The 1950s marked one of the most exciting times for sports car racing. As time progressed through the decade it became clear in which the route of development for this class of racing would take. Cars became smaller, lighter and more powerful all adding to the excitement and pure competition.
This excitement for racing attracted a handful of bespoke English manufacturers who would quickly lead the marque during this era of racing. The founder of Lotus Cars, Colin Chapman who had already left his mark with the Lotus 6 decided to focus his efforts towards dominating the sports car racing scene. The Lotus mark 8, 9, and 10 quickly followed suit before Chapmans most iconic creation yet, the Lotus 11 which soon became Lotus’ most successful race car design.
The Lotus 15 came as a direct development from the already established Lotus 11 and would without doubt become the most successful front engine sports car to leave the Lotus factory. The redesigned body allowed the driver to sit much lower as well as the obvious aerodynamic advantages. Not only did it succeed the 11 with performance, it was also far rarer with just 27 examples produced. Chassis design was similar to its predecessor however the rear suspension and brake setup drastically changed to Chapman struts and inboard brakes both influenced from the Lotus 16 Formula 1 car
The Series 3 Lotus 15 was introduced in 1959 with chassis upgrades and reinforcements to weak areas found on the earlier cars. The front suspension was also revised as well as a one piece bonnet extending from the front of the car to the dashboard.
This Series 3 example (1 of only 7 produced) was constructed in 1959 and delivered to Mr Tom Fleming located in the USA via Lotus distributor Grand Prix Cars of New Jersey. A new 2 litre Coventry Climax engine supplied by Racing Engines Limited came installed in the car. Importantly this example was fitted with wire knock-off wheels allowing an immediate advantage when racing over the majority of cars fitted with 5 stud wheels.
Fleming first used the car to compete in the 1959 Nassau Trophy Road Races in which he placed a commendable 3rd in class behind none other than Roger Penske and Bob Holbert. More impressive still was that Fleming and the Lotus placed ahead of a Ferrari 500 TRC and a 250 GT SWB.
Fleming’s success continued with another 3rd in class at the Bridgehampton SCCA National meeting and later in August 1960 with a 1st in class win at the Montgomery Airport Circuit securing 3rd place in the SCCA National Drivers Championship. It was later raced by John Holmes in place of Fleming in the 1960 SCCA Nationals at Watkins Glen. At the end of the 1960 season Fleming and the Lotus took 3rd place in class only being exceeded by Roger Penske and who went onto to race in Formula 1 and Bob Holbert who became a class winner at Le Mans.
In 1961 Fleming sold the car to another racer Mr John Willock residing in Long Island, New York. Willock importantly installed the more effective and robust American Borg-Warner T10 gearbox creating a major advantage over other ZF and MG gearbox cars. Willock campaigned the car across a number of SCCA events during his ownership with similar success, the last of which taking 3rd in class at the 1962 Lime Rock SCCA Nationals. Willock stored the car unutilised until 1970 when it was subsequently purchased by Englishman Mr Murray Smith, a well-known historic racer residing in the USA.
The Lotus passed through 2 more owners before being sold in 1997 to the Great collector Mr Hugh Taylor. Taylor immediately repatriated the car to England to join his renowned collection. Hugh retained the car for 18 years meanwhile participating in a number of historic events with great success including 1st place in 2004 at the Gentleman Drivers Trophy at Donington Park.
Totally Restored by Twyman racing who are undoubtedly amongst the best in the world for Lotus restoration and race preparation. The restoration cost in the region of £75,000. – Which goes a very long way with a small Lotus. Remarkably during the restoration it was confirmed that the cars body is almost entirely original, the complicated front bonnet and rear bodywork showing its age and originality and the chassis remains undamaged and original. The cars engine number also matches that on the Chassis plate which is highly irregular on such a car! It has since competed in a number of historic events including Silverstone GT and Sports Car Cup, Le Mans Classic twice, The Goodwood Revival, Spa 6 Hours and the Donnington Historic Festival.
All major components have recently been rebuilt, it has not been campaigned in 2019 but in 2018 was running as high as 4th at the Le Mans Classic. No mean feat at a circuit which favours the more powerful Listers, Maseratis and Aston Martins in Plateau 3.
This highly eligible Lotus also benefits from full UK road registration. At less than half the price of the equivalent Lister a Lotus XV is a fabulous race winning tool for Le Mans, Goodwood and the Stirling Moss Trophy, and this unique series 3 example must be one of the most original cars extant. Having been maintained with no expense spared it is presented on the button ready to be used and enjoyed immediately with viewings available at our showrooms just outside London.
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