Engines: The Power and the Glory – Lotus and Ford

Lotus and Ford: the Power Struggle: Ford Fairlane V8-289 &the Lotus 30


This article is a component of a set of three.

The overall focus is that of Chapman/ Lotus use of the Ford small block V8 engines primarily in the Lotus 30.

This is not either a Haynes Guide or tuning manual.

We take the opportunity of examining how Lotus deployed one of the most successful of Ford’s engines but was unable to fully exploit the opportunity either commercially or competitively

This piece sits within the set of three that explores interaction and overlaps within Lotus that touch the links between competition and collaboration, and Chapman’s business strategy and on occasion’s miscalculation.

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

  • See related articles in series set

Ford Fairlane V8 –289 Engine

From the net

“Although Ford launched the 289 V-8 in 1963, it took performance car builder Carroll Shelby to put the power plant on the performance map when he introduced the HiPo (or High Performance) 289 in the 1965 Shelby Mustang GT 350. Although the 289 was relatively small for a performance engine — considering that Ford later produced the big-block 427 and 428 V-8s — it firmly moved the Mustang into the pony car field with high output in a small package. The 302 replaced the 289 in 1968 and had a 27-year production run, primarily as a Mustang engine option. Ford manufactured the 351 in Windsor, Ontario, and in Cleveland, hence the “351W” and “351C” designations. It was not a replacement engine, but one produced as an entirely separate power plant. It stood taller, was heavier and had a bigger displacement than any previous Ford small-block. Again, the Mustang benefited by having the 351 as an optional performance engine.

The 289

The 289 engine displaced 289 cubic inches and came with a standard two-barrel carburetor or an optional four-barrel carburetor. The bore was 4.0 inches and the stroke measured 2.87 inches. Output for the original two-barrel version was 195 horsepower, with the latter four-barrel carburetor model generating 210 horsepower. The HiPo delivered 271 horsepower with a 10.5-to-1 compression ratio, compared to the first two-barrel’s compression ratio of 8.7-to-1. In addition to the Mustang, the 289 powered the North American Ford Falcon GT and the Australian-produced Ford Falcon XR GT.”

Figure 1. Image from the net .Cutaway by Hatton illustrating the location and installation of V8 engine/gearbox

Figure 2. Photograph from the net recording detail as above and illustrating form & function

Figure 3. Additional photograph from the net; engine seen in side profile, note proximity to rear of cockpit

Figure 4. Image from the net; cross reference with figure 1 and “bridge” straddling chassis

Figure 5. Editors sketch of extrapolation of what we believe 289 engine looked like

Lotus 30


“It was 1964 that Lotus also introduced a new sports-racing car-the Lotus 30.

This was a big, relatively inexpensive machine at £3,495.and was specifically designed for the so-called “return of power “which had become the fashion at the British circuits.

It used the backbone chassis, similar to the Elan, but reversed to suit the rear engine configuration.

The engine was a 4.7 litre Ford V8………, basically this engine was a legacy from the Indy-Ford contract and it was very probable that Colin, still somewhat annoyed with Ford for giving preference to Lola with the Le Mans project, was hoping to show them a thing or two!

In fact, only recently, Andrew Ferguson found a drawing of a coupe, designed at the time to provide an alternate body for the Lotus 30, which was intended to become a rival for then so far unsuccessful Ford GT 40.”

Figure 6. Editors photograph reinforcing previous images, note restricted access

Figure 7.Further cutaway used to illustrate the backbone chassis.Image from the net

Figure 8.Editors photograph –subscribers ate invited to see A&R piece “So inclined “with reference to the proposed Lotus GT Coupe

From the net

“The Lotus 30 was a racing automobile, Colin Chapman‘s first attempt at a large displacement sports car racing machine following the success of the smaller Lotus 19 and Lotus 23. In a way as a further development of the final Lotus 19 called Lotus 19B, which had a Ford V8 engine installed in place of Coventry Climax FPF, it was designed by Colin Chapman and Martin Wade, and built in 1964. Lotus 30 was raced in British races such as Guards Trophy, international races such as Nassau Speed Week that allowed FIAGroup 4 “Sports Car” class of racing machines, and more importantly, in Can Am series. These were before the recognition and creation of Group 5, 6 and 7 categories by FIA in 1966. This explains why Lotus 30 and 40 (the latter was built in 1965) came originally equipped with headlights, tail lights and a windshield wiper.

Notable were its curvaceous fibreglass body work and “pickle fork” backbone chassis first seen in the front engine Lotus Elan, in sharp contrast to Lotus 19‘s space frame design. On the 30, the layout was reversed and placed the engine behind the driver. Lotus engineer Len Terry was asked by Chapman to comment on the draft concept and considered it to be so flawed he refused to have anything to do with it. The Lotus 30 was powered by a 4.7 litre (289 c.i.) Ford V8 engine, the same type as used in the Ford GT40, mated to a 5 speed ZF synchromesh transaxle which was far more reliable than Colottitransaxle in 19B handling the V8 torque. It used 13 inch wheels and solid disc brakes on each wheel. The Lotus 30 was regarded as unsuccessful and / or dangerous but when everything was working and nothing broke, the car was incredibly fast.

The inherent flaws of the engineering became evident as horse power requirements and tire technology of the period evolved and pushed the original design past its intended limits. The problems were mainly related to the torsional rigidity of the backbone chassis and materials available at the time, all of which resulted in chassis and suspension failures.

Jim Clark laboured long with the car, and managed to prise some promising results with it before it was replaced with the Lotus 40. Equipped with 15in wheels and vented disc brakes as well as a larger engine, the 40 was just as recalcitrant as the 30. The most telling comment about these Lotus race cars was made by the American driver Richie Ginther. When asked what he thought of the new Lotus 40, Ginther, a lugubrious Californian, said, “Same as the 30 but with ten more mistakes”.

The effort was not a total loss as this chassis type proved to be perfectly acceptable for the lower powered Lotus Europa, and was used on the Esprit series cars with further development.”

The Lotus 30 &40-technical specification from Taylor

Model Type 30
Function Group 7 sports racing car
Year 1964-65
Volume 33
Engine Ford 289 Fairlane V8 pushrod
C.C. 4727
Carburation 4 Weber twin-choke downdraught
Power Output bhp 350
Transmission ZF 5DS12
Chassis Steel backbone box section
Body GRP
Front Suspension Unequal length double wishbone, coil spring
Rear Suspension Double wishbone , lower reversed
lower radius rods coil spring damper
Brakes F/R Outboard Girling 11 in. discs
Wheels F/R 13×5.5/13×7 in.Lotus cast magnesium/alloy
4 spoke
Tyres F/R 6.00×13/7.00×13
Length [inches] 165
Width [inches] 68
Height [inches] 26/5 to top of screen
Wheelbase [inches] 94.5
Track F/R [inches] 53/53
Weight -lbs 1529
Model Type 40
Function Group 7 sports racing car
Year 1965
Volume 3
Engine Ford V8
C.C. 5295 & 5754
Carburation 4 Weber twin choke, later Tecalemit -Jackson
Power Output bhp 400-450
Transmission Hewland LG 500
Chassis Box section steel backbone
Body GRP
Front Suspension Unequal length double wishbones, coil spring
dampers, anti-roll bar
Rear Suspension Double wishbone, reverse lower, lower radius
rods, coil spring damper
Brakes F/R Outboard Girling 11.25 in ventilated discs
Wheels F/R 15×7.5/15×8.5 in.
Tyres F/R 7.00×15/8.00×15
Length [inches] 165
Width [inches] 68
Height [inches] 26.5
Wheelbase [inches] 94
Track F/R [inches] 53/53
Weight -lbs 1529-1650

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:-

  • Why did Ford adopt The Total Performance strategy? How any to what extent was it successful?
  • What did the 1960’s Windsor small-block contribute to Total Performance?
  • Compare and Contrast small block American V8 engines
  • Compare and contrast European & American engines through the 20th century, how and why did they differ
  • What was the manufacturing techniques that made the Ford small block V8 relatively compact and light?
  • Express the Ford Windsor small block V8 as a piece of Industrial Design

Figure 9. Image from the net, note exhaust pipe detail design

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:-

  • Fairlane to Fastlane
  • Changing Lanes
  • Heads on the Block
  • Ford Small block tuning: Head over Wheels
  • Ford Small block-chip of the old Block
  • Tuning Small block: Mods & Rockers
  • Chapman and the big Boss
  • Lotus and Ford: the Power Struggle
  • Ford Small block engines: The Powers that be
  • The Lotus 30 –muscles in


The Ford Windsor small block V8 was a magnificent piece of conservative industrial design reflecting Ford philosophy and production methodology.

Developed it provided pony/muscle car performance demanded by the young in the low petrol price 1960’s.

It massively contributed to Ford’s Total Performance strategy.

The unit was conceived as a conservative front engine layout that was relatively light and compact. In this format it powered the AC Cobra and Mustang etc.

However it gained disproportionate success when mid-engine mounted in European, British and America sports racing cars. It powered the GT 40 at Le Mans and generated the publicity that powered the sales Ford sought.

The 289 achieved further status when combined with many of the highly aesthetic super cars of the 1960’s a marriage of looks and practicality [see our dedicated articles for examples]

Its legacy and continued development and tuning see it revered today and competing in various branches of Classic Motorsport.

The small block engine forms an important overlap when discussing and analysing Colin Chapman in the context of his competition and commercial strategy.

Chapman’s design in collaboration with Ford for Indianapolis were eventually successful perhaps because of a holistic, integrated relationship between event, engine and chassis working together.

The same totality does not apply to the Lotus 30&40.

These two cars might be considered amongst Chapman’s greatest miscalculations. The era of the 1960’s with the cheap petrol could accommodate these large capacity but fuel inefficient engines.

In our related pieces we identify the Marques that capitalised and produced some highly exotic and aesthetic designs- a marriage of beauty and utility.

The lessons that might be learnt from Chapman and Lotus are more than technical.

Chapman as owner had the power to enforce his will often contrary to his colleagues.

Under different circumstances the Lotus 30/ 40 might have been successful in Group 7 and Can-Am, possibly leading to a Ford small block GT Coupe that might have sold well in America.

In our supporting pieces we postulate what that might have been.

The proper evaluation of Chapman demands criticism and that power and responsibility go hand in glove .A degree of self-criticism can be a useful component of creative problem solving and balanced commercial planning.

Appendix 1: Aesthetic appreciation of Lotus 30 & 40

The Type 30& 40 were designs conceived to conform to Group Seven and Can –Am racing. They were designed and built c 1964 by Chapman, Len Terry [who may have had reservations for various reasons and other engineers at Lotus] the company was at Cheshunt during this period.

The considerable aesthetic beauty of the Type 30 &40 models possibly emanates from their organic forms. This might also have contributed in part to some of the handling failures. The chassis relative to the V8 was another consideration. The car depending on gearing, at least theoretically was capable of 150 mph plus.

The dimensions and hence proportions:


49”front track

47.5”rear track



26.5” high top of windscreen

4.5”ground clearance

Note an average approximation has been made across both cars.

It might have raced in the “Big Banger” class but this was no brute.

The original prototype body was believed to have been executed in aluminium and subsequently in glass fibre.

The 30&40 and a symphony of sensuous curvaceous flowing curves in elevation and section. Large handsome and imposing. Voluptuous. It has presence.

The undulating wave like form is far more pronounced than the 19 or 23. The respective wings height front and rear visually indicate/ articulate /communicate / orientate and hence identify form and function. Of course this is reinforced by cockpit position also.

The screen fuses, integrates and nestles between the rounded domed top wheel arches.

The extremely reclined seating position dictates the long cockpit opening and Perspex screen angled back on a sharp rake.

Seen head on all the main design features and proportions are accentuated. The profile is an exaggerated bent wire “M”. The considerable width is apparent across the shallow “bonnet” which forms a flat-bottomed valley between the parabolic curves of the front wheel arches. Under which a spare wheel was mounted.

The low set nose is a bunted arrowhead in to which two radiators are ducted. The Perspex headlamp covers suggest night racing can be considered.

When fitted with a roll bar the car loses some of its undulating grace and the hard-edged geometry of these bars breaks the uninterrupted flow of the original design.

The rear elevation has certain symmetry with the front but in the “valley” there is an engine cover .The 13×7 tyres speak of the era and the power being delivered from the V8.

The author likes and admires the aesthetic of the Type 30 &40.They are perhaps amongst the last of the “organic” shape prior to the perhaps more efficient aerodynamically but less visually appealing sharp edged, squared off and flat surface wedge bodies.

The 30&40 possess harmony and poise despite their bulk and power. This might be helped but the undulating profile and very low build. Seen at rest or in motion all lines and proportion flow and integrate with a homogeneous 3D totality.

The design has expression and vocabulary and clearly distinguishes which is front and rear and which way the car travels. This is not always the case with mid and rear engine cars. They often became schizophrenic and the viewer does no know which way they are facing.

The power and performance of these “Big Bangers” produced some brutish Tyson looks but the Type 30&40 retained much of the lithe muscular and athleticism of Ali.

The cockpit was entered via relatively long drop down doors. The driver was required to surmount a wide cill that housed petrol tanks. The black plastic seats ran flat to the floor and the driver as mentioned was in a very inclined position approximately 40degree lean backwards. Most drivers’ eye line was just above the Perspex screen. A small diameter leather rimmed Motolita steering wheel was often fitted.

The backbone chassis formed a prop shaft tunnel that rose from the floor to approximately outstretched elbow level. The dashboard is believed to have formed part of the body and relatively small instruments were fitted possibly including revcounter, speedo, water and oil temperature, oil pressure and toggle switches.

Of course the gear change lever is on the right hand site for the rear-mounted gearbox.

Finished in Team Lotus colours of BRG and yellow with stripe. It accentuated the low purposeful build. The knocks on hub wheels were complementary and not excessive.


See bibliographies in related articles: So inclined & Pieces of Eight



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.