Thursday, April 3, 2014

Giant Killer, Version 2.0

Jim Clark's Lotus 23 trouncing the opposition at the Nurburgring in 1962 (recent post), including the then-latest Porsche Spyders, reminded me of the second lease on life as a giant killer granted to one of my favorite engines, the Porsche 4-cam 4-cylinder.  It wasn't long before people were asking themselves "What if I put a 2 liter engine in a car like the Lotus 23?"  Which they did, and began slaying giants again in the mid-to-late 1960's.

Above and below: George Follmer was United States Road Racing Champion in 1965 in a Lotus 23-Porsche he built
himself.  His car used the "old" vertical fan 4-cam 4-cylinder.  The fully enclosed rear tires of the original Lotus 23
did not last for long.  One reason flared fenders have become an icon of "the high-performance look" even down to
today was that tire widths increased so rapidly in the 1960's.  A car designed in Year X had to have its fenders
flared to take Year Y's rubber.  Follmer's car is pictured below much later in as-restored condition.

Follmer's success inspired others to copy his car (John Morton, for instance, as he pointed out in a recent Jay Leno interview).  Still others tried different 1.7 to 2.0 liter engines, notably the BMW inline
4-cylinder.  Elva Cars designed the Mark VII to take several inline 4's.  Many were successful, especially in the SCCA's amateur division.

Meanwhile, Porsche was moving on to its own series of 6 and 8-cylinder lightweight prototypes, starting with the 906 Carrera.  But the 904 GT had guaranteed a supply of the old 4-cam 4-cylinder engines. The success of the Lotus 23 and the Elva Mark VII inspired a demand.  Elva redesigned the rear frame of the Mark VII to take the engine and partnered with Porsche for a short production run of Elva-Porsches which were very successful in the Under 2 Liter class.  One more bite at the apple for the old torquey, powerful, giant-killing 4-cam 4-cylinder.

The Elva Mark VII, inspired by the Lotus 23, was designed to take a variety of 1.5 to 2.0 liter inline 4-cylinder mills.
This one has a BMW.

Bill Wuesthoff was notable among several drivers who had great success in an Elva-Porsche.  This picture shows Bill
and his car at Meadowdale Raceway in the late 1960's.

Above and below: a restored Elva-Porsche.  The car was a short production run partnership between the two firms.
Elva redesigned the frame of its Mark VII specifically to take the 4-cam 4-cylinder.  Porsche supplied the latest,
flat-fan, plain bearing, version of that engine and transaxle.

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