- Lotus has just revealed a Type 66 for the modern era, bearing the same name as a car that was once proposed, but never built, to enter the 1970 Can-Am championship.
- A run of 10 cars will be constructed, each with a seven-figure price.
- The track-only special will have a period-correct V-8, a modern sequential gearbox, and ABS.
While there have been plenty of Continuation models from long-established automakers, the Lotus Type 66 is something different: a newly built version of a historic car that was designed, but never built. Now the British sports-car maker has announced plans to create a run of just 10 of a modern take on what was originally proposed to be a Can-Am race car. Each of these track-only specials will be priced in the seven figures, and we’re promised they will have performance comparable to that of a current GT3 race car.
Lotus dropped a teaser for this car last year, at the same time we were told that it would be produced by the company’s new Lotus Advanced Performance division. Now the Type 66 has just been revealed at The Quail in Monterey, where Lotus has introduced it as “testament to the brand’s desire to reimagine the best elements of its heritage, updating them in the most exhilarating way possible.”
The obvious historic anachronism is that Lotus never competed in the Can-Am series. The Canadian-American Challenge Cup started in 1966, running a calendar that combined races in both Canada and the United States, and quickly established itself as one of the most viscerally thrilling series in motorsport’s most exciting (and dangerous) era. Can-Am was run under Group 7 regulations for what were nominally two-seat cars, but with minimal technical restrictions. Can-Am cars soon had power-to-weight ratios superior to those of contemporary Formula 1 cars.
53 Years Later, It Comes to Life
Lola and McLaren dominated the early era of Can-Am, but Lotus put serious consideration into creating its own entry in the late 1960s. Lotus founder Colin Chapman ordered Team Lotus draftsman Geoff Ferris to come up with a design for a Group 7 racer. That never went beyond technical drawings and scale models, but it has been brought to life 53 years later with the Type 66.
The new Type 66 wouldn’t have been possible without sketches and designs supplied by Clive Chapman, Colin’s son and now the managing director of Classic Team Lotus. Apparently, many of these were found in a fireproof case containing 28 rolls of microfilm, some of which contained images of the Can-Am project dating from September 1969. These were never turned into a full-size car as Lotus was too busy with numerous other motorsport commitments, but if the project had gone ahead it would likely have become the Type 66.
The new car is finished in a period-appropriate shade of red, white, and gold, the colors the Formula 1 team competed in thanks to Lotus’s pioneering tobacco sponsorship at the time. Other innovations are also shared with the team’s F1 cars of the era, including the use of side-mounted radiators. At the rear is a vast rear-width wing, which has seen significantly more development work than would have been possible in the early 1970s: Lotus says that more than 1000 hours of CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) modeling has gone into creating the Type 66. The company quotes a peak downforce figure of more than 1764 pounds at 150 mph, a figure it says is more than the car’s total weight.
The original Lotus Can-Am proposal never advanced far enough to gain an engine, although it would have almost certainly followed the example of rivals and raced with American V-8 power. McLaren used Chevrolet engines throughout its era of dominance, with the big-block 8.3-liter engine in the 1971 M8F reported as making over 800 horsepower.
Lotus hasn’t confirmed which manufacturer’s engine will be in the Type 66 but says that it will be a “period-representative V-8 pushrod.” This has a forged aluminum crank, pistons and con rods, plus a spectacular set of individual induction trumpets, and is targeting a power output of an estimated 819 horsepower at 8800 rpm and 550 pound-feet at 7400 rpm.
The new car’s structure will be less period appropriate, with a central carbon-fiber tub. Body panels will be aluminum, so it won’t look too modern, and Lotus says it will also feature electric power steering, a modern sequential racing transmission with an anti-stall system, and even an ABS system. During simulator testing it has matched the performance of a GT3 race car, and Lotus says that on circuits like Laguna Seca it should actually be quicker.
Tempted? Don’t wait too long to get your name onto the list; Lotus says it is only going to produce 10, with each costing “in excess of £1 million.” That’s nearly $1.3 million at current exchange rates.
Senior European Correspondent
Our man on the other side of the pond, Mike Duff lives in Britain but reports from across Europe, sometimes beyond. He has previously held staff roles on UK titles including CAR, Autocar and evo, but his own automotive tastes tend towards the Germanic, owning both a troublesome 987-generation Porsche Cayman S and a Mercedes 190E 2.5-16.