Au­thor­ity, wit and in­tel­li­gence from the voice of F1 Rac­ing

Lo­tus de­signer Len Terry has passed away, aged 90, leav­ing for our delectation his port­fo­lio of work. Or was it art? There aren’t too many F1 peo­ple who would tick the box marked ‘no’ when asked the ques­tion: ‘Is the 1967 Ea­gle-Wes­lake the best­look­ing F1 car of all time?’ Like all works of art, how­ever, the Ea­gle… just hap­pened. It was Dan Gur­ney who had in­sti­gated the Lo­tus rear-en­gine revo­lu­tion at In­di­anapo­lis in mid-1962. Thus he knew Len as a Colin Chap­man-led Lo­tus de­signer of great skill and in­dus­try – and also of dig­nity: Len suf­fered in si­lence when, oddly, he was side­lined from the 1963-64 at-track Indy pro­gramme while Chap­man re-ne­go­ti­ated his team’s Ford en­gine deal and vac­il­lated be­tween rac­ing Dun­lops and Fire­stones. Len worked hard in Cheshunt to give Chap­man the Lo­tus 38 – the car that won Indy for Jim Clark in 1965. As land­marks go, the 38/1 falls just short of the wheel, which is why I de­cided last year to join a num­ber of other 38-lovers as one of its trus­tees. The 38/1 has be­come a global am­bas­sador for svelte en­gi­neer­ing and for those who be­lieve that moun­tains are there to be climbed. Dan de­cided in 1965 to do his own F1 team. He hired Len as chief de­signer and hatched the Ea­gle. I once asked Dan if he, Dan, had had any im­print on the shape of the Ea­gle’s nose and he smiled his usual smile and thus said a thou­sand words: of course he did. Dan’s was the blue-and-white liv­ery, too – make that “the lay­out of the blue-and-white liv­ery and its white strip­ing”. I dare­say a thou­sand of to­day’s graphic de­sign­ers would give us a very dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tion if they were asked to colour the Ea­gle as it was, bare metal, clean sheet of pa­per… and that none of them would be a patch on Dan’s 1966 el­e­gance. The death of Len has set me to think­ing about what beauty re­ally means to the rac­ing per­son. It’s all very well and good for me to go on about the Lo­tus 38 and the Ea­gle, but what do we ac­tu­ally see when we look at th­ese cars – or pic­tures of th­ese cars? Is it the whole or the parts that com­prise the whole? And when is a rac­ing car more than just an ‘en­gi­neer­ing so­lu­tion’?

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