Lotus founder Colin Chapman formed a team of hard-working volunteers to help him create a break-through model for 1956. While production Lotus Marks 8, 9 and 10 were based on the Mark 6, the Eleven was drawn from scratch. Its closest ancestor was the works Mark 9 Le Mans racer, a test-bed for what was to come. The Eleven used a steel tubular space-frame with stressed aluminium panels. The elegant chassis weighed under 70 pounds. It was powered by the new alloy Coventry Climax engine, an overhead cam design with an impressive power-to-weight-ratio. Covering the vehicle was a stunning aerodynamic body designed by Frank Costin; hand-made of aluminium and hinged at both ends for complete access. The Eleven was as advanced as anything on wheels at the time.
From their introduction, Lotus Elevens were dominant in nearly every class they entered, particularly at Le Mans and Sebring. At Le Mans in 1956, a Lotus Eleven finished first in class and seventh overall. Lotus returned in 1957 with more cars. The 1100cc Lotus Elevens finished first, second and fourth in class (ninth, thirteenth and sixteenth overall). Elevens were equally successful in the sprint races of sports car clubs around the world.
Road going Elevens were introduced in the spring of 1956. 271 were built by the summer of 1958, when Lotus shifted focus to newer models. Although Lotus as a company grew (as did production capacity), the Eleven stands out as the model that established their reputation as a manufacturer of high quality, well designed sports cars for serious competition use.
Elevens were available in Sports, Club, or Le Mans models. The Sports model featured a Ford “10” 1172cc engine, solid rear axle, and drum brakes. The Club model was upgraded with a Coventry Climax engine, and the Le Mans model featured the same Coventry Climax engine, but also DeDion rear suspension and disc brakes all around. Lotus would happily substitute more powerful versions of the Coventry Climax engine for an additional charge.
Chassis 195 is a highly original Eleven with continuous history from new. The car was supplied in short-door Club specification by Racing Engines Ltd. to Captain Archibold Colville of Melrose, a wartime captain with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers. Enlisting the help of a local engineer, Captain Colville took almost 6 months to assemble his Eleven, owning and enjoying his Lotus on the road until 1963.
Captain Colville sold the car to local enthusiast Stephen Grant, a neighbour and friend of famous Lotus racer Jim Clark. Grant upgraded the Eleven to Le Mans spec, fitting a De Dion rear axle and disc brakes all round. Grant enjoyed the Lotus for 5 years or more, becoming involved in club racing at Ingleston and Doune, but with a heavy heart sold the Lotus shortly after Jim Clark was killed at Hockenheim in 1968. Chassis 195 travelled to London, and to a local fur dealer by the name of Moger, who had his new Lotus painted light green, the seats trimmed in red leather, and the dash machine-turned.
After a relatively short period of ownership, chassis 195 passed in 1971 to the present vendor’s father, a doctor with British Caledonian. Over the last four decades the Lotus has been used and enjoyed regularly, but also maintained to a high standard. Notably, in 2004 chassis 195 enjoyed light restoration work at the hands of Le Mans racer Peter Sargent’s personal mechanic, and in 2014 the engine benefitted from an overhaul by Barry Sheraton.
As offered, we have a fabulous Mille Miglia eligible Lotus which can be equally used on the road as on the track. To be lucky enough to purchase any original Lotus Eleven is a rare treat. To find an original four owner from new car, with its original engine and bodywork, and single family ownership for the last 44 years, is completely unheard of. Chassis 195 is offered with the original buff logbook, its original steering wheel, current UK V5 document, also a complete record of its history drafted by Lotus historian Graham Capel. A fabulous example of an era-defining road-racer, and surely a once in a lifetime opportunity.