Thursday, 10 April 2014

Lotus XI GT Breadvan

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

'Built with loving care. Treat like a virgin!!' So says the handwritten note on the dash of this obscure and unusual little race poppet.
The art of the breadvan is something that's eddied around motorsport history over the years, polarising opinions along the way. They operate from a position of pure function - the Ferrari 250 GT Drogo, for example, could never be viewed as anything like as beautiful as the 250 GT SWB upon which it was based, and yet exists within a unique microcosm of intrigue and awe. And the Sunbeam Tiger Le Mans: while not strictly a breadvan shape, its extended rear and Kamm tail make the thing look rather ungainly next to the sylph-like base car. But it's all about lap times.

And what we see here, a breadvan reworking of Lotus' teeny-tiny XI, is one of the most obscure of all. Entirely absent from the racing world for the last half-century, it popped up competition-ready at Goodwood's 72nd Members' Meeting. Interestingly, it originally came about because racing driver Graham Capel wanted to emulate the success of the aforementioned Drogo, turning the diminutive XI into a lightweight shooting brake. It was reasonably successful, but after its last race at Goodwood in 1964 it was converted back to a standard body. Thankfully its current owners - Twyman Racing - were fastidious in their research into the car's history, and have fully restored its unusual junk-in-the-trunk form, complete with period Plumstead Racing livery. Looks pretty natty, doesn't it?
It kicked no small amount of luxurious arse in the Moss Trophy at 72MM too - belying the humble nature of its Coventry Climax engine, it bested all of the Ferraris and, after an hour of racing, crossed the finish line in second place just half a second after the winning Aston Martin DB4 GT. A thoroughly impressive little machine.

Click here for more photos from 72MM.

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