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  Article Image gallery (38) Chassis (2) Specifications  
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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1959
Numbers built:23
Internal name:Type 17
Designed by:Len Terry for Lotus
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:April 05, 2018
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Click here to download printer friendly versionLotus replaced the all-conquering Eleven ahead of the 1959 season with the new Type 17. In almost every respect it was a further refinement of Lotus' small displacement sports car design. Compared to its predecessor, the Type 17 was considerably smaller, narrower, lighter and featured a smaller frontal area.

Like the Eleven, the Type 17 was built around a steel spaceframe chassis that was built up from round and square tubing. The aluminium propellor shaft and the floor were riveted to the frame to from stressed members of the chassis. New for the Type 17 was the use of a Chapman strut front suspension, consisting of a lower wishbone and a spring strut. The rear suspension also used a spring strut with a radius arm and fixed length driveshaft.

Customers had the choice of the 747cc Coventry Climax FWM or 1,098 FWA engines depending on the class they intended to run in. Either option was mated to a BMC sourced four-speed gearbox. Stopping power was provided by Girling disc brakes with the rears mounted in-board. Thanks to the narrow track, the bodywork could be tightly wrapped over the rolling chassis with both front and rear wheels partly covered. The body lines had been penned by a young Len Terry.

Lotus built cars both both for Team Lotus and customers and the first were ready in March of 1959. Even though Lotus promised much improved performance, the Type 17's early results were disappointing due to handling issues. Some suggested the car was simply too small and narrow but the issues were eventually traced to the front suspension. With a more conventional double wishbone suspension in place the problems were solved. The later cars received the revised suspension from new, while Lotus offered an upgrade kit to customers.

Unfortunately, by the time the problems were solved, the writing for the Type 17 was on the wall. Even with the double-wishbone front suspension, the small sports car was rarely a match for the dominant Lola Mk1. Only 23 examples were built during a single year of production. As it turned out, the Type 17 was the last front-engined Lotus sports racer. Today, the early issues have long been forgotten and the compact, attractive Type 17 is highly sought after by Lotus enthusiasts and historic racers alike.

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  Article Image gallery (38) Chassis (2) Specifications