Call it what you
want, but it was “perfect” timing… Laura & I were to visit our daughter
Tomiko in Tacoma, Washington. In semi-typical fashion I pinged an email
off to a couple of the ELCC (Evergreen Lotus Car Club) and got back a enticing
note… “We’re meeting at Pete Lovely’s and getting an open house tour of
the shop!” it read!
Like many avid vintage racers I’ve seen Pete’s team and cars at a number of vintage events and have had the opportunity to meet Pete a couple of times. Most recently was a couple of years ago at the Atlanta Historics in conjunction with Lotus Limited’s LOG, where Pete was honored as the guest speaker. And GGLCer’s will remember Pete’s 49B and 69 at the ’95 Monterey Historics.
For those that are not familiar with Pete Lovely’s place in Lotus history, here’s a very brief bio… Pete was exposed to Lotus in the early days. He purchased one of the Mk8/9 cars and successfully campaigned it. When the Eleven was introduced he arranged to purchase one from the factory. This led to a meeting with Chapman and an incredibly fortuitous set of circumstances. While in England to pick-up his Eleven the Lotus team was racing nearby. One of the team drivers was unable to compete and someone on the team suggested that they invite Pete to drive. This eventually led to asking Pete to drive with the Team at LeMans and a position of best customer. In the late 60’s Pete approached Chapman about purchasing an F1 car, in particular a Lotus 49B. Pete was partial to Graham Hill and asked Chapman for one of Hill’s cast offs. Chapman offered Lotus 49B/11, which was the chassis that Hill had driven to victory at Monaco.
Lovely took this car and campaigned it as a privateer at a number of North American F1 Grand Prixs in late 60’s and early 70’s. It was still a time when a private owner/driver could afford to drive in F1 without huge corporate funding!
Today Pete Lovely Racing is in the business of maintaining and restoring vintage racers. The operation is quite extensive and is based in Puyallup, Washington. There, in the Pete Lovely shops, the team can build/create/fabricate nearly any piece needed for a car restoration job.
On this particular Saturday in the shop were a couple of Ferrari’s, a Lotus 35, Lotus 18 and Brabham BT18 (or something), a Lotus Eleven and Pete’s 49B (with high wings and all!). On an engine stand was a Ferrari F1 engine (ex-Schumacher). And as if this wasn’t enough to drool over in the “barn” were a pair of 26Rs, Pete’s Lotus 69 and a Lotus 77 (F1 car).
One of the Ferrari’s on hand had the engine pulled. It was the same car that won the best Ferrari award at this year’s Pebble Beach Concours. The Lotus Eleven was an ex-Le Mans car with a DeDion rear axle and proper front double wishbone suspension. The Lotus 35 is pretty rare car, not many were made. And, what can be said about Pete’s Lotus 49B and that hasn’t been said already… well, there’s news that was totally unexpected about this car… For years Lotus historians have been trying to figure out what happened to Lotus 49/2 (chassis #2). This particular 49 has a very important place in Lotus history, as it was the car that was driven by Clark in 1967 at the Belgium GP at Spa. It was the debut of the Lotus 49 and the Ford Cosworth DFV engine.
The Lotus 49 was the first success F1 car to use the engine as an integral stressed member of the chassis. The entire rear suspension was hung off the gearbox and engine and the engine was bolted to the rest of the monocoque tub. The Ford Cosworth DFV engine went onto to become the most successful F1 engine to compete. Versions of this engine went on to win at Indy and in CART.
Originally the 49 was to debut at Monaco, but the car wasn’t ready and the debut was delayed until Spa. On the weekend Graham Hill captured the pole in Lotus 49/1 and Clark was relegated to 2nd row. Hill fell out of the race with an engine problem, but Clark went on to victory by a large margin. A fairy tale start for the new car and engine!
Anyway, over time Lotus took cars apart, tossed some aside, and sold 49/11 to Pete. And years later the Chapman family wanted to put 49/2 into the family museum, but 49/2 couldn’t be found. No one could remember what happened to it. Then over the past year or so the Lovely restoration team met a number of the team members and mechanics of 49/2. And in their conversations they were told stories of changes and markings that were made to 49/2. These included markings scribbled onto the rear bulkhead behind the engine, doubling plates around the front suspension pick-ups and the exposed top fuel filler (only the very early 49 had the exposed filler. On later cars the filler was hidden beneath a fuel door).
Bells started going off, as all of the things that were being described were on Lovely’s 49/11. Could it be that Chapman renumbered 49/2, upgraded the chassis/suspension, retagged it and sold it to Lovely as 49/11?
The Lovely team and many Lotus historians believe that is exactly what happened and that the famous Clark Lotus 49/2 is now found in the person of Lovely’s 49/11. So, what started as Chapman’s way to “pull the wool over Pete’s eyes” – selling Pete Hill’s 49/11, is now a incredibly desirable piece of F1 history!
There was a very nice turn out of about 30+ EELC members and Alan Perry showed up with his Elise (kit car). Alan is anticipating getting the car registered in Washington within the next 60 days or so! Obviously Alan has a very wide smile on this face.
In the end it was a very fun few hours – seeing the Pete Lovely shop and car collection plus connecting with the EELC members. I encourage any GGLC member traveling to the Seattle area to look up these enthusiasts!