Shooting Star on a
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,