The Lo­tus Eleven (1956–’58)

New Zealand Classic Car - - Feature Car 1956 Lotus Eleven -

For the car de­vel­oped as a re­place­ment for the Lo­tus MKIX, Lo­tus dropped its pre­vi­ously used ‘Mark’ model des­ig­na­tion, sim­ply call­ing the new car the Lo­tus Eleven. Fol­low­ing on from the MKIX, the Eleven fea­tured a Frank Costin­de­signed body atop a space-frame chas­sis. De­signed to be fit­ted with ei­ther the 1100cc Coventry Cli­max or the then new 1460cc ver­sion of the same en­gine, the Eleven came in three flavours — Le Mans, Club and Sports. As you would guess from the name, the Le Mans ver­sions were in­tended for se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion use, and were fit­ted with a de Dion rear axle, and disc brakes up front. In 1956, the cost of an 1100cc Le Mans 75 was £1337, while the Le Mans 85, with its Stage 2 tuned en­gine, would set you back £1387. Op­tion­ing in the larger en­gine added an­other £250. The Club model, in­tended for oc­ca­sional com­pe­ti­tion use, made do with par­al­lel trail­ing arms rather than the de Dion, while brakes were drums all around. The Club model’s ba­sic price on in­tro­duc­tion was £1083. Fi­nally, the Sports model was in­tended for road use plus the odd foray onto the track, be­ing es­sen­tially a Club car fit­ted with the cheaper Ford 100E 1172cc side-valve en­gine — ba­sic cost; £872. Elevens scored class wins at Le Mans in 1956 and 1957, and also recorded a clean sweep in their class at Se­bring in 1958. Away from the works team, pri­va­teers recorded hun­dreds of race and class wins all over the world, and the Eleven also proved its met­tle on hill climbs and street cir­cuits. In 1956 a spe­cially built, stream­lined 1110cc Eleven com­plete with an en­closed ‘bub­ble top’ was driven by Stir­ling Moss and ‘Mac’ Fraser at Monza in Italy, the car record­ing a fastest lap at 143mph (230kph) and set­ting a se­ries of world speed records.

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