1970 Lotus Type 59 Formula Ford
Serial Number: believed to be 59xF3/FF/45 (see below)
We have assembled extensive original Lotus documentation on this type including an exhaustive 20 page parts list and the original chassis drawings. Copies of these documents will accompany the car and will prove a valuable resource in completing the restoration.
The car is one of two cars purchased from Lotus Components by Oscar Taub under his business name PECO which was a supplier of aftermarket exhaust and tuning parts in South Africa. They were purchased from Lotus from the floor of the Racing Car Show and shipped to South Africa in December of 1970 to participate in teh BOAC Sunshine series, aka the South African Formula Ford Championship. Formula Ford was red hot at this time and South Africa was an annual winter testing destination for any motor racing team which was able, also hosting a Gran Prix. The flame was also turned up a notch for local competitors due to the "Driver to Europe" program within the Sunshine Series. The highest placed South African driver would win a sponsored drive in various European Formula Ford Championships. This turned out to be one Jody Scheckter, who actually was not the highest placed driver, but more about that later.
Oscar Taub was backing a young South African driver on his team named Mick Formato. A part of the agreement with Lotus, the cars ran under the banner of "Peco Team Lotus" and were promised works development. In addition, a works Lotus Formula Ford driver, Geddes Yeates, was provided as a teammate to Formato. This is Yeates car, number 32, Formato's carried number 33. Yeates had finished second in the 1969 British Formula Ford Championship in a Merlyn and was picked up by Lotus as part of a concerted effort to make a big impression in Formula Ford with the new Type 69FF design. The Lotuses were considered a "works" effort and are reported that way in contemporary articles in, for instance, Autosport. The official entrant is listed as Repco Team Lotus. Oscar Taub and Peco were Repco distributors so some addition support must have been forthcoming from Repco. A third Lotus was a Type 59FF entered by privateer F. Pollack of Belgium.
The cars duly arrived in Johannesburg for the five race series which featured over twenty entrants. See the photo of Peco Team Lotus prior to the start of the season. Three overseas drivers were entered in the series including Yeates, Peter Hull from New Zealand, and F. Pollack from Belgium. The series quickly settled into a 4 way battle between Formato, Yeates, Hull, and Scheckter, with Formato and Scheckter battling it out for the prized "Driver to Europe" award. Hull was driving a Palliser and Scheckter a Lola T-200. Yeates won the opening round at the new Brandkop circuit, followed by Hull and Formato, Scheckter coming 7th. In Hull's words in an Autosport article, "Geddes Yeates motored himself and his Lotus 69 into the distance without visible effort".
The second round at Kyalami saw Scheckter and local man Richard Sterne on the front row, followed by Yeates and Hull. Scheckter won, followed by Sterne, with Yeates third but Sterne was disqualified due to motor irregularities and Yeates preserved the series lead. Hull had a big off, seriously tweaking his car. The third venue saw Hull take the win, after winner Sterne was again disqualified! A fourth Lotus (a new type 69FF) was now entered by local privateer Derek Tunmer, who had started in another marque. As an indication of just how seriously Lotus Components took the series, for the fourth venue at Goldfields, director Mike Warner accompanied Tunmer's new car, and designer Dave Baldwin was flown in to assist in car preparation, the Peco Lotuses having apparently lost their early edge and the Holbay engines being suspect. Victories in these winter series could generate signficant sales for the coming summer season in Europe. Baldwin did many test laps with Hull and Formato, and ended switching to crossply Dunlops from the original radials. Formato was locked in a battle with Scheckter for the Driver to Europe.
To quote a classic bit of period Fomula Ford reporting from Autosport (Sterne is again in the lead, pulling out about a second a lap on his way to a third disqualification!),
"As the leaders went through the esses at the start of the second lap Yeates got all crossed up and lost it completely, restarting at the rear of the field."
"In the meantime Hull was closing on Formato, Scheckter, and Clapham, who had dropped Kelzan, and a battle royal followed for second position, with position changing continuously until three laps from the end when Hull managed to make a break and pull out slightly. This left Formato, Scheckter, and Clapham at it tooth and nail, and as this trio went down the straight for the last time Scheckter pulled out of Formato's slipstream and went by. Clapham tried to do the same but only got alongside the Lotus before they had to brake hard for the sharpish right-hander at the end of the straight. Clapham tried again to get past at the next left-hander after the short 300 yds straight which takes them across the entrance tunnel, and as Formato and Clapham went into BP corner just before the pits their wheels touched and the Lotus shot high in the air, landing heavily on its roll bar. It slid along for 20 yds upside down before flipping back onto its wheels as it hit the dirt on the outside of the circuit. Although the car was not too seriously damaged (the left rear suspension was torn off), Formato suffered a seriously broken right forearm which will keep him out of racing for some time..."
An so ended Mick Formato's efforts at becoming a Fomula One driver. Going in to the fourth round at Killarney, Cape Town; Hull, Yeates, or Scheckter could earn the series win but Scheckter had the Driver to Europe sewn up. As a result the field was significantly depleted, down from a high of 25 cars to only 12. Yeates won the first heat from Hull and Scheckter, and in the second Hull won after Scheckter and Yeates took each other out. So, Hull won the series, Yeates was runner up, and Scheckter went to Europe and you know what else. As was the norm in South African or Australian and New Zealand winter campaigns, the works cars were sold off locally before the teams returned to England.
Our sincere thanks to Geddes Yeates who gratiously provided us with a wealth of material from his scrapbooks including photos, race results and reports from Autosport, and clippings from South African newspapers. We've reproduced two newspaper clippings as part of the listing, both reporting Geddes win in the first race.
We are also greatful to Ian Hebblethwaite of South Africa who is assembling the complete history of all racing cars in South Africa. Unbelievably, Ian was able to assemble the complete ownership trail of the car for us. He also uncovered some pretty fascinating tidbits. We quote from some of his mail:
"I can now confirm the full S.A. history of the car of which you obtained the chassis from Johan; Imported by Taub/Paul Levy as Peco Engineering in December 1970 as the sister car to probable (chassis number) 59 FB 8 for the first Sunshine Series, first race 16/1/71. Was intended for Jody Scheckter to drive, but he decided to stick to a Lola T-200 that he had driven for a couple of times for Ford Motorsport, hence drive was given to young Englishman Geddes Yeates. Over the 5 race series Yeates came second to Peter Hull in a Palliser (which subsequently was driven by Ian Scheckter) and Jody came 3rd. The Lotus was then owned/driven by the following until approx.imately 1981 when it was crashed by Braam Smith who now works for the Fred Goddard F3000 team in the UK."
"Terry Bengis, Roy Klomfass, Sean Toner, John Moni, Nino Venturi, Matt Keyser, Dean Chapman, Braam Smith, then in w/off state by Koos Roets, Jannie Van Aswegen, and finally Johan Nel."
Despite extensive efforts on Ian's and our parts, we have not been able to conclusively identify the original serial number of the car. The car certainly had the Lotus Components chassis tag on the top right engine bay frame rail, the rivet holes are still there. As is often the case, it has been removed by someone along the way. Geddes does not remember the number. I have spoken to Braam Smith, who crashed the car at over 100 MPH into armco and walked away. (He was most impressed by the chassis strength! He still has the badly bent steering wheel.) When he acquired the car the chassis tag was already missing and it had RP21 bodywork but it was known to be one of the Peco cars. The frame does not have an Arch Motors stamp. This is not unusual for Lotus 59s and 69s as many chassis were built by the works. We have restored Lotus 69s which did not have Arch Frame numbers and were recorded as such in the Lotus Sales records.
We now believe the car was most likely 59xF3/FF/45. The surviving Lotus sales records are a collection of loose leaf cards which were actually recovered from a dumpster by a Lotus enthusiast after Lotus Components went out of business. Many cards are missing, including the one for this car. The Formato car is recorded in the Lotus sales records as "xF3/FF/46 but was filed in the Lotus Type 69 records with a build date of 13/12/70. The next highest Lotus 69 FF is numbered 28 and was built 10/5/71. Furthermore, the build date for 7169/1FF/xF3, 69 FF number 1, is listed as 4/3/71. The Formato and Yeates cars were clearly built before the first "official" Lotus 69 FF. We believe the sales card for the Formato car was mis-filed in the 69 records and in fact was built as a 59 FF. This is Geddes' recollection. He remembered quite clearly that both cars were built from converted Type 59 F3s. Looking at the photo of the Peco team it is clear that the cars have type 59 rear suspension, which differs from that of the Type 69. If we consult the Type 59 sales records this makes even more sense. The last surviving type 59 record shows a Type 59 Formula Ford constructed for Belgian Claude Bourgoignie. This was recorded as 59xB/F2/43 (the FB and F2 designation applied despite being notated as built to Formula Ford spec, the 59 serial numbers are very erratic). The Peco Formato car is known to be xF3/FF/46, making Geddes car most likely 59xF3/FF/45 as they were built and shipped together by Geddes recollection. His car carried the lower race number and presumeably was the lower serial number.
Some time in the winter of 1970/71 the marketing department at Lotus Components made the decision to highlight the incremental improvements to the Type 59 as the "new" for 1971 Type 69. The difference between them are strictly detail improvements, the revised chisel nose bodywork had already been fitted to type 59s, known as Type 59As. The Type 59 had been around for almost 3 years now and having a new type number wouldn't hurt sales. For this reason the Peco cars would have been entered as Type 69s.