For Auction: Ex Team Lotus 1956 Lotus Eleven Le Mans
Bonhams are delighted to offer not just one of the most beautifully restored and exquisitely well-presented Lotus Elevens at the Collectors’ Motor cars and Automobilia auction at Goodwood. The car is the distinctively important ex-works Team Lotus Le Mans car – the Cliff Allison/Keith Hall race number ’35’ as deployed in the 1956 Le Mans 24-Hour race.
The two sister works-entered Elevens – the car offered here co-driven by future Formula 1 factory Lotus and Ferrari driver Cliff Allison/Keith Hall, and that shared by Colin Chapman/Herbert Mackay Frazer, both retired from the gruelling race. This Allison/Hall car – running as race number ’35’ – completed 89 laps before being sidelined by a crash. “As Cliff Allison was hurtling down the Mulsanne Straight that night a huge german Shepherd dog suddenly appeared right in his path. He aimed right to avoid it, only for the unfortunate animal to change its mind and dodge back right into the path of the Lotus. Team Lotus mechanic Ernie Unger recalled: “It was quite misty and Cliff said the impact was so severe it threw the car into a high speed spin, thankfully straight down the road. Cliff told me he laid down across the seats so as not to get his head knocked off if he hit anything, and when he got down he noticed the headlights were still working and laughingly described the moment as lying down in a high-speed lighthouse watching the scenery going round and round…” (quoted by Graham Gauld in ‘Cliff Allison: From the Fells to Ferrari’, Veloce Publishing, 2008). The Chapman/Frazer entry, number ’32’ – survived 172 laps before its engine failed.
That 1956 Le Mans 24-Hours race was the first to be run after the catastrophic accident which had so defaced the 1955 edition at the Sarthe circuit. Not only had the entire pits area and start/finish section of the circuit been completely redesigned and rebuilt, the technical regulations governing the event’s entry had undergone complete revision, driven by safety considerations.