Simanaitis Says

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“RACING IMPROVES THE BREED” has equestrian origins, and horsepower of another variety confirms this adage as well. As does architect Louis Sullivan’s axiom “Form follows function.” The Lotus 23 sports racing car is a rolling example of both. Tidbits today and tomorrow are gleaned from analysis of this car in R&T March 1962 followed by a Lotus 23 driving impression in R&T January 1963 written by Henri L’Afitt (whom some may identify by another moniker). 

The 23’s Heritage. David Phipps observed, “In 1960, Lotus produced the Nineteen, or Monte Carlo, a sports version of the 1960 Formula One car. Now comes the 23, a 2-seater based on the all-conquering 1961 Formula Junior Lotus and incorporating most of the modifications found in the 1962 model.”

Phipps continued, “If early tests are any guide—Peter Arundell lapped the Silverstone Club circuit in 1:7.6, well below the 1100-cc lap record, in a bodyless 1000-cc prototype—this car is going places.”

Could form better follow function? This and other images from R&T, March 1962.

From Formula Junior to Two-Seater. Phipps noted, “The chassis is basically similar to that of the 1961 Lotus Junior, but widened out to accommodate two seats. It consists of three bays, and every frame, except the one through which the driver’s body projects, is fully triangulated. Thanks to increased cross-section area, it is considerably stiffer than that of the Junior.”

“The forward bulkhead,” Phipps described, “provides mounting points for the front suspension, the steering rack, the battery, the pedals and the cross-flow radiator. The scuttle bulkhead… locates steering column, gear levers, seats, instruments  and switches. The rear radius arms are mounted on the engine bulkhead, which also supports the 9-gallon fuel tank, helps to locate the seats and takes out loads from the engine mountings (at the junction of two side-frame diagonals). Engine loads are also taken out, via the gearbox mountings, in the rear bulkhead; the latter also provides mountings for the rear suspension.”

Chapman’s wizardry of structural dynamics is evident. Also noteworthy is his reputation for discarding bits until something fails, then refitting only that last bit.

Multi-tasking Chassis Tubes. Phipps reported, “The top left and bottom right longitudinal chassis members are used as water pipes linking engine and radiator, while the top right and bottom left members act as oil pipes; the interior of these tubes is specially treated with an anti-corrosive phosphate film.” 

Appendix J Bodywork. International motorsports was still reacting to the 1955 Le Mans tragedy, and Phipps noted, “The bodywork, of resin-bonded glass-fiber, complies with Appendix J. Group IV, 1962, in respect to windscreen height, luggage space (alongside the engine) [my italics, not Phipps’], ground clearance and turning circle.”

For more on this, see “Le Mans Tops and Suitcases.”

Phipps noted, “Overall length is 140 in., width 59.5 in. and maximum height 27 in. (to the top of the windscreen). Weight, ready to go, is 880 lb.” 

“A mighty small frontal area faces the wind. And a mighty small rear view faces the competitors.” Image from R&T, January 1963

Details. Phipps described, “The basic specification of the 23 includes an 1100-cc 100-plus bhp Cosworth-Ford mounted behind the driver…  Disc brakes are installed as standard, and 1470- or 997- engines are available at extra cost. Power transmission is by a modified 7.5-in. Ford clutch and either a Renault or Volkswagen-based 4-speed close-ratio gearbox/final drive unit.”

A polished 23 as it appeared at the 1962 Racing Car Show.

“Early reports on the 23,” Phipps said, “are that the handling is every bit as good as that of the 1961 Formula Junior, while the brakes are described as ‘fantastic.’ The queue starts at Delamare Road, Cheshunt, Herts.” 

Tomorrow, a pseudonymed Henry N. Manney III joins the queue. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022


  1. Bob Storck
    November 10, 2022

    There’s a saying among aircraft designers, “If it looks right, it is right.” In the dawn of my automotive day, the Ferrari Testa Rossa, the Jag XK-E, the Lola GT Mk6 and the Lotus 23 showed the aero adage translated to four wheels.
    Amazingly, the 23 has been raced with engines from 750cc to 5 liter V8s (shudder!!), winning countless championships, even with George Follmer’s 2 Liter Porsche 4 cam version besting the mighty Chapparals for the USRRC title.
    It has been copied/recreated several times, with a chrome moly framed, carbon fibered body version claiming empty weight close to 700′!
    However, Colin Chapman undermined the adage with his swoopy but ill begotten Lotus 30/40s.

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