This article in part was prompted by our piece on Lotus consultancy and the potential for a Lotus SUV.We see the possibility that Lotus cold use their heritage connection with 4×4 racing cars as marketing device.
This article offers no new significant information but the editor’s analysis challenges the epitaph that the Lotus 63 was a white elephant and or an expensive failure. This is an over easy simplification and does not demonstrate an appreciation of Chapman and Lotus.
We take an opportunity to examine the context peers and the form and function of the Lotus 63. We benchmark. In doing so we concur with Crombac when he observed:
“This project was the most extensive ever launched by Team Lotus and the two new cars –the Type 63 for F1 and the 64 for Indy were the most complicated and expensive they ever built”
We borrow information from the net in order to concentrate our focus on a wider assessment and appreciation of the Lotus 63.
4 wheel drive from the net
“Four wheel drive (4WD) refers to vehicles with two or more axles providing power to four wheel ends. Four-wheel drive vehicles have a transfer case, not a differential, between the front and rear axles, meaning that the front and rear drive shafts will be locked together when engaged. This provides maximum torque transfer to the axle with the most traction, but can cause binding in high traction turning situations. These include full-time and selectable part-time 4WD. 4WD is not intended for high speeds without a limited-slip mechanism.”
4 Wheel drive in Motor Racing
There has been 4×4 racing cars in the past and examples include:
From the net
Spyker is credited with building and racing the first ever four-wheel racing car, the Spyker 60 HP in 1903.
Bugatti created a total of three four-wheel-drive racers, the Type 53, in 1932, but the cars were notorious for having poor handling.
Miller produced the first 4WD car to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, the 1938 Miller Gulf Special.
Ferguson Research Ltd. built the front-engine P99 Formula One car that actually won a non-World Championship race with Stirling Moss in 1961. In 1968, Team Lotus raced cars in the Indy 500 and three years later in Formula 1 with the Lotus 56, that had both turbine engines and 4WD, as well as the 1969 4WD-Lotus 63 that had the standard 3-litre V8 Ford Cosworth engine. Matra also raced a similar MS84, and McLaren entered their M9A in the British Grand Prix, while engine manufacturers Ford-Cosworth produced their own version which was tested but never raced. All these F1 cars were considered inferior to their RWD counterparts, as the advent of aerodynamic downforce meant that adequate traction could be obtained in a lighter and more mechanically efficient manner, and the idea was discontinued, even though Lotus tried repeatedly.
Nissan and Audi had success with all-wheel drive in road racing with the former’s advent of the Nissan Skyline GT-R in 1989. So successful was the car that it dominated the Japanese circuit for the first years of production, going on to bigger and more impressive wins in Australia before weight penalties eventually levied a de facto ban on the car. Most controversially was the win pulled off at the 1990 Macau Grand Prix where the car led from start to finish. Audi’s dominance in the Trans-Am Series in 1988 was equally controversial as it led to a weight penalty mid season and to a rule revision banning all-AWD cars, its dominance in Super Touring eventually led to a FIA ban on AWD system in 1998.
New 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans regulations may revive AWD/4WD in road racing, though such systems are only allowed in new hybrid-powered Le Mans Prototypes. One example is the Audi R18 e-tron quattro (winner of 2012 race, the first ever hybrid/4WD to win Le Mans), utilizing an electric motor in the front axle while combining the engine motor in the rear.”
Advantages/Disadvantages 4 wheel drive
- Transmission of power
- Safety in wet
- More complicated
- Power absorption through drive
- Handling characteristics
- Expense …. Pertains to Lotus 63.It is suggested it cost upwards of £30,000 and this ought to be factored in relation to Chapman and the Lotus 63.
[Subscribers might like to see costing /budget for Lotus 49 –see A&R article].This figure seems excessive and we question where figures were drawn from. They do not seem to take into account the previous attempts and resources in existence.
Burr writing in the Duckworth biography commented that:-
“Because the DFV was so much more powerful than earlier engines it opened up a mismatch between power and output and the ability of tyres and aerodynamics to transmit it to the tarmac [especially wet tarmac].As a result in the late 1960’s designers started revisiting the idea of 4 wheel drive”
“Racing car designers are always searching for new ways to steal a march on their rivals, but several teams had the same idea for the 1969 season. Lotus along with Matra and Cosworth all decided to build four wheel drive cars in the hope added traction from driving the front wheels would aid acceleration and improve grip on corners. This did not work out in practice because tyre development had moved so fast that the rear wheel drive cars cornered and accelerated better than the 4-w-d cars, while the additional adhesion offered by aerofoils made the 2-w-d cars very much faster than the 4-w-d cars”
Crombac quotes a conversation between Chapman and Doug Nye for his reasons to adopt 4-w-d.
- “Our Indy experience with four wheel drive was good, we had all the sophisticated and complicated lumps of stuff laid in …………
- Tyres were poor
- Problem handling the 3 litre power “so putting it down through all four wheels seemed the way forward”
The Contemporaries c 
“At the time every FI engineer and constructor turned to Colin for inspiration .The moment he embarked on the four wheel drive project, they started thinking that they should do the same and the 1969 season saw such cars built by McLaren and Matra.Even Cosworth, who commissioned a design from Robin Herd, built a car but never raced it”
The 4×4 marques of the era:
- Matra MS84
- McLaren M9A
- Cosworth “CA” 4WD
- Lotus 63
From the net:
“1969: Jackie Stewart pictured with the MS84 at the Nürburgring
Leading French constructor Matra based their 4WD car on the MS80 with which they won the 1969 Constructors’ Championship, and from the rear of the cockpit forward the cars looked virtually identical, save for the driveshaft to the front wheels. At the back the engine was mounted back-to-front with the gearbox directly behind the driver, but tellingly the Ferguson transmission and other necessary additions left the car 10% heavier than the two-wheel drive sister cars. Like the Lotus 63, the MS84 made its first appearance at the Dutch Grand Prix, where Jackie Stewart tried the car out but opted to use his MS80, as he would for the rest of the season.
The car was still present at all the remaining races as a spare, and at Silverstone Jean-Pierre Beltoise gave the car its first race and came home ninth, six laps behind Stewart’s two-wheel drive Matra (but three laps ahead of Miles’s Lotus 63). By the next time the car raced, the front differential had been disconnected and the car effectively ran as an over-weight MS80 with inboard front brakes, memorably giving the lie to Johnny Servoz-Gavin’s protestations about the 4WD car being “undriveable” after he finished the Canadian Grand Prix six laps down in sixth place. Servoz-Gavin also drove the car at Watkins Glen, finishing 16 laps down and unclassified, and finally in Mexico, crossing the line “just” two laps down in eighth place.”
Twite comments that:
“Although Matra built a brand new two wheel drive car for 1969.They also hedged their bet by building a 4-w-d like several other manufactures.”
From the net:
“The McLaren M9A.
Bruce McLaren’s team was the last front-running team to produce a 4WD car in 1969, a brand new chassis designed by Jo Marquart and designated the M9A. The car, complete with distinctive “tea tray” rear wing, was completed in time for Derek Bell to use in the British Grand Prix alongside the standard M7s, where he retired with suspension failure. After McLaren himself tested the car he compared driving it to “trying to write your signature with someone constantly jogging your elbow” and the car was never raced again.”
From the net:
The Cosworth Formula One car.
With Keith Duckworth’s DFV engine being the root of the grip problem, it was perhaps to be expected that Cosworth were the first to attempt a 4WD solution. Ford’s Walter Hayes, who had backed the DFV, gave the project his blessing and former McLaren designer Robin Herd joined Duckworth in designing the car, which was a pretty radical departure from the normal late-60s cars. The Cosworth featured a very angular shape, with sponsons between the wheels either side of the aluminium monocoque to house the fuel tanks and improve the car’s aerodynamics, and the cockpit was quite visibly off-set to the driver’s left. Unlike all the other 4WD F1 cars, instead of using the Ferguson transmission Cosworth built their own version from scratch, and even went as far as producing a new gearbox and a bespoke magnesium-cast DFV, perhaps anticipating a future market for their technology.
Trevor Taylor and Cosworth co-founder Mike Costin tested the car extensively, the first problem being the positioning of the oil tank, which for weight distribution had been placed directly behind the driver’s backside, causing considerable discomfort. With the oil tank moved back behind the engine and a redesign of the front driveshafts the only major remaining problem was the excessive understeer which dogged all the 4WD cars. A limited-slip front differential was tried with some slight success, but after Jackie Stewart briefly sampled the car reporting that “the car’s so heavy on the front, you turn into a corner and whole thing starts driving you”, confirming what Taylor and Costin already felt, Hayes withdrew his support and the Cosworth 4WD project was axed shortly before the British Grand Prix.
This remains the only Formula One car Cosworth have ever built, and like the Lotus 63 the car is now on display as part of the Donington Grand Prix Collection. There was a second Cosworth FWD built out of factory parts by Crosthwaite and Gardner, it was on display at the now closed Fremantle motor museum and now in a private collection in Melbourne Australia.”
Burr informs us that the Cosworth “CA” was designed and developed by Robin Herd and a group of engineers at Cosworth including Thompson, Lyle and Hall.
The 4-w-d was conceived in July 1967 and completed in March 1969.Burr suggests that Keith Duckworth might have liked Jim Clark to drive the car .Other sources suggest that perhaps there was a possibility of sponsorship for the car [possibly subject to driver and performance??]
There were good engineering, strategic and commercial reasons to design and build the car; not least the wide spread adoption of the DFV. Cosworth might have felt that:-
- They were in tune with other marque thinking
- Their own in-house design incorporated with own DFV could extract advantage
- If 4-w-d was to become the “must have”, they might have wanted to be market leaders
- They certainly had the engineering resources and staff to make it work
- There may have be further unspoken and unrecorded motivation
Keith Duckworth commenting in “Cosworth”:
“I think I allowed the Cosworth car project to go on too long. In fact , we really should not have started it.This was one of those cases where you build something ,but which with a bit more thought before starting , we would have been able to see where the problems were.
Generally speaking I think I have saved more money for the company by analyzing on paper, and not starting things than in any other way. The car was a mistake, of a failure to analyse the problem”
The Lotus 63: Four wheel drive Goes Forth
“Drawing heavily on the experiments learned through the Type 56 and 64 projects both of which had used all wheel drive chassis with turbine powered racers. Recognizing the Type 49 had only a limited lifespan remaining .Chapman was keen to produce an entirely new kind of car with which Team Lotus could win its fourth F1 Championship – a feat which had never yet been accomplished.
The result was the Type 63 , a vehicle which once again took GP car design to the very limits and one whose unconventional layout pointed up the shape of things to come… Even Chapman eventually admitted it was too weighty to succeed”. See also Crombac below in Critical Assessment.
From the net
The four wheel drive technology returned into F1 with the Lotus 56B in 1971.
Like the Lotus 88, the 4WD cars proved to be huge white elephants for Lotus, but it paved the way for better models to follow…
The Lotus 63 was an experimental Formula One car, designed by Colin Chapman and Maurice Philippe for the 1969 season. Chapman’s reasoning behind the car was that the 3 litre engines introduced in 1966 would be better served by building a car that could take full advantage of its power while retaining the Lotus 49’s simplicity.
Like the Lotus 56 for the Indy 500 (and later F1), the 63 chassis was designed around a four wheel drive system. This was not totally revolutionary at the time, as four wheel drive had been used on the Ferguson P99 F1 car that won at Oulton Park as early as 1961, but with little development thereafter. However, it was not a successful design. In fact, the Matra MS84 was the only 4WD F1 which scored points (driven by Johnny Servoz-Gavin, at the 1969 Canadian Grand Prix) something neither Lotus nor McLaren managed, while Cosworth did not even race their 4WD design. The 63 was an evolution of the 49, but featured wedge shaped rear bodywork and integrated wings, which would be used to great effect in the Lotus 72.
From the net
“Lotus 63 4WD driven by Mario Andretti at the Nürburgring
Of the four 4WD projects, the Lotus team were undoubtedly the most committed. The design of the car was influenced by the all-conquering Lotus 49 and the two 4WD gas turbine cars Lotus had entered in the Indy 500, and as well as its wedge shape the later Lotus 72 would also inherit its inboard front brakes. As with the Matra and McLaren cars, the 63 featured a back-to-front DFV with a bespoke Hewland gearbox and a Ferguson 4WD transmission with provision to adjust the front-rear torque distribution between 50–50 and 30–70.
With a ban on high-mounted wings following Graham Hill and Jochen Rindt’s accidents in the 1969 Spanish Grand Prix meaning low grip was more of a problem than ever the 63s were pressed into service two races later at Zandvoort. Hill tried the car in the first qualifying session, but after going nearly four seconds quicker in his regular 49B, and declaring the 63 a “death trap”, it was left to Lotus test driver John Miles to give the car its debut at the French GP, retiring after a single lap with a fuel pump failure. At the British Grand Prix both chassis were available, but after Hill again tried the car in practice, and again refused to drive it, Jo Bonnier drove the car with Hill in Bonnier’s 49B, while Miles again drove the other 63. Bonnier retired with an engine problem while Miles finished tenth, some nine laps down.
Mario Andretti drove in place of Miles in the next race at the Nürburgring, but crashed heavily on the first lap, badly damaging the chassis. At the International Gold Cup Jochen Rindt was forced to drive the 63, despite protesting furiously to Chapman, and in an under-strength field of F1 and F5000 cars came second, some way behind Jacky Ickx’s Brabham. In the remaining races of the season Miles drove the car in the Italian, Canadian and Mexican races, retiring from all three with engine, gearbox and fuel pump failures, with Andretti retiring at Watkins Glen with broken suspension. After losing both championships to Jackie Stewart’s Matra, Chapman finally decided that it was time to abandon the 4WD car and concentrate on the designs for the Lotus 72.
One 63 chassis is currently on display as part of the Donington Grand Prix Collection, the other is believed to be in Australia.”
Form and Function: Four wheel drive Fusion
To aid comprehension of the design and layout subscribers are directed to a very attractive and informative cutaway drawing by Hatton and other visual materials on the net.
Design features: Four wheel drive –finesse:
- 18 swg aluminum monococque chassis light, strong structure
- Ford Cosworth DFV engine installed reverse to previous
- Drive coming forward to gearbox mounted centrally in car
- Transfer gears supplied drive to lhs of car marrying with driveshaft’s of front and rear axles sitting alongside driver
- Complex but neat
- Weight and mass well concentrated assisting the suspension and traction
- Not particularly ergonomic driving position [ see axle line vis body shape]
- More than normal internal spaces between mechanical elements could be utilized conveniently
- Suspension on sub frames
- Note detail design of drive components and use of external expertise
- Girling ventilated discs provided enormous stopping power
- Note cab forward layout
- It’s been said that “in the components such as the fabricated suspension it was a substantial car by Lotus standards”
- The Lotus 63 was considered sleeker than other 4-w-d FI cars
Technical Specifications Compared
|Engine /Cyli||Ford V8, water cooled|
|Bore /Stroke||85.6mm x 64.8mm|
|Valve Gear||Twin ohc|
|Carburettors||Lucas fuel injection|
|Max.Power||430 bhp at 10,000 rpm|
|Trans/Gears||Lotus/Hewland 4 wheel drive,5 speed non synchromesh, ratios to choice as final drive|
|Front Brakes||Girling disc dia.10.5 inches|
|Rear Brakes||Girling disc dia.10.5 inches|
|Steering||Rack and pinion|
|Front Susp’||One piece upper wishbone, inboard csdampers,lower wishbone|
|Rear Susp’||One piece upper wishbone, inboard csdampers,lower wishbone|
|Wheel base||8ft-2 inches|
|Front Track||4ft-11 inches|
|Rear Track||4ft-11 inches|
|O’length||12 feet-8 inches|
|Kerb weight||1,200 lbs|
|Front Tyres||13 inch|
|Rear Tyres||13 inch|
|Model||Type 63, Formula 1|
|Engine||Ford Cosworth DFV|
|Carburation||Lucas fuel injection|
|Power Output||430 bhp|
|Transmission||Lotus/Hewland 5 speed,ZF transfer drive,4WD and torque split diff|
|Chassis||18 swg aluminium monocoque, tubular front and rear subframes|
|Body||Glass cloth reinforced plastic|
|Front Suspension||Fabricated double wishbone ,inboard cs/damper, anti roll bar|
|Rear Suspension||Fabricated double wishbone ,inboard cs/damper, anti roll bar|
|Brakes F/R||Inboard Girling 10 .1/2 x 1.1/8 inch discs|
|Wheels F/R||11.00 x 13|
|Tyres F/R||12,50 x 13|
|Track F/R||59 inches|
Marque Model Drive Weight [lbs.]
McLaren M9A 4-w-d 1250
McLaren 7MA 1230
Matra MS84 4-w-d 1340
Matra MS80 1220
Lotus 49B 1125
Lotus 63 4-w-d 1200
The 1969 FI Championship and Marques
These might include:-
- An examination of the 1969 FI season apportioning the contribution of tyres and aerodynamic aids to success
- Examination of the contribution of the Ford Cosworth DFV in both 2 and 4 wheel drive cars and its impact on sport –fast word comparison current generation and spectator opinion
- Trace development of 4-w-d in motor sport F1 & rallying to present day
- Draw up suggested marketing strategy for Lotus to connect heritage with proposed SUV
- Examine 4-w-d in British context in road and track vehicles e.g. Ferguson.Jensen,Land Rover
- Consider how Chapman and Lotus were never discouraged by disappointments list examples and how they went forward.
- Outline nature of learning curve use Chapman and Lotus as benchmark
- A difficult but important line of enquiry – consider what might be an accepted cost to win a FI championship and what might be the income from exploiting the publicity etc. Related what is the importance of strategy in FI? Think and set down examples.Possible examine figures for Tyrell and Walter Wolf who is believed to allocated a budget of £1m for the 1977 season.Each racing engine costing an estimated £12,000 to buy and each gearbox £1,600 and the precision light weight wheels /rims cost £100.[Wolf WR1 Ford ]
Economics, Education, Exhibitions
The editors believe in a museum context that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.
For these reasons our Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.
In particular there is scope for:-
- The use of simulators to compare driving experience of 4 v 2 wheel drive FI cars
- An opportunity to compare and contrast 4-w-d in British motor sport noting differences in GP, sprints and hill climbs
- Compare and contrast British 4 w-d in off road, utility and sports vehicles
- Set out exhibition of proposed Lotus SUV and sporting 4 –w-d heritage and connections
- Examine some of the mathematics, physics and mechanical principles of 4 v 2 w-d test validity
Conclusion and Critical Assessment: The 63 four wheel drive: forgotten, forlorn, fractious, frustrated but Failure?
Crombac in Chapter 15 of his biography of Chapman heads up a chapter “Failure of Four Wheel Drive” he observes:-
“The 63 was a large and cumbersome car. It was not ready until the middle of the season and it never achieved any of Colin’s hopes”
Later he expands and quotes Chapman:-
“four wheel drive is ideal for conditions where you need to transmit low torque from the wheels to the ground in other words on mud or ice or super speed tracks like Indianapolis ……….the trouble with four wheel drive is that throttle affects both ends of the car and therefore you don’t have the ability to balance the car through a corner on the limits of adhesion, which is necessary to go quickly”
The Lotus 63 was not a success. Neither were its peers. As it more recent examples of motorsport tyres in particular along with aerodynamics can be critical.
However Chapman was always willing to experiment; and move on.
There is a cost to progress and this is often disappointments. However these need not be absolute failures if lessons are learnt and taken forward as experience and resource [material and conceptual].Furthermore lessons might be learnt or adapted by others and the continuum of progress procedes.
The editor’s belief that the figures quoted for the cost of the Type 63 are excessive. They do not seem to correspond with Chapman’s frugality and avoidance of waste. He was not an engineering egotist and the Type 63 was probably conceived as viable machine .Chapman would not accept second best. “If you’re not winning you’re not trying”.
The other major marques embarked on 4×4 and Keith Duckworth was cost conscious and they were partly seduced in their attempt.
Furthermore cost can be seen in long and short term perspectives.Even on the surface failures can actually be seen as investments in the future –reducing cost by eliminating misunderstandings.
The most prestigious of automobile marques use heritage as a marketing strategy. They link their products with continuity and evolving DNA.Lotus have one of the most significant of racing histories embracing success, innovation , technology and aesthetics, sustainability through minimalist design philosophy to glamour. The editors contend that the Lotus 63 has considerable potential to feed, generate, complement and lend credibility to any new product like the proposed SUV.
When seen in this light, whatever the costs of the Type 63 [ which has considerable aesthetic and technical merits] might in the long term have provided far greater returns than imagined. Heritage has considerable commercial potential if conceptual you can perceive events in a more holistic context and place emphasis on determination , resilience creativity adaptability and an indomitable spirit that tries against all odds to resolve problems.
The Lotus marque is more than competition success it’s also the driving force and learning curve that motivated it; that did not over-count costs in its determination to win. There was the courage occasionally to lose in order to succeed.
“You are what you drive”
The Lotus Book.Taylor.Coterie.
First Principles. The official biography of Keith Duckworth.Burr.Veloce.2015.
Published by Macmillan, 1975
ISBN 10: 0333172892 / ISBN 13: 9780333172896
Colin Chapman.Crombac.Patrick Stephens.1986.
History of the Grand Prix Car. Nye
A-Z of Formula Racing Cars. Hodges
Please note the editors of the A&R attempt to give the broadest spectrum of references but not all are available for consultation in an article. However by noting their existence it may assist students in their research.
*Items in italics non A&R library books.