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’?