Len Terry [1924-2014] Terriers & Tetrahedrons

Chapman Design peers series:

Len Terry [1924-2014] Terriers & Tetrahedrons

Len Terry made this observation about Colin Chapman for whom he worked:-

“He was inclined to trim designs down until they were too light and fragile but his conceptual thinking and genius was just unmatched”

Figure 1.Image from the net-the Terrier marque bonnet badge

Introduction to series

The A&R considers that Colin Chapman’s design career in FI embraced two periods:-

  1. From the inception of Lotus cars to the late 1960’s early 1970’s
  2. The mature period covering the wings/ ground effect and turbo era until his sad and early death in 1982

We don’t know what he might have achieved had he lived beyond this.

The FI designs of Colin Chapman were considerable not least because of his relatively low budget .He did not have the resources of a multinational to cross-subsidize his racing programme.

In order to evaluate Colin Chapman better the A&R is committing to a series of benchmarking exercises analyzing the design achievements of his peers through his career.

If the series is well received it might be possible to extend it in a continuum to the present day whilst also looking at the emerging design talent.

These design studies are a natural complement to our series on Design Heroes that gives priority to Industrial and Product Designers.

In the appendix below we state what we believe to be Chapman’s achievements and invite subscribers to benchmark him with selected peers using the criteria set out.

The Designers

We offer the list below and would be interested to hear from our subscribers if they would like to make other recommendation for inclusion and also if they have priority/ preference in our selection.

We appreciate that some of these designers were colleagues of Colin Chapman at Lotus at some point in their careers but went onto achieve success in their own right.

As a prompt subscribers might like to use the list to pencil in those cars they associate with the designers.

Designer Marque Model

Len Bailey
Dave Baldwin
Ralph Ballamy
John Barnard
Michel Beaujos
Nigel Bennett
Eric Broadley
Gustav Brunner
Rory Bryne
Paul Carillo
Colin Chapman
Carlo Chiti
John Clark
Peter Connew
Gordon Coppuck
Andre de Cortanze
Frank Dernie
Richard Divila
Gerrard Ducarouge
Geoffrey Ferns
Mauro Forghieri
Derek Gardner
John Gentry
Chuck Graemiger
Herve Guilpin
Patrick Head
Robin Herd
Jean-Pierre Jabouille
Ray Jessop
Georges Martin
Tico Martini
Alan McCall
Arturio Merzario
Kenij Mimura
Robert Morin
Vic Morris
Gordon Murray
Morris Nunn
Martin Ogilivie
Masa Ono
Enzo Osella
Luciano Pederzani
Maurice Phillippe
Mike Pilbeam
Harvey Postlethwaite
Adrian Reynard
Franco Rochi
Ken Sears
Tony Southgate
Giorgio Stirano
Ray Stokoe
Nigel Stroud
John Surtees
Andy Swallman
Ron Tauranac
Len Terry
Michel Tetu
Antonio Tomaini
Martin Walter
Tim Wardrop
Dave Wass
Peter Wright
Edy Wyss

. The editors have been influenced by “The Art of the Formula 1 Car” but aesthetics alone will not influence inclusion.

Subscribers might like to see the directly relevant and integrated A&R pieces that complement and help structure this article:-

  • Lotus at Indianapolis & Can Am
  • Lotus Mk 3& 6 plus 750 Motor Club &1172 Formula
  • Lotus 17, Ford Lotus Cortina
  • Lotus Ford Twin cam engine

Len Terry special significance and context

A study of Len Terry is important because he was of a similar age and background to Chapman.Both had experience in the RAF, raced in the 750 Motor Club events, developed through the post war period.

Significantly Terry worked twice for Chapman with an interesting fission between them.

In this piece we will endeavour to explore some of the following:-

  • Employment at Lotus under Colin Chapman
  • Len Terry background and perspective
  • His design methodology and published book
  • Comparison with Costin & Phipps
  • The significance of Engineering Drawing
  • The facilitating roles of the 750 Motor Club [ 750 & 1172 Formula’s]
  • Commercial career
  • Patents

Len Terry: brief biography

  • Born in Hackney, London, February 1924 [ slightly older than Chapman], we believe his father might have been a train engine driver
  • Left school [a church school in South Tottenham in 1938] at 14, interested in cars from young age with an aptitude for drawing
  • Possibly worked at London theatre land and possibly drew poster ,programmes and advertising material
  • Volunteered for RAF during second world war –spanning 1943-1947 he was an instrument repairer but also engaged as draughtsman possibly involving aerial cameras.We suspect he might have undertaken some academic training in formal engineering drawing [see below] either whilst in the RAF or possibly immediately on leaving
  • Involved with 750 motor club built and drove in competition and raced until 1958
  • Bought car from John Teychenne [JVT] in 1954 nb Progress Chassis , Chapman/Lotus and Hornsey connection
  • Had considerable success with Brian Hart in club racing and 1172 Formula against Lotus competition
  • Worked briefly for Falcon Shells [Ford Specials]
  • See history and career in design from list including forming The Terrier Car & Engine Co, later Leda Cars for F5000
  • In later life produced a kit car on lines of Mercedes Benz SSK and vintage style vans
  • Terry possible held some patents but we have been unable to confirm these

Figure 2.Len Terry’s book with co-author Baker; A&R library

Anatomy of a Racing Car Designer

In his book Terry outlines the characteristics, inherited and acquired along with the functions and motivation of a racing car designer.

“A racing car designer is born rather than made, for beyond a certain point no man can train to become one. To achieve any success in this specialized field he must have a draughtsman background to which he must add his own ingredients of imagination and inventiveness controlled by common sense…………”

He lists the following skills and competencies:-

Competent draughtsman capable of perspectives drawing freehand
Common sense
Knowledge of history of racing cat technology
Appreciation of working contemporaries & peers
Understanding a part intuitive process
Application of coordinating features
Ability to communicate & delegate [realism of advantage/disadvantage
Discipline of cost
Application of practicality with simplicity
Objectivity on completion
The simplest design solution is often the lightest
Mathematical knowledge
Possession of competition driving experience
Avoiding tunnel vision
Forward vision- anticipate and identify
Strength And determination over imagination
Factoring in lead time for components
Practical workshop experience
Student of value engineering
Self-assured& self-confident but also self-critical
Analytically minded
Opportunist [qualified]
Capable of thinking three dimensionally

Designer’s criteria & perspectives

Terry provides the following chapter titles as a guide to the design procedure for a racing car:-

In abbreviated form we catalogue these:-

  • A clean sheet of paper
  • Requirement priorities maximum acceleration, maximum cornering speed, maximum terminal velocity
  • Drawings, layouts and scales
  • Handling characteristics
  • Structural considerations
  • Suspension
  • Brakes, wheels and tyres
  • Aerodynamics
  • Cooling systems
  • Safety and comfort
  • Materials
  • Components
  • Design v development

Costin & Phipps Racing & Sports car Chassis Design

These two books are invaluable in assisting the comprehension of Chapman’s design appropriate in the 1950’s through 60’s.

Both are complementary.


Terry refers frequently to draughtsmanship and we consider it too important to overlook.

The RAF was particularly technology orientated.

The Second World War was highly technical with boffins producing many innovations.

These had to be translated into reality and draughtsmanship was a primary skill.

The reference books we mention are academic and prepare student for higher level examination in period.

We believe Terry was educated formerly/informally to a standard as was probably Chapman in technical drawing.

They ought to be examined to appreciate the skill and disciplines required.

Writing in 1936 Parkinson noted:-

“In the course of his training in Engineering Drawing the student should gain and develop-

  1. A clear conception and appreciation of form,proportion and purpose
  2. Speed and aaccuracy in the use of pencil and drawing instruments
  3. The ability to think in three dimension
  4. The power of expressing his ideas in construction work quickly and clearly by freehand sketches
  5. Competency in original design

…….Engineering drawing is a graphic language, a universal language, a language of use and ever increasing value…………”

Terry’s drawings skills practised and demonstrated:-

  • RAF draughtsman
  • Career in technical illustrations
  • Cutaway drawing for Autosport throughn1950’s
  • In his book : Mk.2 space frame, 3D suspension layouts, 3 piece wheel, perspective sketches of LT 23& 24, full engineering Drawing [assembly] uprights , and monocoque

Len Terry on Colin Chapman:-

“He was himself a very fine draughtsman and he had the artistic talent to sketch designs and ideas three dimensionally so that even someone with the most feeble grasp of how to read an engineering Drawing could still see clearly what he was driving at”……..continued………….

“he would usually work at home and draft out a one-fifth scale general arrangement drawing, plan ,side view, cross section if necessary to demonstrate what he wanted “

Len Terry car designs [taken from his book]

We summarize these and invite subscribers to make detail specific research.

Year/s Type no/ marque
1957/58 Type 1
1958/59 Type 2
1960 Gilby A type
1960 Type 4 [Formula Junior]
1961 Gilby B type
1962 Type 6 & Type 8
1964/5 Kincraft
1965 Lotus 38
1965/66 AAR Eagle
1967 Shelby Can Am
1967 BRM P126
1967-68 Gulf Mirage BRM
1968 Honda F1 Replica
1968-69 Terriers type 15,16&17
1968-69 BMW F2
1968-69 Gulf Mirage Ford
1969-70 Leda F5000
1969-70 AAR Eagle Indianapolis
1970 Leda Mk.2
1970-71 LT 23 ,Indianapolis
1971 LT 24 [sports car]
1971 LT25/or Leda Nk.3
1971-72 LT26 & LT27 or Mc Rae Leda

Figure 3.Illustration above and below from A& library book

Figure 4.image from the net

Terry at Lotus

Len Terry worked twice for Chapman commencing in 1958.

It’s believed he was earning a pay £12 week.

This possibly increased dramatically on the second occasion.

Part of the significance is that of the reward in technical occupation. [Subscribers are directed to our relativity’s series on wages and prices.]

[A draughtsman was above a fitter and turner for example]

Designs and contribution:-



22 chassis




Lotus Cortina rear suspension





Lotus 33

Len Terry observed:-

“It was really a development of the 25 –it was stronger, stiffer, and lighter and it used the latest wider wheels and tyres…………

Oh yes it was going to be a lot quick too…………”

Figure 5.Editors sketch working drawing

Figure 6.editors sketch perspective of type 33

Figure 7.Editors sketch working drawing of type 38

Learning Opportunities

Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.

These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.

In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

  • What other notable car designer participated in the 750 motor club?
  • Why has the 750 motor club been so influential in developing engineering talent?
  • Compare and contrast John Fraying and Ron Hickman with Len Terry
  • What occupation and training opportunities existed in the RAF in the 1950’s through 1960’s
  • Why was engineering Drawing a component of Engineers and management training in the Terry era?
  • Examine the Terry 3 D drawings and explain how good they are?
  • What were the additional skills possessed by Chapman not listed by Terry?
  • Why are the two reference books so important?
  • Discover if/what patents Terry held
  • Make a detailed comparative analysis of the LT F5000, and the Lotus 70

Exhibitions, Education, Economics and Entertainment

In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our suggested outline 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 this instance we suggest the following exhibition titles might be appropriate:-

  • A pack of Terriers
  • Terry Territory
  • Engineering Drawing
  • Len Terry: Leda of the Pack
  • Leda’s & Losers
  • Tenacious Terriers
  • Len Terry & the Terriers its all in the breed
  • Terriers and Tetrahedron
  • Len Terry-Pyramids & monumental structures
  • Geometry: the science of properties and relations of magnitude in space as lines, surfaces, solids
  • Chapman and Terry-a dog fight
  • Len’s lens


In bullet form we hope to prompt further consideration and analysis by subscribers:-

  • Len Terry like Chapman were from modest background, became educated during the war and made considerable contribution to the post war period
  • Draughtsmanship requires skill, thought and an ability to imagine and express an object so it can be made. Freehand sketching is also important
  • Len Terry enjoyed both success and disappointment in his career
  • He possibly held patents and the editors part deduct this from drawings and the commercial potential suggested in his book
  • Len Terry undertook a wide diversity of project, on the International stage , the Lotus 38 and Indianapolis possibly being the most significant
  • He worked for Chapman and their respective marques clashed on track and their relationship must have been challenging but with a mutual respect?
  • Len Terry committed to paper an important documentary relevant to understanding the era and of Chapman shared function, this work along with Costin & Phipps are essential reading to comprehend the Chapman design mantra and methodologies and materials of the era
  • Len Terry has left an important legacy through his cars, designs and writing, his cars still competing in historic race formulas

Len Terry said of him self:-

“I was proud by what my car had achieved … but I am not a very excitable, emotional man and basically it had done exactly what I’d designed it to do…….

Len Terry was characterized by frankness and modesty.

We invite subscribers to benchmark Terry with Chapman using the criteria set out below.

We believe it will be revealing and informative.

Appendix 1:

Colin Chapman’s Achievement
F1 Constructors & Drivers Championship
Le Mans
British Club level
Single seat formula below F1
Iconic Road cars
Technical /engineering innovations
Development of human talent
Facilitation & sponsorship
Aesthetic appreciation
Product Design
Design Methodology
Legacy, continuity, heritage
Impact on popular culture
Contribution to British economy
Significant Awards
Documentation, books & articles etc.


Racing Car Design and Development. Len Terry & Alan Baker.MRP.1973

ISBN: 0900549203

Racing &Sports Car Chassis Design.Costin&Phipps.Batsford.1974.

Design for Racing Sports cars.Campbell

Race &Rally car source book.Staniforth.Haynes.1986.


North East Motor Sport.Nicholson.Tempus.2005.

ISBN: 0752435485


SBN: 713132175

First Year Engineering Drawing.Parkinson.Pitman.1936

Engineering Drawing.Winstanley.Arnold.1939

Design and Technology.Caborn, Mould, Cave.Nelson.1989.

ISBN: 0174481624

Design and Realisation.Chapman &Peace.Collins.1993.

ISBN: 0003220605

Ford Archive Gems Lotus in the 60’s.Duke DVD, 2007.

A Century of Winning. [Ford 100 years in motorsport] Haymarket Autosport.2001.

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.