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Lotus 56B, 1971

History of the actual car

This model represents that driven by Emerson Fittipaldi on an occasional basis during 1971 for team Lotus. The specific model aspired to, is the car that was entered for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza that year, under the entrant Worldwide Racing. This was because Colin Chapman couldn’t be sure there weren’t still irrational intentions to arrest him (following the fatal accident involving driver Jochen Rindt in 1970 at the circuit). Additionally, Rindt having been killed whilst driving a Lotus 72, there was the possibility that any 72’s he brought to Monza could be impounded.

The Lotus 56B was the Formula One version of the very competitive (though ultimately unsuccessful) Lotus 56 driven in the 1968 Indianapolis 500, in America. Use of four wheel drive and the gas turbine concept had attracted Colin Chapman, when he was asked to build a car for American owner, Andy Granatelli. Three were built and one crashed after suspension failure (Graham Hill) and the two very well placed American entries both suffered fuel pump-drive failures after re-starting following a period under yellow flags late in the race, (phosphor bronze construction rather than the stronger steel shaft in Hill’s car ironically), otherwise victory would have been very likely for Joe Leonard.

In modifying the remaining (fourth) tub in the UK for team Lotus, Pratt and Whitney produced a 3-litre equivalency turbine for use in Formula One and after initial excessive throttle-lag issues, the car was introduced in 1971. The 56B was entered for a number of non-Championship races and for two Grands Prix, the drivers sharing the opportunities, the results of which, were essentially disappointing. With more development, no doubt the car would have had some potential, but it was an interesting concept nonetheless. Later, both four-wheel drive and turbine engines were banned in Formula One.


The Model

This model started in 2007 followed an inspirational visit to see the 56B owned by Classic Team Lotus, housed amongst their mouthwatering collection of iconic cars. The car has been a favourite of mine since seeing it represented as a cereal box gift in the 70’s and since then, its shape has grown on me and an awareness of its special and particular technological features, has endeared the 56/56B to me increasingly. I was fortunate to acquire a curbside 1/14 scale Lotus 56 by Patrice De Conto, which further inspired me.

My model in 1/12, unlike that above cited 1/14 scale example, is intended to replicate all the internal engineering that I love, as well as capture the unique outward appearance. it is a large car and with two relatively short times with the actual car, I can’t say I have had enough opportunity to obtain all the data/dimensions that I would normally be able to luxuriate in. Therefore, at present, there is a little estimation required and so far, the initial skeleton of the outer bodywork and monocoque beneath, has been made whilst not yet committing to final dimensionalised surface contours; however, enough has been made to work with a 3-D card-template of the Pratt and Whitney STN/76 turbine engine. This has enabled me to produce initial working structures for an engine and monocoque unit, whose dimensions have shared a bit of ‘give and take’, so as to be close enough to the original to ‘look right’. The real car is very large and quite difficult to measure in the time available. On the first occasion which was a planned visit, initial data collection was inevitably incomplete and from that a rough working form was made. The second opportunity came at the Goodwood Festival of Speed unexpectedly (2010) and so I was not in possession of the details of the original visit and therefore unaware of which specific data points were required; therefore, in the allotted time, I did my best but still have some areas to re-visit. This real car is without an engine (returned to Pratt and Whitney after racing concluded in 1971) and the American 56 has a slightly different engine (ST6B-70; both Indy and F1 engines being built by United Aircraft of Canada). The STN/76 turbine engine is assumed impossible to locate and visit, so I have been working from general arrangement drawings of the car in addition to some definitive dimensions I obtained myself. Therefore, with the engine drawn within a ‘general arrangement’ drawing, we know that neither the car nor the engine can be ‘to scale’, either as a whole or from the point of view of the parts within, related to each other, hence the written warning – Do Not Scale. This is why the compromise of engine to monocoque was needed. With later models, every dimension is spot-on, or certainly comfortably within +/- 0.5cm tolerance of the real car.

I have secured reference points for the front and rear suspension pick-up points and made an example of upper and lower wishbones and the uprights. Therefore, the car having identical suspension on all four corners, these parts need to be refined and prepared for resin-casting and then multiple identical parts made. The catalyst for continuing this work will be the production of an engine pattern (and I have an interested friend who is a pattern-maker and keen aviation modeller) and also one further day with the car to tie-up lose ends re dimensions. I spent a little time on the telephone once with Derek Gardner who gave me some insight into the car, for he worked on the four wheel drive transmission whilst working for Ferguson in 1968 and being sent out to Indy for a while, rooming with Dick Scammell of Lotus; this is when the F1 bug, bit Derek.

I intend to make two examples of the 56B raced in 1971, the Gold Leaf Team Lotus car and the re-liveried car used at the Italian Grand Prix in 1971, entered by ‘World Wide Racing’ to avoid risk of legal consequences of Monza 1970, where Jochen Rindt was killed in a Lotus 72.

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