Model history: In the early 1960s combining a British chassis with an American V8 proved to be a very successful method of reaching success. It all begun a few years earlier with the Chevrolet engined Listers and the likes of Cooper and Lola quickly followed suit. The best known example in this genre is the AC/Shelby Cobra, although international (Group 7) sports car racing would be dominated by far more advanced and powerful British/American hybrids. Ford also recognised this to be the way to achieve sports car racing success and in their quest to win at Le Mans looked to team up with a British manufacturer. Eventually Lola was chosen, which left Lotus' Colin Chapman bitterly disappointed and determined to prove the boys from Detroit wrong.
While Lotus had limited experience with very powerful engines, there had been notable success with a V8 engined Lotus 19 in 1962 and 1963. This two-seater racer used a traditional and very effective tubular spaceframe chassis, but for his new Group 7 car Colin Chapman decided to use a backbone chassis similar to the newly launched Elan. It consisted of a central box type construction, which sprouted in two narrower sections on each end to support the suspension, engine and gearbox. In the four-cylinder engined Elan, the novel idea worked very well, but several key people within Lotus were worried it would not be up to the task for the proposed sports car. Chapman pressed on and at the 1964 London Racing Car Show, he unveiled the Lotus 30.
Like all the Lotus racing cars that came before it, the 30 looked like a very effective machine ready to cheat the wind. Under the very low body, all the mechanicals were fitted to the backbone chassis that was prominently visible in the cockpit. It was suspended all-round by double wishbones with the lower wishbone reversed at the rear. Right behind the driver, the chassis separated in two sections like a tuning fork to house the engine. The powerplant of choice was Ford's 289 that was delivered to Lotus developing around 270 bhp. With some fine tuning and adding four Webers, Lotus' engineers found another 80 bhp. All this power was transferred to the wheels through a sturdy ZF five speed gearbox.
With its slippery body, 350 bhp and a kerb weight of less than 700 kg, the Lotus 30 looked to set to become a dazzling success. Unfortunately it was not quite that straightforward as the skeptics within Lotus were proven right. The large hike in power compared to the Elan was too much for the backbone chassis to handle with considerable flex as a result. Furthermore, the car suffered from overheating and proved difficult to maintain properly. For example to change the ratios in the gearbox the entire rear suspension had to be removed. The first car was sent to Ian Walker together with Team Lotus' Jim Clark to drive it. He struggled and somehow managed to finish second behind at its debut. Later that year Clark had a very big accident when a chassis stopped flexing and instead broke into two pieces.
Chapman was reluctant to give up and continued development of the Lotus 30. For the 1965 season he launched a second Series of the sports racer, which featured a stronger chassis, spoilers front and rear and bigger and wider wheels. Some cars were also fitted with Tecalemit-Jackson Fuel Injection, but the engineers struggled to get it right. The changes were an improvement, but the V8-engined Lolas and McLarens were difficult to match. A third evolution with an even stronger chassis and larger engine was used later that year. It was named the Lotus 40 and described famously by Richie Ginther as a Lotus 30 with ten more problems. Despite the Lotus 30's many problems, the hugely talented and brave Clark still managed to score three wins although all in minor events.
In less than two years Lotus produced around three dozen of these big banger sports racing cars, so at least commercially it was a success. The run was consisted of 23 and 9 examples for the Series 1 and 2 30s respectively and a further 3 examples of the later 40.
Completed in the Summer of 1965, this was the first of three Lotus 40s built. Mike Spence placed it on pole at its debut but failed to finish due to overheating issues. It was subsequently raced by Jim Clark and by American Richie Ginther in the United States, but with little success. It returned to the UK some years later and was eventually abandoned. In recent years it was completely restored by Peter Denty and was exercised by its owner during the 2007 Goodwood Festival of Speed.