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YESTERDAY, WE CELEBRATED the Lotus 23’s sports racing artistry, bred as horsey types might say “by Colin Anthony Chapman out of Lotus Formula Junior.” Today we share driving impressions of the Lotus 23 offered in R&T January 1963 written by none other than Henri L’Afitt.
Henri L’Afitt? Is this paying homage to French aristo Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, who played a role in American Independence or merely Henry N. Manney III having fun with the fact that he managed to accommodate the Lotus 23’s extremely reclined driving position? I suspect a bit of both.
Henri on Competition. “Once upon a time, dear reader,” Henry/Henri began, “if people wished to get from one place to another they walked. Those who wished to get the choicest dinosaur cutlets, or to avoid being eaten instead, ran. The quicker folk needed no advertising to set themselves apart from others, as they were the only ones left alive.”
“As conditions grew more reasonable,” Henry continued, “fleetness of foot grew to be less important and even the Hunchback of Notre Dame could escape creditors, alimony, and the King’s tax collectors by availing himself of a rapid horse. Cowboy movies notwithstanding, this age too passed and once past the age of puberty the only running seen these days is out the back door of someone’s pad when the fuzz comes to check on smog violations potwise.”
Henry, of course, was writing in the ’60s.
He continued, “Generally speaking, the internal combustion machine now sees to our locomotion and very nicely too, even if the problem of evading triceratops, alimony, et al now requires jets.”
“Human nature being what it is,” Henry observed, “the automobile has taken various forms from the Morgan-JAP three-wheeler to Pomeroy’s stately Rolls-Royce, with solid citizens like the VW or Model T supplying the real meat in the stew. Possibly remaining as an atavistic urge, though, there will always be some nit who wants to get there first and it is for him that sports and racing cars are built.”
This, by the way, explains why those of us of a certain age love HNM III’s writing so much. It continues:
“Until fairly recently, the real seeker after speed had to confine his kidneys to the tender caresses of a Bentley, Mercedes, Bimotore Alfa, V-12 Maserati or, postwar, any of the various Ferrari variants. All of these were large and made noise. The little stuff, like Panhards, made noise too but it was a sort not fit to describe in a family magazine.”
The Lotus 23. “Because the FIA feels that prototipi, or for that matter sports cars, should be at least vaguely road-mannered we will approach the test from that direction. The 23 is a sports car, a two-seater roadster to be exact, and besides stating that it has a tubular space frame, four-wheel independent suspension, and fiberglass bodywork I will leave you to the mercies of the Technical Ed. who understands all the reasons thereof.”
“The dry-sump engine,” Henry summarizes, “lives in the back as does the 5-speed gearbox and clutch, and the requisite baggage space as well for those clothes that won’t be harmed by heat…. There is no ashtray.”
Ingress and Egress. “Even to those accustomed to competition machinery, the Lotus 23 is a trifle low,” Henry reported. “This ironed-out look, however, has, as an unexpected dividend, the advantage that one may forgo wearing out the door hinges, always a weak spot on fiberglass bodywork….”
The Fashionable Reclining Position. “One’s arms are at extra-full stretch,” Henry noted. “In fact, far-sighted drivers can easily dispense with bifocals in reading the water-temperature or oil pressure gauges and of course the tach, which is redlined at 7500.”
Don’t Worry About What’s Behind. “The streamlined driving mirror perches in a high central position on the screen to clear the rear deck. This fitment is largely a formality, as it vibrates too much to be really useful.”
Performance Galore. “As far as performance is concerned, the 23 was marvelous and it almost shot out from under me. Corners presented a novel control problem as the leather-covered steering wheel is about the size of a pie plate and way out at the end of my arms….”
Summing Up. “The most valuable thing I found out, I think,” Henry said, “is that I ain’t ever going to be a race driver. For those who are, though, the 23 would be hard to beat as a small, handy package which can take a variety of engines from the small to middling large.”
“If it were mine,” Henry concluded, “a 750 would do just fine…. Wisht they’d had them when I was running my Hotshot.” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022
Thank you! Always grateful for selections from “Yr Fthful Srvnt,” as well as the Lotus 23 impressions.
Thank you! ANY remembrance and repetition of Manney’s writing is always a joy to behold! 😎