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The new Type 66 is a £1 million Lotus that never was

Canned project from 53 years ago brought to life after old drawings found; lap times will rival a GT3 racer

Published: 18 Aug 2023

This is not a restomod. This is not a continuation. This is an all-new, old Lotus. Pray silence for the arrival of the Type 66, a 1970 project that never saw the light of day. Until now.

We need to wind the clock back 53 years to get to the origin of this car: famed designer Colin Chapman, busy dominating Formula 1, asked Lotus draughtsman Geoff Ferris to come up with a design that would do the same in the lucrative Can-Am series across the pond.

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Lotus’s success in F1 meant the plan never went beyond the drawings and model stage, and so it sat in a cupboard somewhere in the Chapman family’s archives for more than half a century, just waiting for the right moment.

Despite being with the new Emira, Eletre and Evija, that time has come. The Type 66 stays true to the original designs, and at its heart is a period-correct V8 push-rod engine (complete with an aluminium forged crank, rod and pistons), delivering 830bhp at 8,800 rpm and 550lb ft at 7,400rpm.

Apparently lap times will make a modern GT3 racer blush. At Laguna Seca, the sim reckons this might even be quicker. Crikey.

That’ll be the work of 1,000 hours of CFD (i.e. the digital wind tunnel), allowing the Type 66 to generate 800kg of downforce at 150mph. That’s more than it weighs too, so if you had a long enough tunnel with a flat ceiling…

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The chassis too is of its era, with extruded aluminium sections, bonded joints and aluminium honeycomb panel. However, power steering, a sequential ‘box with reverse gear, ABS, an anti-stall multi-plate clutch and fixed rollover bar are more recent inventions.

Using 3D renders to improve airflow, the design has been tweaked - ‘delicately’, insists Lotus - to conform with today’s safety standards. To that end the cockpit has been revised, while the inboard fuel cell is also new. The body is entirely carbon fibre, as you’d expect these days.

“The Type 66 perfectly blends the past and present,” says Simon Lane, executive director at Lotus Advanced Performance. “It takes drivers back in time, to the iconic design, sound and pure theatre of motorsport more than 50 years ago, with added 21st century performance and safety. This is a truly unique project and in our 75th anniversary year it’s the perfect gift from Lotus, to fans worldwide and to a handful of customers.”

He continued: “While the visual expression is strikingly similar to what could have been – including the period-correct white, red and gold graphics – the technology and mechanical underpinnings of the Lotus Type 66 represent the very best in today’s advanced racing performance.”

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And Clive Chapman - son of Colin and MD Classic Team Lotus - reckons 1972 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi would’ve driven the Type 66 had it ever been built.

“The car would have shared many innovative features with our most successful F1 chassis, the Lotus Type 72, which was developed during the same era,” he explains. “These include side-mounted radiators which helped reduce front drag, increase front downforce and channel airflow through and over the car. The rear of the car incorporates a distinctive tail section, resembling the Le Mans endurance cars of the period. These features would have boosted its downforce considerably, compared to rivals, aiding high-speed stability and ultimately its lap times. It would have been spectacular, as is the actual Type 66 we see today.”

Revealed today in Monterey, California, the Type 66 will go on display at the Concept Lawn at Pebble Beach’s Concours d’Elegance Sunday 20 August.

Only 10 will be built, each costing more than £1 million. Expensive, but then who can put a price on coasting past a 911 GT3 while wearing a scarf and goggles?

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