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  Lotus 29 Ford

  Article Image gallery (21) Chassis Specifications  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1963
Numbers built:3
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:November 23, 2012
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Click here to download printer friendly versionWith the ground-breaking Type 25 introduced at the 1962 Dutch Grand Prix, Lotus had become one of Formula 1's top runners. Its key strength (literally) was the revolutionary monocoque chassis, which was both lighter and more rigid than the conventional tubular spaceframe chassis. In fact, it was so strong that it allowed Lotus' Colin Chapman to quickly develop a machine for the lucrative Indy 500.

One of the driving forces behind this ambitious project was American Dan Gurney, who convinced Chapman that a mid-engined Lotus would be more than a match for the rather more archaic and much larger Indy 'Roadsters'. He had raced a mid-engined car in the 1962 Indy 500 and believed that a lighter, more efficient machine would be able to break the Roadsters' stronghold. In Ford, where an all-aluminium V8 was under development they found a formidable partner.

Dubbed the Type 29, Lotus' first Indy racer was effectively an enlarged version of the successful F1 car. This was done to meet the minimum wheelbase requirement and to accommodate for the new engine, which was over twice as large as the diminutive Coventry-Climax V8 used in the Type 25. As on the F1 car, the chassis consisted of two sheet aluminium pontoons that were connected by various steel cross-members and double as the bottom of the body.

Also carried over from the Type 25 was the suspension with wishbones and rockers at the front and wishbones, top links and trailing arms at the rear. Both a conventional and an off-set version of the suspension was developed. The later was designed specifically for use on ovals. With formidable performance expected, the car was fitted with the largest disc brakes available. Halibrand knock-off wheels were used to allow for lightning quick pit-stops.

Ford provided a new all-aluminium V8, loosely based on the Fairlane engine. A quad-cam version was in the works but in its original guise the Ford Indy engine used a single camshaft, actuating the valves through push-rods and rockers. Lotus replaced the Hilborn fuel injection with four Weber carburettors, which the British mechanics were much more accustomed to. In this guise, the 4.2 litre V8 produced around 400 bhp. It was mated to a Colotti four-speed gearbox with two gears blanked off.

Chapman had very high hopes for the car, which he believed was one of the fastest racing cars ever built. The Lotus 29 showed its potential in testing, shattering the lap record at Snetterton. The prototype was then shipped to the United States for further testing at Ford's private track in Arizona. Meanwhile two new chassis were readied for Jim Clark and Dan Gurney to drive in the Indy 500. Clark's car was painted in Lotus' familiar green and yellow, while Gurney's 29 sported a variation of the American white and blue racing colours.

In practice the big Roadsters still proved to be faster but it was part of Lotus' strategy to make fewer pit-stops with their lighter and more frugal machine. Clark, the only non-American in the race, nevertheless set the fifth fastest time. For Gurney, the practice sessions were not quite as straightforward as he crashed his 29. The car was hastily repaired, using parts from the original prototype. He would start the race from 12th on the grid.

The Lotus strategy seemed to pay off as after running 9th and 10th early on, Clark and Gurney moved into the lead after the first round of pit stops. Clark eventually only had to stop once compared to Gurney's three stops. This placed the young Scotsman right on the tail of Parnelli Jones' Watson Offenhauser, which was spewing oil badly. Despite Chapman's pleas, Jones was not black flagged and would go on to take the win. Clark had to settle for second, while Gurney ended the race in seventh place.

Although the Indy 500 had turned out to be the single most lucrative race Lotus had competed in, Chapman still had a point to prove. He entered Clark in the Milwaukee 200-mile race where he led from start to finish and set a new lap record. Ford acquired Gurney's car and used to test the new quad-cam engine. It was raced in the 1964 Indy 500 by Bobby Marshman, who briefly led the race before being side-lined with engine issues. The car was back in 1965 when Al Miller finished fourth.

For Lotus and Ford, the Type 29 was just the beginning and over the winter the new Type 34 was readied. Powered by the quad-cam engine, it had a disastrous race in 1964 due to tyre problems. It would turn out to be third time luck for the Lotus-Ford partnership as Clark would go on to win the 1965 Indy 500, finally breaking the Roadster stronghold on the legendary race. Although overshadowed by its successors, the Type 29 did remarkably well to finish second and seventh at what was the manufacturer's debut in the Indy 500.

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  Article Image gallery (21) Chassis Specifications