In August, Lotus brought history back to life with the world premiere of the Type 66 – and confirmed the stunning track-only car will go into production. This unique project was unveiled at ‘The Quail, A Motorsport Gathering’ as part of Monterey Car Week in California, USA. Truly exotic in its design execution, the Type 66 is a new, ultra-exclusive, low-volume car from Lotus. It brings to life a ‘lost Lotus’ drawing board programme from the brand’s world-renowned motorsport heritage, combining it with today’s state-of-the-art racing technology and components.
The Type 66 has been launched in Lotus’s 75th anniversary year and is testament to the brand's desire to reimagine the best elements of its heritage, updating them in the most exhilarating way possible. With his eyes on the high-profile and commercially lucrative Can-Am Series, Lotus founder Colin Chapman had tasked Team Lotus draughtsman Geoff Ferris to launch the Type 66 project to evaluate how Lotus design principles could be applied to this exciting category. Chapman’s primary focus on Formula 1 meant the innovative project never went beyond technical drawings and scale models. In a fitting tribute to the brand’s illustrious racing pedigree and heritage, Lotus has proudly fulfilled the original vision 53 years after the designer first put pen to paper.
The car made its public debut in a heritage-inspired livery – reflecting the red, white and gold colours Lotus raced in during the early Seventies – and which could have adorned the Type 66, alongside the all-conquering Lotus Type 72 F1 car. The Type 66 is one of the most exclusive projects Lotus has ever undertaken and each example will cost in excess of £1 million. Only 10 examples of this ‘rediscovered and reimagined’ Lotus V8 will be built. It’s a total selected to commemorate the number of races the Type 66 would have competed in during the 1970 season.
Crucial to the development of the Type 66 programme has been Clive Chapman, Managing Director of Classic Team Lotus and son of Colin Chapman. It was documents held by Clive which allowed the Lotus Design team to bring the car to life.
“The car would have shared many innovative features with our most successful F1 chassis, the Lotus Type 72, which was developed during the same era. These include side-mounted radiators which helped reduce front drag, increase front downforce and channel airflow through and over the car. The rear of the car incorporates a distinctive tail section, resembling the Le Mans endurance cars of the period. These features would have boosted its downforce considerably, compared to rivals, aiding high-speed stability and ultimately its lap times. It would have been spectacular, as is the actual Type 66 we see today,” Clive said. He added that it’s highly likely that Lotus F1 legend Emerson Fittipaldi would have driven the Type 66 if it had been built. The Brazilian was guest of honour on the Lotus stand at The Quail and helped to unveil the car.
The Lotus Type 66 has benefitted from more than half a century of technical progress since it was imagined to optimise its design, engineering and manufacture. Using state-of-the-art computer software, the team digitised a series of 1/4 and 1/10th scale drawings supplied by Clive Chapman and created 3D renders to provide an entirely new perspective of the vehicle. The original sketches were true to Colin Chapman’s early designs, featuring a cockpit enclosure that would reduce drag and improve airflow to the rear wing.
In order to conform to modern safety standards and to ensure 21st century driver confidence, the original designs were delicately reinterpreted. New features to the vehicle include a modernised driver compartment, inboard fuel cell, sequential transmission and anti-stall system. Everything is contained in a full carbon fibre bodyshell.
The front wing was designed to channel air from the front of the car, through and underneath the rear wing, generating more downforce than the vehicle’s total weight at full speed. This sense of porosity, where air travels through a vehicle rather than around it, remains a signature element of Lotus vehicle design today.
Optimised aerodynamics has been part of the Lotus DNA for all its 75 years, and the Type 66 is no exception. More than 1 000 hours of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) work has gone into the programme, resulting in downforce in excess of 800kg at 150mph. That’s far more than the original underbody design would have been able to manage, enhancing both driver safety and vehicle performance for quicker lap times.
Advanced ‘driver-in-the-loop’ technology has been used to test how the vehicle would perform on race tracks around the globe, such as Laguna Seca, Silverstone, Fuji and Spa. Thanks to modern-day engineering and ingenuity, the Type 66 now matches the dynamic performance and lap times of a modern GT3 race car. On some circuits, such as Laguna Seca, simulator work suggests it could actually be quicker.
At the heart of the Type 66 is a period-representative V8 push-rod engine. It’s mid-mounted for optimised handling, tuned by Lotus to produce more than 830bhp at 8800rpm. Bespoke modern-day components include a forged crank, rod and pistons, which generate torque of more than 746Nm at 7400rpm. The iconic Can-Am-inspired air intake ‘trumpets’ take centre stage at the top of the engine. To ensure drivers can unlock maximum performance when on track, the Type 66 features modern comforts such as an EPASS motorsport power steering column, a sequential racing gearbox with reverse, a race ABS braking system, an anti-stall multi-plate clutch and a fixed rollover bar.