicle. Ewing had the design, SEMA had the suppliers and soon, the GTX1 was born.
Classic Car Overview
The video where this car is featured as one of the last authentic and original Club Elevens will answer most questions. It begins with what a Club Eleven is and from the 4:20 mark uses this car as an example with an inspection and test drive to the end. Contact the owner / seller for answers to specific questions through the link at right.
As additional background, Lotus built #273 in February-March 57 as a road car, painted in American racing colors of White & Blue. It was shipped to New York for Tony Pompeo, the Lotus distributor there. The car was still unsold when Pompeo went out of business and so it was repossessed by his bank and stored in a warehouse. An expert (J.C. Kilburn, representing European Motors, the company with first choice over Pompeo's Lotus inventory) saw it in 1958 and noted the full road trim and the only set of sidecurtains he'd ever seen on an Eleven. But he didn't buy it, preferring Elevens in race trim. The car was not seen again until 1959-60 when it emerged as a rolling chassis, its engine and removable body panels transferred to another car.
It came to Florida in this condition and by 1960 served as a spare parts car for an Eleven racer in Ft. Lauderdale (Burrell Besancon) who discovered that #273 didn't have the spare parts he needed for his LeMans model. It sat in his mothers garage until 1967 when he got married and sold his LeMans, giving the #273 rolling chassis to Pop Mericle who built it into the Mericle Special, an SCCA D-Sports Racing car using a DKW engine and a Devin body. Disguised this way #273 raced from 1968 until 1975 when the two-stroke engine finally spat its piston rings out. The current owner soon learned that DKW-powered Elevens with Devin bodies were not normal. His education into Lotus Elevens began.
The current owner joined the USA-based Lotus Eleven Register (LER) in 1975 and the UK-based Historic Lotus Register (HLR) not long after. He resumed the long-dormant LER newsletter in 1996, transitioning it into the www.lotuseleven.org website. He became the HLR Eleven co-registrar with Victor Thomas in 2009. Lotus Eleven #273 benefits from his involvement in Lotus research (locating the original Climax engine in 1997 and re-uniting it with the car) as well as expertise in restoring it not only as a Club model but to the rare street spec it was originally built to.
Returning to the car, it has never been wrecked. Starting in 1976 the owner removed all SCCA-required mods (rollbar, rear fuel tank frame, etc) from the chassis and returned it exactly to Lotus specs. Due to rust penetration on the bottom square tubes these were replaced. The chassis is without cracks and as strong as when new. The only race damage the original parts suffered was a sheared rear hub in the late 1960s. These hubs have been replaced with a newer BMC spec. The front Ford E93 hubs have also been replaced with new ones. Other than "modern" Koni front shocks the remainder of the suspension, steering, brakes, MG transmission and driveshaft are original and have been rebuilt to function as new. From the wiring harness up, all electrical components are 21st century but original in spec. The original engine, Climax FWA 6966, transplanted into Barry Brown's race-winning Eleven in 1960, survived its competition life without a blow-up. It was overhauled in 2002 by Carl Whitney, one of the best engine builders in the USA. It is in Stage 2 tune, but with slightly higher compression, with twin SU carburetors. Since that rebuild the engine has had fewer than ten hours of runtime, always on public roads and well below the redline.
Wheels are Borrani 54-spoke 15 x 4 alloy rims, including the spare. Tony Pompeo was a Borrani distributor and often fit Borranis to his Elevens, and this car still had them in 1960. They are true but unrestored with traces of their Borrani decals. Tires fitted to the car today are Michelin ZX, new in 2019. The tire sizes are appropriate for a Club, allowing proper body clearance and minimum turning circle. Unlike race tires they will pass any road-safety standard.
Beginning in 2005 and in time for the 50-year Lotus Eleven Anniversary at Sebring in 2006, the car was re-paneled in aircraft-spec aluminum, including a new stressed floor and transmission tunnel. On-frame rivets are either Monel or stainless steel, with aluminum rivets only used on alloy-to-alloy panels. The tunnel and side bulkhead steel wire-beading is welded to the chassis and the car rides drum-tight without creaking or flexing.
The removable panels (nose, cowl & tail) all lost prior to 1960, have been replaced with fiberglass panels that are exact matches for S-1 alloy ones, right down to the rivets. Although a few Elevens were built with fiberglass bodies, this wasn't original on #273. The owner went this route because: a) alloy panels are too easily damaged in routine driving and the idea was to be on the road without worries; and b) the car is painted as when new and why bother with alloy if you paint over it? Nevertheless, the use of the fiberglass panels rather than alloy is reflected in the asking price.
As for street driving, the video shows the reality. In spite of being 66-years-old this Eleven has no trouble staying ahead of traffic. It is simple to understand and maintain making it an easy exotic to live with. However, despite having a soft-top (hood) it isn't an all-weather vehicle and shouldn't be driven in the rain. It probably shouldn't be trusted to parking valets either. But on a winding country road this is a wonderful machine to be in. (BTW - the mileage shown in the description table is an estimate. The odometer came from another vehicle that covered 38,000 miles. This Eleven has covered hundreds of miles, but not thousands.)
The car is currently in West Palm Beach, Florida, USA. A sturdy open trailer can be included if desired. All spare original parts and routine maintenance tools are included of course. The car is sold on Bill of Sale only, but sufficient documentation exists to establish a title in most USA states. The seller will assist the buyer in this regard. Also, if needed a DVLA can be easily acquired for UK or European use. Let me know where you are and we can get you what you need.
There are many pages of detail already written and photos of all components. Ask what you want to know more about or see. I will answer your questions here in the open or directly & privately if you wish.
- Classic Car ID101935735
- Stock NumberN/A
- Body StyleConvertible
- Mileage900 miles
- Engine4 Cylinder
- Drivetrain2 wheel drive - rear
- SuspensionSwing axle front, live axle rear
- Transmission4 Speed Manual
- Exterior ColorWhite
- Custom Colorw/blue stripe
- Interior ColorBlack
- Seat ColorBlack w/ white piping
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