How­den Gan­ley’s first foray into mo­tor sport was at the wheel of his mother’s Morris Mi­nor — but, ready for a proper rac­ing car, he ac­quired this Lo­tus Eleven in 1960

New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents - Words: Allan Wal­ton Pho­tos: Adam Croy


It is be­lieved that around seven Lo­tus Elevens came to New Zealand, avail­able in ei­ther Club Sport or Le Mans form, and the first of them was this Le Mans ver­sion. Fit­ted with a 1099cc Coventry Cli­max FWB en­gine (E6837), the car’s first ap­pear­ance was in the hands of noted speed­way racer, Auck­land-based Roly Crowther. Crowther owned Auck­land Mo­tor Pain­ters, and he ap­plied his ex­per­tise on the car’s eye-catch­ing blue and white paint scheme. Alas, the Lo­tus couldn’t match its strik­ing ap­pear­ance with good race re­sults, and the car was sold to Christchurch-based garag­iste Des Wild in 1957. Wild quickly proved the Lo­tus’ worth by set­ting a new Class G (750–1100cc) speed record, com­plet­ing the fly­ing start kilo­me­tre in 18.115 sec­onds with a ter­mi­nal speed of 123.5mph (198.75kph) on Oc­to­ber 5, 1957. How­ever, on the look­out for more power, Wild soon re­placed the Lo­tus with a con­sid­er­ably faster Jaguar C-type and, in 1958, the Eleven was on the move again — this time to Ge­orge Palmer, who bought the car for his young son, Jimmy, to race. Jimmy’s best re­sults in the Lo­tus were a class win in the 1959 Ken Whar­ton Memo­rial Tro­phy race, and a third plac­ing at Wai­mate. Mid­way through 1960, the Palmers on-sold the Lo­tus to Johnny Windle­burn, who raced the car very suc­cess­fully at Levin and Wi­gram.

Once again the Lo­tus was put onto the mar­ket, and this time around a young Hamil­ton-based young­ster, How­den Gan­ley, en­tered the his­tory of this par­tic­u­lar Lo­tus Eleven.

A Proper Rac­ing Car

Hav­ing made his com­pe­ti­tion de­but in his mother’s Morris Mi­nor, How­den got a real taste for speed af­ter be­ing taken around Levin by

Len Gil­bert in his Cooper Bris­tol, the ex-ho­race Gould, exGe­orge Palmer car that had been widened to qual­ify as a sports car. How­den wrote a story for The Waikato Times about that ride, and the die was cast — it was time for a proper rac­ing car!

How­den takes up the story. “The Lo­tus Eleven that had been raced by Jim Palmer was now owned by Johnny Windle­burn, and he had it for sale at £1300. I had to have it. It had the full works, and I knew the car well from when Jim had it be­cause he also lived in Hamil­ton, and we all knew each other. Some­how, I man­aged to scratch up the money by get­ting my grand­mother to give me my 21st birth­day money and all my birth­day presents up to that. I sold ev­ery­thing I owned. I sold my bike, which was se­ri­ous stuff then. I fit­ted my broth­ers up with all sorts of old rub­bish and I raised £650, which was half way there. The bloke who was go­ing to come in with the other half re­neged, so I man­aged to get my mother to loan me the other £650 and we bought the car. It was beau­ti­ful. It had a Cli­max 1100cc en­gine and was sim­ply the busi­ness. The prob­lem was that now I was skint. I didn’t have a trailer, I didn’t have a tow car and I had no money left.”

A gen­uine Le Mans 85 model, as ac­quired by How­den, the Eleven was fit­ted with all the Le Mans–spec items such as twin fuel tanks and dual tachos, as well as a metal ton­neau cover and wrap­around screen. In­deed, many years later, on a visit to the Lo­tus fac­tory in the UK, How­den’s brother, Denis, was told that there was a chance this Eleven could have been one of the works cars which had raced at Le Mans — al­though this couldn’t be ver­i­fied.

How­den’s first race in the Lo­tus was at Ard­more in De­cem­ber, 1960. How­ever, his first big race came a few weeks later at the 1961 NZ Grand Prix week­end at Ard­more. By now the Lo­tus had been re­painted in green, and the Coventry Cli­max en­gine was re­built, as was the dif­fer­en­tial, in time for the race week­end.

How­den — “I won my class in the sports car race (and £15) and I went in for the Ul­ti­mate Ecko race for New Zealand driv­ers that paid the phe­nom­e­nal amount of £150 to win — and I won it! Sud­denly, I could af­ford to go rac­ing for the rest of the sea­son. I talked Denis [How­den’s brother] into buy­ing an old 1936 Chevy, and I bor­rowed the trailer that my fa­ther used to haul his Ford Ten spe­cial sports car. We took the back seats out of the Chev, loaded the spares in and away we went, with Denis as my me­chanic for Levin and Wi­gram.”

At Levin, he spun out of the race with only half a lap to go and in se­cond place, but had bet­ter luck at Wi­gram where he scored class sec­onds in two races.

With Denis hav­ing re­turned to work fol­low­ing the Wi­gram races, Alis­tair Cald­well — who would later make his name as Mclaren’s chief F1 me­chanic — joined the small Gan­ley rac­ing équipe.

The next meet­ing on the agenda was the Dunedin round-the­houses race where a faulty fuel line stopped him from fin­ish­ing the sports car race and, in the main race, he was side­lined af­ter hit­ting a kerb. How­den fared no bet­ter at Tere­tonga, and a dropped valve meant How­den was a non-starter at Wai­mate. In his first full sea­son in the Lo­tus, one of How­den’s few real suc­cesses came when he recorded a class win at the Mt Tarawera Hill­climb in Ro­torua.

The Mo­tor­drome Rac­ing Team

For the 1962 rac­ing sea­son, How­den be­came part of the Mo­tor­drome Rac­ing Team. Formed from a group of rac­ing driv­ers who gath­ered to­gether reg­u­larly at Ivan Segedin’s garage in Hamil­ton, as well as How­den and his Lo­tus Eleven, the team in­cluded Den­nis Mar­wood (Hum­ber 80), Bryan Innes (ex-segedin Zephyr MKII) and Ross Greenville (Lo­tus FJ). All the team cars were painted dark green with sil­ver stripes and, al­though the team would only ex­ist for a sin­gle sea­son, over­all it was deemed to be suc­cess­ful — es­pe­cially for Mar­wood and Innes.

Sadly, 1962 didn’t turn out as well for How­den and the Lo­tus, with a best plac­ing of fourth in the sports car race at Wi­gram. He did fin­ish fifth in the Ken Whar­ton Memo­rial Tro­phy race at Ard­more, but no prize money was paid out be­cause there had not been suf­fi­cient starters.

By this time How­den had set his sights on trav­el­ling to the UK to fur­ther his rac­ing ca­reer and, con­se­quently, he had a buyer for the Lo­tus wait­ing to take de­liv­ery fol­low­ing How­den’s fi­nal race in the car. That fi­nal race took place at Dunedin in the pour­ing rain over the no­to­ri­ous street cir­cuit. A young Chris Amon crashed from the race in his Maserati 250F, tak­ing out Bill Thomasen’s Cooper Cli­max in the process. How­ever, worse was to come when Johnny Mansel — who only joined the race at half dis­tance — skid­ded off the diesel-slicked bus-route road in his Cooper Maserati, be­ing thrown clear as his car snapped in half af­ter hit­ting a tele­graph pole. Mansel suc­cumbed to his in­juries 10 days later. In prac­tice for the race, How­den also lost con­trol in the same area, wrap­ping his frag­ile Lo­tus around a tele­graph pole.

In July 2012, How­den re­mem­bered his crash at the right-han­der on the grimly named Ceme­tery Rise, lo­cated at the Princes Street end of South Road. “I still think it could be taken flat out!”

In­deed, that’s what he was do­ing when he hit what he reck­ons was a mid-cor­ner bump that sent the sen­si­tive Lo­tus div­ing off the road at a speed ap­proach­ing 200kph.

This hap­pened, of course, in the days be­fore ma­jor safety mea­sures such as Armco bar­ri­ers, and street-rac­ing cir­cuits were sur­rounded by un­pro­tected kerbs — not to men­tion tele­graph and power poles. Hap­pily, How­den emerged from the Lo­tus un­in­jured, the car hav­ing slid along the straight rather than abruptly speared off the cir­cuit.

The crash left the Lo­tus badly dam­aged, and his plans to make a trip to the UK were now in trou­ble.

“The Lo­tus was brought home to Hamil­ton, and my fa­ther and Pete Kerr re­built it, but my buyer, I sup­pose un­der­stand­ably, had se­cond thoughts. The mar­ket had shrunk and we got enough out of the car to pay for the re­pairs, re­pay the £650 loan from my mother — and by the time I got to Eng­land I had £25 in my pocket.”

Later Years

The Lo­tus did fi­nally find its way into the hands of a new owner in De­cem­ber 1963, when ac­quired by Graeme Mcleod of Auck­land. Sub­se­quent own­ers would in­clude Mark Petch, Bill Hughes and Gor­don Clarke. Sig­nif­i­cantly, Peter Bruin also owned the Lo­tus, and he was re­spon­si­ble for to­tally re­build­ing the car be­fore sell­ing it to How­den’s brother, Denis, who by that time had made a name for him­self as an in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned boat de­signer. Bruin also used the Lo­tus as the ba­sis for his own Lo­tus Eleven replica. Sub­se­quently, the Eleven’s orig­i­nal body was re­placed by a Bruin-built fi­bre­glass replica body.

Later, Denis sold the car to Philip Strat­ford who, in turn, parted with it to Gray Mathias. How­ever, the Lo­tus re­turned to the Gan­ley fam­ily when Denis ac­quired the car yet again. He re­stored it and of­fered it to his brother, but How­den wasn’t in­ter­ested at that time, so the Lo­tus was sold. How­ever, many years later it once again came up for sale, and Denis in­formed How­den that the Lo­tus was back on the mar­ket.

This time around How­den took the chance to re-ac­quire the Eleven, and on his re­turn to New Zealand to cel­e­brate his 50th birth­day, Denis ar­ranged for How­den and his wife to take over Pukekohe for a pri­vate day of track testing in the Lo­tus — the first time How­den had sat at the wheel of the Eleven since 1962. Today, he states that he is “de­lighted’ to once again own this iconic sports racer — and, at the con­clu­sion of our photo shoot, he was mak­ing plans for the Lo­tus to be fet­tled and pre­pared for the pos­si­bil­ity of a few demon­stra­tion laps around Hamp­ton Downs dur­ing the up­com­ing Gulf Mo­tor Rac­ing Fes­ti­val.

Sadly, Denis Gan­ley — along with this wife, Philom­ena — both per­ished in a car ac­ci­dent just out­side Murchi­son in the South Is­land dur­ing May 1997.

Jan­uary 7, 1961 — How­den in the Lo­tus chases Jim Boyd’s HWM (photo Jim Bar­clay Col­lec­tion)

De­cem­ber 1961, Rukuhia, Hamil­ton — The Mo­tor­drome Rac­ing Team. L-R: Den­nis Mar­wood (Hum­ber 80), Ross Greenville (Lo­tus 18), How­den Gan­ley (Lo­tus XI), Bryan Innes (Zephyr MKII)

How­den and Lo­tus at the Lake Tarawera hill climb in Ro­torua Des Wild shows off the Lo­tus’ gar­ish colour scheme

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