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  Lotus 38 Ford

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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1965
Numbers built:8
Designed by:Len Terry for Lotus
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:May 13, 2015
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Click here to download printer friendly versionIn 1965 the Indy 500 was shown live on national television for the first time, courtesy of ABC Sports. The network's timing was impeccable as this edition of America's most famous race was undoubtedly one of its most historic; it was the first time the race was won by a mid-engined car, a Ford engine, a British car and at an average of over 150 mph. Jim Clark also became the first foreign driver to take the victory since Ralph DePalma in 1915. This epic result was the result of three years of hard work, some highs and many more lows.

Lotus' principal Colin Chapman had first visited the Indy 500 in 1962 and quickly became convinced that a modified version of his ground-breaking Formula 1 cars could take on the archaic front-engined 'Roadsters' that dominated the great race. A deal was struck with Ford for the supply of engines and financial backing. Clark led at his first attempt but eventually had to settle for second after oil covered the track during the final laps of the 1963. With an updated car and a much more sophisticated engine the 1964 race looked to go Lotus' way. It would turn out to be a complete disaster as the car ripped its tyres apart, resulting in two fiery crashes.

Especially for Ford, the 1964 race was a publicity nightmare but Chapman nevertheless managed to get the American manufacturer to extend the partnership for a third attempt. One of the conditions was that one of the new chassis was made available to the Blue Oval's favoured driver, Dan Gurney. Chapman himself was preoccupied dealing with the popular Tasman Series Down Under, leaving the responsibility of developing the new Indy car to Len Terry. Making the most of the lessons learned at the previous two attempts, the new machine was a clean-sheet design and not just another adaption of the existing F1 cars as the 1963 and 1964 Indy challengers had been.

What set the new '38' apart was the fully enclosed sheet-aluminium monocoque, as opposed to the open 'bathtub' style chassis featured in the earlier '29' and '34'. This considerably improved the chassis' strength and rigidity. When Chapman returned from Tasman duties, he was critical of the design because it was not as easy to access as his earlier monocoque cars. It was, however, too late to change, or better, to compromise the design. As with the earlier cars, it was a full-length chassis, split in two pieces behind the centre bulkhead to cradle the engine. At both ends steel bulkheads added further rigidity to the tub.

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  Article Image gallery (42) Chassis (2) Specifications User Comments (5)