Sunday, June 1, 2014

Purdy Car

All three pictures are of John Surtees in his Lola T 70: "Il Grande John" to Italians for his successes with Ferrari, and
the only person to be a World Champion on both two wheels (MV Agusta) and four (Ferrari).  He was completely
dominant on motorcycles in the late 1950's and won the Isle of Man TT three times in a row.  He switched to
Grand Prix cars in 1960, was World Champion for Ferrari in 1964.  He had a near-fatal crash in a T 70
at Mosport in 1965, but came back to win the 1966 Can Am Championship in this car.  I believe
Surtees ran a small-block Chevy with side-draft Weber carbs; most T 70 racers did.

Last month's Purdy Picture (Ford GT 40) and Jim Hall's RRDC interview put me in mind of the prettiest "unlimited" sports car: the Lola T 70.  And the prettiest of them all, in my opinion, was the car owned, entered, and driven by John Surtees.  The bold arrow on this car became the emblem of the racing teams, including Grand Prix, run by Surtees before he retired as an owner too.

The T 70 was one of the first cars designed by Eric Broadley after he quit Ford's GT 40 program and resumed building Lola race cars.  Its success showed that he hadn't lost his touch.  What I love most about it are its clean, rounded lines, and the absence of wings.  In that sense, the T 70 was the last gasp of prophylactic aerodynamics: just spoilers, to offset high-speed lift.  Jim Hall's Chaparral 2D was already showing the way forward to scientific aerodynamics: an adjustable wing at the rear and negative pressure at the front to create downforce.  In that context, the T 70 was "the best of the last of the old."

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