Newsletter May 2010 – Number 23

  1. Seen at the Detling Kitcar show
  2. Museums around the world you may not have heard of: Italian Automotive Museum – Museo Dell’Automobile di San Martino – San Martino in Rio, Italy
  3. Questions from our readers
  4. An Aesthetic Appreciation of Lotus Car Body shapes
  5. Lotus books/(recommended reading)
  6. Lotus books(one the library).
  7. Lotus collectables
  8. Lotus interest on YouTube

All previous articles relating to these are held on the website.

1. Seen at the Detling Kit Car Show – 4/5th April 2010


Photos by John Douglas, many thanks

2. Museums around the world you may not have heard of: Italian Automotive Museum – Museo Dell’Automobile di San Martino – San Martino in Rio, Italy

Go to San Martino in Rio in the Po Valley, do some sight seeing, and then check out the four hundred odd cars they have on display at the Museo Dell’Automobile di San Martino. The collection is sort of a mish mash of vehicles gathered since the museum’s opening in 1956. The focus is mostly on the road cars, but there’s a lot of variety here, and you’ll find everything from an Auto Avio Construzioni 815, the original unofficial Ferrari to some F1s and oddities like Lamborghini tractors. Interestlingly, admission is free, but, rather bizarrely, they ask that you bring a trademark food from your native country.

Website is Museo Dell’Automobile di San Martin




Museo dell’Automobile di San Martino in Rio
Car Museum of San Martino in Rio
Via Barbieri 12 – 42018 San Martino in Rio (RE)
Tel. e fax: 0522 636133
Opening days: All Sunday 10.30-12.30 a.m. / 3.30-6.30 p.m.
All Friday between 9.00 p.m. – 12.00 p.m.
For Scuderia the first, second and third Monday in every Mounth between 9.00 p.m.-12.00 p.m.

3. Question (can you help?)…This time a request

We frequently get asked from around the world quite amazing questions , so far we have used a limited group to try and answer them, not always successfully. So we now put them on our website and see if any “friends” know the answer.

Still many unanswered questions on our website can you help?

Hi Neil,

Hi, my father has a signed menu from 1970 at the Savoy, signed by Colin Chapman, Graham Hill, Sterling Moss and Innes Ireland, which he now wishes to sell. Could you let me know if you would be interested or if you know of anyone who would be interested, thanks.
I look forward to your reply,

Please let me know if you are interested and I will forward your details to the owner.

4. An Aesthetic Appreciation of Lotus Car Body shapes



To Colin Chapman the Mk.VI was ugly and lacked aesthetic. It might have been considered crude in concept but suited to purpose. It lacked advanced aerodynamic design and compared to the later sports racing cars was utilitarian.

In many respects this is correct. The nature of the semi stressed space frame is that panels are riveted directly to the chassis. There is little scope for formal design. However the Mk.VI was clothed by Williams and Pritchard .The combination of their technical skill, quality workman ship, and empathy for and function renders this car with considerable aesthetic, possibly more than is first evident.

The first Mk.VI completed made a considerable impression due to the thoroughness of its design and execution .It was particularly together compared with some of the “Heath Robinson “specials in existence.

The Mk.VI was conceived as a dual sports and sports racing car. It was often equipped with windscreen, lights, touring back and spare wheel. There was in this variant a small amount of storage space and tiny boot. Several small body style variations exist. These are mainly in mudguard design g and rear wheel mounting.

Basic specification

No. of cylinders: 4 Overall length: 10’ 9”
Cubic capacity: 1172 Overall height: 3’ 71/2”
Bore [mm]:63.3 Overall width: 4’ 7”
Stroke [mm]:92.5 Track front: 3’ 11”
Valve location: S.V Track rear: 3’ 10”
Maximum bhp: 45 Rear axle ratio: 4.875
At rpm: 6,000 Weight: 81/2cwt
Maximum rpm: 6,200 MPG: 30
Compression ratio: 8.5:1 Tyre size: 5.20X15
No. of gears: 4 SpeedX1000rpm:14.5
Brakes: Hydraulic Fuel tank capacity: 7 galls

Aesthetic Appreciation

Function and beauty ought to be synonymous but this is not always the case. Functionalism can generate utility.
In the editors opinion the Mk>VI is function and beauty in harmony .Form and function in its purest expression. The Mk.VI possesses a combination of classical elegance, understatement and brutal menace as measured through its rational and integrated detail.

The chassis is a product of ruthless logic. A systematic extraction and relentless reductionism until only the barest minimum remains. Some production economies might have been achieved but these would have been at the expense of weight.

Later chassis such as the Eleven may have been technically superior, but they are developments through a process of evolution and do not perhaps speak with the same authority and decisiveness or conviction of the Mk.VI

The aesthetic of the Mk.VI may be attributed to its near perfect balance of theory and practice blended by highly developed craftsmanship. In the Mk.VI there is no compromise to dilute the purity of the concept. After its introduction there were no serious rivals until advent of the next generation of aerodynamic cars. Attempt if you dare to conceive of a more thoroughly integrated and executed design.

Examine the Mk.VI chassis carefully. Every tube and joint poses a rhetorical question? What does this achieve; could it be simplified or reduced? So the design methodology proceeds with relentless and remorseless questioning, planning with creative substitution for a resultant reductionism. The chassis expresses its logic and priorities through a structural hierarchy of descending tubes depending on purpose. Look at their structural arrangement and there is an essential “pyramid” with all its inherent stability. To increase your appreciations compare the Mk.VI chassis with that of the Ford 10 saloon which carried the same mechanical components and loads. Compare production economics and compromises with exacting theoretical principles.

The exterior of the car complements and reinforces the inner logic. They are part of the same structural whole. The body is almost like an X ray. Williams and Pritchard’s design with mastery articulated form and function. Both defining and mirroring a ruthless purpose. The straight frame tubes are only interrupted at the cockpit drop down [avoiding necessity for doors].

The body panels are essentially aluminium flat sheet formed and riveted to the chassis tubes except where they improve aerodynamics and are compound curves in the nose cone, cowl piece and the rear wheel enclosed spats. Coincidently these panels are also detachable.

Externally around the engine bay the body is punctured by air scoops / vents which release hot air. Some of the higher specification Mk.VI had a under tray and heat retention and convection is very noticeable. The barrel topped bonnet occasionally has a power bugle depending on engine installed. The bonnet is very neatly folded to sit directly square to the top chassis tube. It is retained by four over centre clips. Again dependent on engine the carburettors occasionally pierce out through the tightly wrapped bonnet.

The exhaust exists abruptly and directly through the body side hugging the contour .It terminates ahead of the rear wheel arch.

The small six inch diameter headlamps are vestigial and with some aerodynamic consideration located within the nose cone radiator opening or near the front coil spring damper brackets. The appearance of the car head on in front elevation is dramatic and dominated by the structural beam axle, inclined front coil springs .The predominant impression is the small ground clearance and low build. Against this the splayed front wheels appear to distort and accentuate the wide track.

The Mk.VI is fitted with an asymmetrical cockpit cowl. The touring model is fitted with a full screen although quickly detachable. The blunt glass seeming too big for the car. The Perspex areoscreen is proportionally more appropriate.

The rear rounded boot terminates the body in a radius of perfection and contains all structural components. The two most distinctive features of the cockpit are the 15” laminated steering wheel and the 5” Jaeger rev counter mounted directly square in front of the driver.

The cockpit is full of dramatic contract in colour and materials. In many cases there is a bare aluminium dashboard blending with the chrome instrument bezels; in turn resonant with traditional white on black instrument faces. The large black starter button extends a magnetic invitation. The subsidiary dials in hierarchical order provide information and are grouped around the central revcounter but the speedo is offset to the left. There is precious little else and no distraction, ornament or distraction. The lower dash tube provides a passenger grab handle. The gear lever [approximately 6” and handbrake piece through and adjacent to the prop shaft tunnel. The bare tunnel divides the cockpit and helps locate the simple in extreme but comfortable foam filled cushions and backrest.

The external visual impression provides an analogy with an insect perhaps as a result of the hard shell like quality of the bare aluminium skin stretched taught over the chassis frame. Polished aluminium in this form ripples with wave upon wave of dancing reflecting light and shadow. It possesses an almost surreal magical mirror quality that distorts and reflects.

The Mk.VI straddles the ground with attitude. The track exaggerated by the voluptuous curvaceous spats and minimal ground clearance.It glints with menance; mutating, delicate, brutal, brodding with a lethal intent.

My night even more so as the colours blend and bleed and the neon runs and vanishes across the body as it speed into the distance.

[Please see our recent article on Williams and Pritchard]

Author John Scott-Davies

5. Lotus books recommended reading.

Nothing this month, however we hope to have an in depth review of
‘Colin Chapman Inside the Innovator’ by Karl Ludvigsen next month.

6. Lotus books: one for the library.

Alf Francis – Racing mechanic

Reading Michael Olivers book “Tales from the toolbox” made me read this wonderful book again. All motor racing libraries should have a copy. It has been reprinted, the picture below is from the original copy. They are not easy to find and I have seen them in the £50-75 region.

Alf Francis

Motor racing books, in fact automotive books in general, are not usually referred to as a “good read”, much less a page turner. This one is. The combination of the outspoken and often stubborn Francis and the efforts of Peter Lewis, who at the time was the Motor Racing Correspondent of “The Observer”, creates a vivid, hilarious, and evocative look at racing on the continent in the early 1950s. It is full of not only human stories, but of mechanical woes, and written so well it is almost impossible to put it down.

Second, the British car content, though significant, is by far overshadowed by the descriptions of racing in Italy and France. And in addition to being the chief mech for John Heath, Francis maintained the Whitehead Ferrari F1 car for the 1952 season, and in 1954, was working with the Maserati factory to ensure that the Moss “Green Maserati” was up to the usual Moss/Francis expectations. The tales of the 1954-5 season alone are worth the price of the book.

Alf Francis began his career as a motor racing mechanic, when in 1948, he answered an newspaper ad and applied as a mechanic to John Heath. Despite never having worked on a race car, he was hired, as his resume offered a real plus. Francis was fluent in several different languages, and Heath wanted to go racing on the continent. Francis would be not only the chief mechanic but a team manager who would make all the arrangements necessary for getting a team of racecars through France, Italy, and Germany.

Initially drafted to work on Geoffrey Taylor’s GP Alta, Francis soon became involved in the creation of the H.W.M. Alta, then, by 1950, a complete run of cars to compete in the new Formula 2. During the winter a team of four people worked to construct the cars, working 16 hour days seven days a week. The amount of work was all-encompassing. “We never thought or talked of anything else, not even on those rare occasions when there was time to sit down and have a quiet cup of tea.” The conditions at best were primitive, and the base of knowledge of engineering or suspension was so small, at first Francis didn’t even comprehend the essentials of power to weight ratios.

Once completed, Francis hauled the cars through France, and over the Alps (no tunnels then) in a flathead Ford powered truck, prepared them, managed the team and repaired the inevitable damage. Enroute to the 1950 Rome Grand Prix, Francis drove through the Mt. Cenis Pass, got totally lost in Turin, getting help from the Police to find their way out. In Genoa they got lost again, only two have the transporter die on a tramway track. Along came a tram, and all the passengers got out and helped push the truck several hundred yards to safety. “As one Italian explained to me: ‘We like to help you because you have racing cars. And anyway we want to get home!'” Francis had more adventures on the road than the drivers did on the track and describes them with both joy and cynicism. Like many, Francis fell in love with the Italians, though he would never have said it that way.

H.W.M. had employed a young man named Stirling Moss, who in turn recognized Alf’s abilities, and when the Moss family purchased a new Maserati 250F (serial number 2508) in early 1954, Francis went to work as the Moss Equipe chief mechanic. “I did not know that I should cover over fifteen thousand miles in the Commer van during that memorable 1954 season, cross the Channel nine times, negotiate the mountain passes of the Alps fifteen times, and cros more than thirty international frontiers in order to deliver the Maserati safely to fifteen major meetings in seven European countries”. Arriving at Maserati to coordinate the preparation of the Moss Maserati (seat position, pedals, paint, tires, were all different on the Moss car) Francis met and established lifelong relationships with both Guerino Bertocchi and Fantuzzi. Although the Moss Maserati was an independent, Maserati supported the equipe as if a factory car, for they knew that Moss was by far the best Maserati driver, yet still too inexperienced in F1 to drive for the factory.

Francis had some interesting insights as to the fate of the 250F effort after Moss rather unexpectedly bolted to Mercedes Benz in 1955. “In my opinion, what Stirling did had far-reaching consequences. Had he stayed with Maserati during 1955 I am convinced there would have been a very different approach to the sport that season by Signor Orsi. He might have even produced the V8, but naturally an organization like Maserati is not going to spend a lot of money on development of such a power unit unless there is someone ..(as good as Moss).. to drive the car.”
Francis went on to develop the Rob Walker F2/F1 Cooper Climax, which in turn led to him working again with Moss. But the book stops in at the end of 1957 season.

Copy from Veloce today.

7.Lotus collectables

Lotus Eleven Sales Brochure

Lotus 11

Original six page fold-out brochure for the Lotus XI sports racer, yellow toned example in very good condition throughout.

8. Lotus interest on “Youtube”

One item on Youtube maybe of interest our readers. A lot of great footage.

1954 Lotus Mark VI


Thank you for your continued interest and support

Editors of the newsletter
John Scott-Davies
Neil Duncan
Jamie Duncan (webmaster)