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1955 Lotus Mark X : Classic Cars

Here we are delighted to offer this fascinating and very well known Lotus Mark 10, one of only seven of these ‘big-engined’ sports-racing aerodynes from the dawn of Lotus Engineering’s serious production in the mid-1950s.

This particular car was based (like all seven Mark 10s) on one of the trend-settingly lightweight and sophisticated Lotus Mark 8 chassis frames from the drawing board of Lotus’s dynamic and gifted prime mover, Colin Chapman. This particular car was sold new to enthusiastic British owner/driver Mike Young, and was completed by Mr Young himself with one of the very rare and expensive 2-litre Connaught 4-cylinder engines developed from a basic Lea-Francis power unit by Connaught Engineering Ltd at Send, Surrey. These engines had been developed originally to power the 2-litre Formula 2 open-wheel racing cars manufactured by Connaught from 1951-53. The particular unit adopted by Mike Young was serial 'C16' – and his new Lotus-Connaught Mark 10 was first road registered as new on September 8, 1955, bearing UK registration number 'NBA 806'. Initially the flowing Frank Costin-styled bodywork was left unpainted, in bare polished aluminium.

Mike Young promptly entered his new car in the 1955 Targa Florio road race around the legendary Piccolo Madonie mountain circuit just to the east of Palermo in far off Sicily. The event was run in October 1955 as the deciding round of that year’s FIA Sports Car World Championship race series, and would be the event in which Stirling Moss and Peter Collins would win in the works Mercedes-Benz 300SLR, thus sealing the World title for ‘The Three-Pointed Star’, to accompany the Stuttgart marque’s parallel Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship title that season, with Fangio.

To race against such august company, Mike Young and Geoff Richardson – British constructor/driver of the RRA series of Formula 2 racing cars - drove this Lotus on the public road all the immensely long way from London to Sicily, via Dunkirk and the Naples ferry. This is why this Lotus Mark 10 – unusually - was fitted from new with a full set of headlights and tail-lights, whereas most of its sister cars intended for aerodrome racing in the UK had no lights at all.

In the Targa Florio, the Young/Richardson Lotus-Connaught ran with race number 80 but most unfortunately failed to survive much more than the opening 44-mile lap. Mike Young stopped at the pits to investigate falling oil pressure at the end of lap 1 and then, according to Gregor Grant’s contemporary report in ‘Autosport’ magazine: ‘…charged a bank with his Lotus, damaging a wheel too badly to continue…’. For both drivers, particularly Geoff Richardson who did not get to run in the race itself, this must have been a huge disappointment after all the anticipation of building the car and the interminable yet exciting drive down.

In common with its sister Mark 10s, into 1956 the Lotus-Connaught was quickly rendered obsolescent for serious competition by the advent of Colin Chapman’s next great innovation – the beautiful Lotus Eleven and concentration upon the burgeoning 1100cc and 1500cc classes in British sports car racing. By 1959 this car – then painted red - was owned by Peter Simms of Sheffield. By 1965 it was owned by Edward Barnard who advertised it for sale, still with the Connaught engine 'C16' installed - for £295.

It was acquired by a Mr F. Slim before – in 1974 – it passed to well-known Historic racer and restorer Barry Simpson, who removed the original 4-cylinder Connaught engine and fitted instead a 2-litre Bristol 6-cylinder unit with the intention of using the car for Historic sports car competition. The Connaught engine had always been regarded as being quite a rare and somewhat tricky unit to maintain in good running order, whereas the Bristol power unit was far more commonly available, with good parts supply and its tuning potential for competition and/or high-performance road use was very well understood.

Connaught enthusiast Phillip Bowker bought the ex-Lotus 10 engine and fitted it into his A-Type Connaught single-seater. Fellow Connaught exponent Gerry Walton then bought both the ex-Bowker Connaught and this Lotus Mark 10, into which he fitted another Connaught engine, which we understand had been taken from the Les Leston sports Connaught ALSR car of 1955. Mr Walton subsequently raced the Lotus-Connaught Mark 10 until around 1980.

This Lotus was then sold to the Bradburn classic car dealership, in whose tenure a Bristol engine was refitted in 1984 and the car was then sold to Peter Kaus in Frankfurt, Germany, for what became his magnificent Rosso Bianco Collection displays. This most attractive, relatively unspoiled and quite original historic Lotus has seen very little use indeed over the past 22 years. It is perfectly eligible – of course – to have a 4-cylinder Connaught engine refitted to return it to its original 1955 specification, while for immediate use the Bristol 6-cylinder of course presents an immensely practical, potentially highly reliable and raceworthy proposition as it stands. In common with sister cars from this particular source we would recommend careful specialist inspection and preparation before any attempt is made to run the car in earnest.

This is a rare opportunity to acquire one of these wonderfully evocative Colin Chapman/Frank Costin aerodynamic-bodied, pioneering Lotus sports-racing cars. It is even more rare to see one become available with such exotic early FIA World Championship-round racing history.


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Sources : 1955 Lotus Mark X Photo | 1955 Lotus Mark X Article

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