Minty Fresh 1958 Lotus Elite Series 1 Headed To Auction
Sometimes it takes something truly stunning to remind you why certain brands are held in such high regard. This 1958 Lotus Elite Series 1 basically knocked me upside the head when I came across it, and that was just on the first glance. Once I dug into the history of this specific example, and then the history of the model, I found myself more enamored with Lotus than I ever thought possible. Did you know that Lotus founder Colin Chapman paid some of his Elite development team in sandwiches and beer? How about the fact that that the Elite was the first car to be produced using "fibreglass" monocoque construction, or that it had a drag c0-efficient of 0.29 and was capable of returning around 40mpg even when cruising at 80mph? I certainly didn't know any of that prior to reading up on this car, and I never would have read up on it were it not so damn pretty. That's what makes a classic car truly valuable, the ability to grab you with its looks, and then impresses you with its history. There are certainly cars that are even better looking than the Elite, but few that have such an interesting backstory to compliment the design. As for this particular example, it holds even more value, because this isn't just any Elite, it's the first one ever sold. RELATED: See Photos of the All-New Lotus Evora 400
Chassis #1009 wasn't sold to just anyone, it was purchased by a friend of Colin Chapman's, legendary British jazz musician Chris Barber. Barber bought the car in the fall of 1958, following it being on display at the Earls Court Motor Show, and promptly set about racing it, with the first entry into the field coming on the 26th of December, at at Brands Hatch.
This was the first of the many races that the car officially titled, "CB 23," would run during Barber's ownership. Between that first run in 1958, and its last in 1963, CB 23 had more than a few historic moments. The two most noteworthy coming with a class lap record at Spa with Sir John Whitmore at the wheel, and Mike Beckwith driving it to a in class Tourist Trophy victory at Goodwood in 1963.
Production of the Elite ended in September of 196, with just 1,030 examples of the fine machine having been built. The car had catapulted Lotus into the big leagues of sports car manufacturing, and helped bring in the attention needed to fund its motorsports efforts. Lotus would go on to become a force to be reckoned with in Formula 1, starting with Jim Clark's legendary seven-win season that culminated in Lotus' first F1 World Championship in 1963, which would be followed by over a decade of success. It's more than fair to say that without Colin Chapman and Team Lotus, the history of 20th century motorsports would look very different.
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Having all the pedigree one could possibly ask for in an example of an Elite, "CB 23" is a highly desirable piece of hardware for any collector. However, given that a complete restoration by renowned restorer Ant Anstead was just completed earlier this year, I would hope that whomever takes it home from auction will drive it regularly, not just at the many vintage races it will surely be invited to. With an FIA approved roll cage from Frabricage, and FIA homologated Tillett B6F Carbon-GRP racing seat, CB 23 is now much safer than it would have been in it's original configuration.
That added piece of mind is quite welcome as the engine was rebuilt by Glyn Peacock, a Coventry-Climax specialist, to his full race "all-steel" specification. Sporting forged pistons and rods, a steel crank, bigger valves, and a wealth of other modifications that he's developed, the 1.2-liter straight 4-cylinder engine in chassis #1009 made 120 horsepower on the dyno. Keep in mind that this is a car that weighed 1,100 pounds in stock form, and likely remains close to that figure even with all the modifications.
Historically significant, and superbly restored, CB 23 is sure to attract a-lot of attention when it rolls onto the block at The Silverstone Classic Sale on July 30th.
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