Legendary Formula 1 Lotus to headline Bonhams|Cars Monaco sale

Legendary Formula 1 Lotus to headline Bonhams|Cars Monaco sale

1957-58 Lotus-Climax Type 12 chassis ‘353’. Pictured at Goodwood Motor Circuit in Chichester, West Sussex. 


Monte Carlo, Monaco – One of the most historically significant of all British Formula 1 Grand Prix cars will be offered at The Bonhams|Cars Monaco Sale, ‘Les Grandes Marques à Monaco’, on May 10. The 1957-58 Lotus-Climax Type 12 chassis ‘353’ is an historic landmark car in Formula 1 World Championship racing history since it is both the seven-times title-winning British marque’s first-ever Formula 1 contender and also the very car in which future five-times Monaco GP winner and double World Champion Driver Graham Hill made his debut in the revered Monte Carlo race. This pioneering vehicle had earlier been driven by Graham Hill in Silverstone’s 1958 BRDC International Trophy race in his and team Lotus’s Formula 1 debut.

Beyond its track accomplishments, the Lotus-Climax Type 12 chassis ‘353’ is the star of a memorable story, nick-named the ‘Figgy Pudding Grand Prix’. Renowned racing journalist Denis Jenkinson of ‘Motor Sport’ magazine developed a hankering to try a single-seater racing car on an everyday British public road. Jenks’s ambition was realized on Christmas Day 1957 when Lotus Cars’ founder Colin Chapman lent him ‘353’ and Jenks took it around Hampshire’s deserted roads until a drive shaft broke near Basingstoke where he coasted up a private driveway to get the car out of sight, interrupting an astonished family’s Christmas lunch.

From the left Cliff Allison, Mabel Allison, Bette Hill, Jack Murrell, Graham Hill in ‘353’, Mo Levy (back to the camera) Colin Chapman and Willie Griffiths (Photo by Bernard Cahier, Getty Images).


The Lotus legend first launched by ‘353’ extends to no fewer than seven Formula 1 Constructors’ World Championship titles, during which works team cars carried the brand’s stars such as Graham Hill, Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti to six Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship crowns. With additional superstar Lotus drivers Ayrton Senna, Stirling Moss, and Ronnie Peterson, Lotus Formula 1 Grand Prix victories total no fewer than 74 overall.

The Lotus Type 12 design originated from Lotus creator Colin Chapman late in 1956. It was his first Lotus single-seater after the series of ultra-lightweight, elegantly streamlined sports-racing cars with which he had established his marque’s sophisticated reputation, 1954-56. His Type 12 single-seaters were built to contest international motor racing’s newly launched Formula 2 class through 1957. Seven Lotus 12s were built in 1957, of which five became works entries. Team Lotus’s star drivers were Graham Hill and Cliff Allison, first racing car ‘353’ very competitively in F2 events, setting fastest laps.

Colin Chapman then set his sights on Formula 1 for 1958. The premier class’s regulations allowed engines of up to 2.5-litres. No suitable power unit was available that Lotus could afford, but Coventry Climax had enlarged their original F2 engine from 1500 to 1960cc. Fitting such an interim engine in the ultra-lightweight Type 12 chassis might just compete on twisty circuits. Team Lotus promptly made its Formula 1 debut with Graham Hill driving ‘353’ with 1960cc Climax engine power at Silverstone on May 3, 1958. While team-mate Cliff Allison finished sixth overall to win the Formula 2 category, Graham placed seventh in the F1 class to complete Team’s premier-league debut.

May 3, 1958. BRDC International Trophy, Silverstone – Graham Hill making both his own and Team Lotus’s Formula 1 racing debut in Type 12 chassis ‘353’. GPL photo.


Sold subsequently to British private entrant John Fisher, Lotus ‘353’ was campaigned in 1959 by drivers including Italian girl star Maria Theresa de Filippis. Then acquired by rising Australian racing star Frank Gardner, ‘353’ was taken ‘down under’ by new owner Len Deaton in 1961. Via four interim owners 1962-1991, it survived in remarkably original order before being exquisitely restored to full running condition by its present Australian vendor – who has written the definitive book upon the model in general and ‘353’ in particular.

The quote from Clive Chapman, the head of Classic Team Lotus and son of Colin Chapman, as featured in the book Lotus 12 Chassis No. 353: The History (2006) by Michael J. Bennet and Mike Bennet, states, “I wish that every Team Lotus racing car could have such a wonderful record of its life.”

Sale: The Monaco Sale ‘Les Grandes Marques à Monaco’
Location: Monte Carlo, Monaco
Date: May 10th

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