Shoot­ing Star on a

New Zealand Classic Car - - Feature -

The Jonathan Wil­liams con­nec­tion

Dig­ging deeper into the 22’s his­tory, it has now been con­firmed by Dun­can Rabagliati, renowned mo­tor rac­ing his­to­rian and founder of the For­mula Ju­nior His­toric Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, that this car was raced by the late Jonathan Wil­liams in For­mula Ju­nior races dur­ing 1963, the Lo­tus be­ing a re­place­ment for the Mer­lyn-ford MKV that Wil­liams crashed at Monaco in May 1963.

Fur­ther de­tails were ini­tially rather more sketchy, and, although it seemed that Wil­liams did, in­deed, pur­chase a Lo­tus-sanc­tioned frame marked ‘22/47’, it is un­clear whether the frame was a brand-new fac­tory item or one that had pre­vi­ously been raced.

Mud­dy­ing the his­tor­i­cal wa­ters is Wil­liams’ known in­volve­ment with Roy Thomas — aka ‘Tom the Weld’ — a highly re­garded me­chanic and fab­ri­ca­tor. There ex­ist sev­eral ref­er­ences to Thomas hav­ing pro­duced replica race-car frames, as well as sup­ply­ing var­i­ous com­po­nen­try such as up­rights and other sus­pen­sion parts.

In his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Pranc­ing Horse (pub­lished posthu­mously), Wil­liams writes about the as­sis­tance he re­ceived from Thomas, and at least one obit­u­ary for Wil­liams re­ferred to his Lo­tus 22 as be­ing some­thing of a ‘Roy Thomas spe­cial’ in re­spect of not just up­rights and sus­pen­sion mem­bers but also the ac­tual frame.

How­ever, Michael Clark be­lieves that a non-lo­tus-sanc­tioned frame would not have had a mark­ing such as those on our fea­tured Lo­tus 22 and is of the opin­ion that there has prob­a­bly been some mis­un­der­stand­ing by jour­nal­ists and his­to­ri­ans. Wil­liams him­self has gone on record as say­ing that Thomas did have an in­volve­ment with both his Lo­tus 22 and 1964 For­mula 3 Lo­tus 22/31. How­ever, it seems highly un­likely that this 22’s frame is a Thomas-built replica.

From June 1963 to the cur­rent day, the his­tory of ev­ery owner of the Lo­tus is known and recorded. How­ever, what re­mains un­known is the his­tory of own­er­ship from the date of the frame’s man­u­fac­ture in 1962, un­til June 1963. Dun­can Rabagliati has stated that he’s 99.9-per­cent cer­tain that this car is gen­uine and men­tioned other Lo­tus 22s that have a frame but no chas­sis num­ber. It is highly likely that the frame of our fea­tured car was orig­i­nally a spare frame for the works team.

Be­cause so much is un­cer­tain, and be­cause key peo­ple who could po­ten­tially an­swer the nec­es­sary ques­tions are no longer alive — Sir Frank Wil­liams re­mains the one per­son still liv­ing who may know the ori­gins of this Lo­tus — it is nec­es­sary to make some as­sump­tions with re­gard to this Lo­tus 22. As Michael Clark ob­serves, no his­to­rian likes as­sump­tions, but, in some cir­cum­stances, there is no ob­vi­ous al­ter­na­tive.

Wil­liams and Wil­liams

More de­tails re­lat­ing to Wil­liams and this Lo­tus 22 were in­cluded in Adam Cooper’s book, Piers Courage: The Last of the Gen­tle­man Rac­ers (Haynes, 2003). In it, Jonathan Wil­liams ex­plains how he first met Frank Wil­liams (no re­la­tion) while rac­ing at Brands Hatch. Jonathan, hav­ing in­verted his Mini, scram­bled up the bank to watch the rest of the race when an Austin A35 did ex­actly the same thing. Jonathan helped the driver out, and they both sat on the bank to watch the re­main­der of the race. The A35 driver was, of course, Frank.

for the pre­vi­ous three-and-a-half decades. As men­tioned, Kerry had al­ways in­tended to re­store the car and, ac­cord­ingly, had turned down many of­fers for it over the years. How­ever, when the Christchurch earth­quake dam­aged Kerry’s home, he needed to clear out the house to have it re­paired, and the Lo­tus was on the list of items for clear­ance.

In ef­fect, Mark was Johnny-on-the-spot, and he then con­tacted his friend and no­table Lo­tus en­thu­si­ast Noel Wood­ford to see if he might want to pur­chase the car.

Noel, who said that he’s owned var­i­ous Lo­tus mod­els over the years and driven many more, is prob­a­bly best known in lo­cal rac­ing cir­cles for his ex­ploits in a Lo­tus Elan. With 172kw (230bp) on tap, his light­weight sports car — only 515kg — was remarkably rapid. Noel even­tu­ally sold the Elan to Chris Childs of famed UK tun­ing spe­cial­ist De­mon Tweeks.

Fol­low­ing the Elan’s de­par­ture, Noel built a sports-rac­ing car fit­ted with a Honda In­te­gra en­gine and gear­box — we fea­tured this in our round-up of SCANZ rac­ers ( New Zealand Clas­sic Car, June 2006). Noel’s Delta Honda was ca­pa­ble of lap­ping Pukekohe in a mere 62.4 sec­onds.

Af­ter win­ning the NZ Sports Car se­ries for the sec­ond time in 2009, two things hap­pened that re­sulted in Noel mak­ing a move into his­toric rac­ing. He was in­vited to drive Brian Grant’s Lo­tus- Con­sul sports car at the New Zealand Fes­ti­val of Mo­tor Rac­ing trib­ute to Bruce Mclaren in Jan­uary 2010. At that meet­ing, Noel was im­pressed by an­other rac­ing car at the event — the Lo­tus 20/22 that had just been im­ported into New Zealand by Chris Atkin­son (see New Zealand Clas­sic Car, April 2001 for a fea­ture on this Lo­tus).

Said Noel of the event, “the rac­ing and be­ing ex­posed to all those won­der­ful his­toric ma­chines from around the world started my search for a suit­able car.”

Even­tu­ally, Noel took the op­por­tu­nity to buy a Gemini FJ from the US. How­ever, the Gemini had two lim­i­ta­tions, with the car’s Re­nault Dauphine three-speed gear­box (con­verted to four speeds, with no re­verse) be­ing its Achilles heel. The in­ter­nals of the Re­nault box had been re-en­gi­neered to al­ter it from be­ing a syn­chro­mesh unit us­ing he­li­cal gears to a dog­box that uti­lized Hew­land gears,

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