When it comes to the history of sports car racing, the 1960s and 1970s were arguably the golden era. Trans Am was still huge, mid-engine cars hit Formula 1, and CanAm featured some of the greatest sports racers to have been developed. Lotus was in the thick of both CanAm and Formula 1, with the 21 marking the start of its domination of F1 once the 25 was developed for the 1962 to 1964 season. In CanAm, however, the Lotus 30 and 40 weren’t fairing as well. It ultimately made Colin Champman focus solely on its F1 efforts in 1965, with Lotus stepping away from CanAm. But there was another racer in the works before that happened—a lost Lotus CanAm car that existed only as a set of drawings.
Those plans were rediscovered and Colin’s son, Clive, worked with Lotus to reimagine what this car could be. What they have created is the Lotus Type 66, a car that looks like it’s from the glory days of CanAm, but with modern GT3 performance.
Why Did Lotus Fail in CanAm Racing?
Then the Lotus 40 was developed in 1965, but while slightly improved it fared no better. With the poor performance of the 30 and 40, Lotus stepped away from CanAm and focused solely on Formula 1, with Jim Clark winning the World Championship in 1965 and Graham Hill winning it in 1967 and 1968. With such success, Chapman stuck with the open-wheel series. The successor to the 40 was penned, but never progressed further. That is, until today—nearly 58 years later.
The “New” Lotus Type 66
With Lotus’ 75th anniversary occurring in 2023, it only seems appropriate to create this rediscovered sports racer. The “lost Lotus” was found in company archives and Clive Chapman, son of Lotus founder, Colin Chapman, joined the current version of his father’s company to build this track-only car. The original design was penned by Team Lotus draftsman Geoff Ferris, as Colin still had interest in CanAm when it was designed. While a full-scale version of the car was never built, there were some small scale models made to show what the Type 66 would look like in real life were it to compete in the 1970 CanAm season.
Fortunately, modern Lotus is a bit more safety focused than during the senior Chapman’s reign, and the modern Type 66 is designed with the technology and underpinnings of a modern race car. Even so, its carbon fiber body looks as vintage as any of the classic race cars running at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion during Monterey Car Week—and yet hides advanced and contemporary aero aids. The front wing uses the same principle employed by the Emira, the Eletre EV, and Evija hypercar, channeling air through the car and out under the rear wing. All told, the Type 66 generates an amount of downforce equal to its curb weight of 1,764 pounds at 150 mph.
Other modern amenities include an electric power steering column, a sequential race transaxle with reverse, an ABS system, anti-stall clutch system, and modern extruded aluminum sections with bonded joints and aluminum honeycomb panels.
A V-8 Beast
Of course, if the Type 66 is going to be a modern reinterpretation of a Lotus CanAm car, it needs an engine equal to task. That means there is no electrification underhood; instead, it uses a mid-mounted pushrod V-8 packing a forged aluminum crankshaft, a set of forged rods, and pistons along with a set of air intake trumpets sticking out from the engine cover. This Lotus-tuned push-rod V-8 pumps out 830 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque.
Unfortunately the Type 66 is (as far as we’re aware) not eligible to compete in any racing series, but that probably won’t bother any customers who can afford the price “in excess of” $1.27 million.” Just 10 examples will be produced, which means that Monterey Car Week might be the only way you’ll get to see the Lotus Type 66 in person. It will be on display at the Concept Lawn at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance on Sunday, August 20. If you’re there, don’t miss the MotorTrend 2023 Japanese Automotive Invitational presented by Infiniti, or the panel about future classics on Friday August 18 at the Concours Village from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM hosted by none other than our own Ed Loh.