Lola T70

wikipedia

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Lola T70 Mk3

The Lola T70 was built for sports car racing, popular in the mid to late ‘60s. Developed by Lola Cars in 1965 in Great Britain, the T70 was made for endurance racing. In 1966, the open-cockpit Mk II version w/a Chevrolet V8 engine was an entry in the Can-Am series, winning 5 of 6 races during the year. In 1967, the T70 raced again but only won 1 race, outpowered by the newer McLaren made cars.

Despite its short-lived success in the Can-Am series, the T70 was quite popular, w/more than 100 examples of the vehicle being built in 3 versions. The 1st version, besides the original factory car, was the open-roofed Mk II, joined by the Coupé-version Mk III, & a slightly updated version, the Mk IIIB. The T70 was replaced in the Can-Am by its lighter, stronger predecessor, the Lola T160.

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A Lola T70 in the pits at Silverstone

When the FIA changed the rules for sports car racing that came in effect for 1968, limiting the engine size of prototypes to 3.0L, an exemption was made: sports cars w/5000cc engines were allowed, if at least 50 were made. This rule allowed the popular yet slightly outdated Ford GT40 & Lola T70s to continue racing. Yet, instead of being only cannon-fodder to a few factory-built prototypes, the Fords won again twice at Le Mans, while Lola took the 1969 24 Hours of Daytona. When the minimum # was lowered to 25 for 1969, the new Porsche 917 & Ferrari 512 were homologated at 5.0L, & outclassed the older Lolas & Fords.

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The T70 was also produced in open-top "spyder" configuration

The T70's Chevrolet engine tended to suffer reliability problems when racing in Europe, in part due to the grade of fuel allowed. When forced to run on commercially available "pump fuel", w/a lower octane rating than the "Avgas" permitted under American rules, engine failures were common. In modern historic racing those same engines show much improved reliability due to a # of factors: in modern historic racing engines tend to be detuned slightly, quality control tends to be much higher, & fuel quality far better than the historically poor fuel supplied by the ACO when these cars raced in the ‘60s.

An Aston Martin engined coupe bodied T70 was entered by Lola at Le Mans in 1967, but even w/drivers such as John Surtees, the car failed to deliver. The Aston Martin V8 engine failed after short runs, characterized by poor power & overheating, problems that were found to be due to a lack of development. In turn, the lack of development was attributed to an overly tight budget.

During the filming of Steve McQueen's "Le Mans", Lola chassis were sacrificed, disguised w/bodywork of the Porsche & Ferrari that starred in the film. T70s also appear, albeit modified, in George Lucas' 1st commercial film, THX-1138.

Nowadays, the Lolas are still driven in classic car events like the Classic Endurance Racing series.

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Lola T70 Mk3B Coupe Chevrolet

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Eric Broadley's Lola specialized in building small displacement sports cars & single seaters, before stepping up to the virtually no-limit Group 6 class w/the V8-engined Mk VI GT in 1963. The mid-engined machine featured a state-of-the- art monocoque chassis & a Ford Fairlane V8. It grabbed the attention of Ford in Detroit & shortly after Broadley was deeply involved in what would later become the GT40. He did not stay long as he felt the Detroit design brief included too many compromises to make the GT40 a success on the track. Broadley again focused on the production of the familiar smaller cars, still using a spaceframe design.

It did not take long for Broadley to be tempted to build a large displacement sports car again. This time his eye was on the American racing scene, where no-limit Group 7 cars were raced in a very lucrative championship. With the arrival of the mid-engined layout & the more advanced chassis designs, it had become virtually impossible for entrants to build a racing car in their backyard, so the demand for customer sports cars grew rapidly. One of the 1st to acknowledge this was Bruce McLaren as he licensed his M1 Group 7 car to Elva for production. Lola quickly followed suit w/the T70 introduced in 1965.

Designed to take any American V8 engine, the T70 featured a monocoque chassis constructed of a mix of aluminum & steel for additional reinforcement. The suspension was very conventional by double wishbones & coil springs over dampers. Somewhat more unusual was the location of the front brakes, just outside of the wheels. This was done to provide sufficient amounts of cool air to the discs. The package was topped off by a sleek fiberglass spyder body, designed to meet the class' only requirement; an open top body.

One of the 1st people to campaign a T70 Spyder was 1964 F1 World Champion John Surtees & his effort served as a semi-Works team. Powered by a Chevrolet engine growing gradually in size from 5.0L to 5.9L & 550 bhp, Surtees was immediately successful. For 1966 several chassis modifications were carried thru to form the T70 Mk2. With this car, Surtees scored wins in 3 of the 6 rounds of the newly formed Can-Am challenge & at the end of the season he was crowned champion. His performance inspired many privateers to buy the relatively cheap Lola/Chevrolet package to take a stab at Group 7 & Can-Am.

With the Spyder such a big hit, Broadley saw an opportunity to homologate the Chevrolet engined machine for Group 4, which required a production minimum of 50 cars. At the end of 1966 over 40 cars were completed & the homologation loomed for 1967. To be eligible for Group 4, several modifications were required, the biggest being the installation of a roof & a windscreen. Obviously a completely new body was required & w/the help of Tony Southgate & a wind-tunnel, Broadley created a highly effective shape. Up to that point the minimizing drag & lift was the biggest concern, but thanks to its high tail, the T70 Mk3 Coupe actually created considerable downforce. This made the new Lola very stable, even at high speeds.

With the new Coupe body, Lola offered a 2-for-1 machine, which could be raced as a Group 7 Spyder & a Group 4 Coupe, powered by the 6.0L version of the small-block V8. In the latter configuration, it predominantly faced the Ford GT40, which was by then also built in sufficient # for Group 4. Aston Martin was also interested in the T70 Coupe for a renewed attack at Le Mans w/a twin-cam V8 engine that was under development. Not built in sufficient #s, like the Chevrolet T70, the Aston engined machine was forced to run in the Group 6 class against the latest Ferraris & Fords. The Aston effort proved a big failure as the V8 was severely underpowered & equally unreliable. A very early retirement from Le Mans also meant the premature end of the program. Sadly it remained the only manufacturer interest in the T70.

Soon after that devastating 1967 Le Mans race, Lola rec’d more bad news as the sport's governing body (CSI) announced that the 'Group 6' prototype class would be restricted to 3.0L & the 'Group 4' sportscar class to 5.0L. This pretty much rendered the T70 Coupe useless for 1968 & the company could look forward to many cancelled orders. Fortunately the CSI showed some leniency & allowed the T70 into Group 4 again, under the condition that it ran w/a 5.0L engine. With the prototypes allowed to be much lighter, it looked like the T70 still had little chance of taking OA victories. In Group 4, it again faced the GT40 over which, the T70 should have an edge considering its big weight advantage.

The successes of the T70 were in 1968 again restricted to sprint races. The Chevrolet small block was a commendable powerplant in sprint races, yet it struggled to cope w/the strains of endurance racing. Especially the valve-train suffered from fatigue in long races because of the relatively high weight of the very large valves fitted. With smaller valves the engine would obviously lose its competitiveness. Another reason why the T70 struggled was the lack of a truly professional team to prepare & run it. Most of Lola's attention was on F1, Indy racing & Can-Am. Racing the T70 Coupe was pretty much left to the gentleman racers & they could not match the standards set by John Wyer w/his Gulf livered GT40s.

Lola did not give up just yet & stepped things up for 1969 w/the Mk3B variant of the T70 Coupe. This used a full aluminum monocoque similar to that of the 1968 T160 Can-Am racer. The fiberglass body also rec’d plenty of attention & created even more downforce than its predecessor. The biggest visual difference was the lower nose w/2 headlights on either side, installed under a Perspex cover. Equipped w/FI the Chevrolet V8 was now able to produce approximately 450 bhp & the Hewland LG600 was now equipped w/5 instead of 4 forward gears. It is safe to say that the T70 Mk3B was a completely new car, but the CSI again leaned in Lolas favor & considered it a mere development of the already homologated Mk3.

Among the many interested parties in the lighter & more powerful Lola was Roger Penske as he bought an example for Mark Donohue to race. Penske's preparation standards were more than a match for Wyer's & at Daytona in February of 1969 the T70 finally scored its 1st major international victory. It was to be the car's only top level win as the reduction to 25 cars required for homologation opened the door for a new generation of prototype racing cars. A month after the Daytona win Porsche unveiled the 917 at Geneva & the rest, so they say, is history. It should be noted tho that the 917 was a horribly unstable machine until a high tail similar to that of the T70 Coupe was fitted. Before the season was out, the Mk3B had built up an impressive tally of wins in minor races in European & South African races. Jo Bonnier came very close to beating the 25% more powerful 917 at the Osterreichring, but he to settle for 2nd in his T70.

With the 917 now fully sorted & the arrival of the Ferrari 512, the days of the T70 Coupe were finally numbered in 1970. Altho it was not nearly as successful as its Spyder sister, the T70 Coupe has worked its way into the hearts of many enthusiasts in no small part thanks to its stunning appearance. The advanced aerodynamics & chassis design might have deserved a better engine to complete the package. On the other hand it was the easily available Chevrolet engine that made the T70 success & still makes it a popular choice in historic racing. In fact it is so popular that Lola have recently started producing a continuation model, identical to the 1969 Mk3B. The 'new' T70s are even allowed to race in historic events, which understandably is not to everyone's liking.

 

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RACING CARS FROM THE ‘60S

Lola T70

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ERIC BROADLEY'S 1965 sports/racing car design, the Lola. Type 70, could be described as the latest in a line of successful 2-seat competition machines, which has been interrupted at intervals by relatively unsuccessful single-seaters. By the time these words are in print Indianapolis may conceivably have changed all that, but new cars seldom win 1st time out.

It was in 1956 that the Lola line of sports/racing 2-seaters was founded, Eric Broadley designing a car which he could drive himself in the "British 1172 Formula" races, which provided inexpensive racing by standardizing L-head British Ford 1172cc engines w/restricted tuning modifications. So well did this 1st Lola perform in races during 1957 that Broadley quickly became more ambitious, & for 1958 he applied his ideas on tubular steel space frames to a new sports car w/a 1098cc Coventry Climax OHC engine.

In its turn, this 2nd Lola proved so fast & so stable that other drivers wanted replicas, & Broadley decided to become a full-time rather than a part-time car builder, selling cars for the 1959 season. The front-engined Lola of 1958/59 typified 2 of its designer's special talents: its chassis was a structure planned in 3 dimensions to provide strength just where it was needed w/out excess weight or untidy after-thought brackets, & its suspension systems controlled road wheel alignment w/great precision.

As a small-scale racing car manufacturer w/little spare time for driving his own products on the circuits, Eric Broadley began to build the types of car which his customers ordered, starting his less successful interlude as a designer of single-seaters. His Lola Formula Junior cars of 1960 were front-engined, & began racing just when lighter mid-engined cars of smaller frontal area achieved domination of the category, & altho the front-engined Lolas added interest to the F/Jr scene they won places rather than races. A mid-engined Lola Jr which followed for 1961 did not quite catch up w/the best of its opposition, nor did the mid-engined Lola F1 single-seaters which John Surtees & Roy Salvadori drove in G/P races during 1962.

For the 1963 season, Eric Broadley's inspiration was to build a mid-engined 2-seat GT coupe of minimum size & weight around a Ford Fairlane V8 engine. This plan was highly ambitious for a small-scale car builder working in a country where most of the available components were suited to much less powerful machinery. Nevertheless, an incomplete prototype appeared at London's Racing Car Show in January 1963, & at the Le Mans 24-hour race in June made 2nd fastest lap in the race at over 127 mph, before being slowed by gear-box problems & eventually crashing.

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Having failed in its bid for the Ferrari works, FoMoCo saw in the performance of the Ford-powered Lola GT a real probability that, improved w/Ford help, this car might become a world-beater. Eric Broadley. was offered a 12-month contract, moved into a new plant at Slough, & by April 1964 had the 1st Ford GT ready for its public unveiling. Publicity for this project seemed at one time to be aimed at concealing the design's true authorship, the astonishing statement being made that "the original design had been conceived at Dearborn" whereas, in truth, the transition from Lola GT to Ford GT had been strictly evolutionary.

As shown in January 1963 & subsequently raced, the Lola GT exploited the misnamed "monocoque" form of construction which had been used on 2 of the works Lotus F1 single seaters during 1962 G/P races. 2 big box-sections of sheet steel which formed the body sills were also the chassis side members, replacing the multi-tubular structures which had been in fashion for some years previously: a stressed floor panel as well as front & rear bulkheads joined the 2 box-sections together, to form a very strong pontoon inside of which were the 2 seats.

In its original Lola GT form, the steel pontoon carried multi-tubular extension frames, one at the front to accommodate the suspension & another as a superstructure to support the fiberglass body panels. As the design later evolved into the Ford GT, these frame extensions were fabricated in sheet steel instead of from tubes, & the fiberglass bodywork became subtly changed in shape as the results of wind tunnel testing & then of further racing experience were applied to it.

Suspension of the Ford GT, now called the GT40, which scored the model's 1st big victory at Daytona in 1965, was strictly on the lines laid down for the Lola GT in the winter of 1962/63. At the front, tubular steel upper & lower A-arms are swept forward, & coil springs are mounted on the tube shocks. At the rear, each wheel suspension linkage has a reversed low-set wishbone controlling track & alignment, an upper transverse link controlling camber, & 2 long fore-&-aft thrust links, the lower of which runs up inside the frame's huge box-section. Like the Lola before it, the GT40 has a strong roof frame even tho the tops of 2 big doors curve over toward the roof centerline, & crash-resistant stowages for 2 flexible bag fuel tanks inside the frame's steel box sections.

Other things such as hp being equal, the smallest & lightest car which is reliable & controllable wins the races: When several rival car builders have access to the same types of engine, as is the case w/Ford & other V8 units in this 1965 season, cars must be pared down to a. minimum. The Ford GT40 is being built to be fit for street use & to survive long-distance day-&-night events such as the 24-hour race at Le Mans, but a Lotus 30 of lower weight would be faster in most short-distance races for which it is eligible. This latter featherweight 2-seater represents the sort of challenge which Eric Broadley has set out to meet in going on from his GT designs to make a batch of Lola 70 sports racing cars.

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Eric Broadley's 1-year contract w/Ford expired in the summer of 1964, & since then there have been 2 quite separate plants alongside one another at Slough Trading Estate, one owned by Ford Advanced Vehicles Ltd. which has ex-Aston Martin Director John Wyer in charge, & the other owned by Lola Cars Ltd., w/Eric Broadley as boss. For this 1965 season, Eric Broadley's projects included a new Formula Junior car which got crowded aside by the more exciting invitation to build Indianapolis cars around DOHC Ford engines, & the Lola 70 which extrapolates a lighter, open-bodied car from the Lola-Ford GT layout.

Currently, the minimum possible size of a car such as the Lola 70 seems to be determined less by the driver or the engine than by the huge tires which are used to turn hp into traction. Vast areas of rubber supporting lightweight cars are tending to float on wet surfaces instead of cutting thru the water film. This "aquaplaning" makes the European tradition of continuing races in bad weather look remarkably dangerous, but on dry surfaces the broad modern tires provide real grip. At the front of the Lola 70 there are racing tires of 5.50x15 nominal size on rims 8” wide, & the rear tires of 6.50x15 section, when mounted on rims of 10” width, are actually 12.5” wide! A track of only 54” becomes an OA car width of 69” w/these tires, dimensions identical to those of the Ford GT, altho the Lola is a lower car w/an OA height of only 31”.

Working as his own boss once again w/out having to get decisions approved by members of a huge organization, Eric Broadley has evolved a chassis frame for the J 965 Lola 70. He claims it weighs less than half as much as the hull of a Ford GT, altho both cars have the same 95” wheelbase.

At a glance the pontoon chassis of a Lola 70 looks very much akin to a Ford GT hull w/out its roof framing, but in fact it contains only a fraction of the amount of steel which goes into each Ford GT40. Each end of the new chassis consists of a 1-piece steel "ring" cross frame on which the suspension loads are carried, & these 2 steel rings are linked together by 2 steel sheets which form the inner surfaces of box-section chassis side members. This steelwork is welded up, then reinforced w/riveted-on aluminum panels to make an extremely rigid section.

Outboard of the steel plate at each side of the Lola 70, there is an aluminum tank of D-section which holds 30 gallons of fuel. This tank is attached to the steel plate by rivets. A narrow space between the steel plate & the aluminum upright of the D-section tank accommodates the coolant pipes to & from a front radiator, & is filled w/foam plastic to form a sandwich stiffening the 2 flat metal panels. An aluminum body floor panel braces the 2 box-section side members of the car, as do 2 triangular-section boxes of aluminum sheet which respectively support the cushions & reclining backrest of the 2 seats.

Behind the driving seat backrest is an engine compartment which can accommodate any of a variety of V8 engines & their transaxles. Car dimensions have not been inflated to suit the largest engines, but naturally the big V8 Ford engines are, suitable, & John Surtees has been racing the 1st Lola 70 w/a Traco-modified Chevrolet engine. This latter uses 4 side-draft Weber 2V carbs instead of downdraft instruments, so does not involve vertical air intakes rising like steamer smoke stacks above the low body deck. Most of the cars are being built around the Hewland 4-spd transaxle, the Colotti unit having proved unequal to the loadings which recent engines impose. The 1st examples of a light & compact ZF 5-spd transaxle to become available were put into the Indianapolis single seaters, altho that banked oval track was expected to require the use of 3 ratios only.

Having encountered brake cooling problems on the Ford GT, Eric Broadley has taken care to get the Girling brake discs of his Lola 70 as well clear of the wheel rims as possible, into positions where plenty of cooling air can reach them. His front discs are of "top hat" shape w/the caliper so far inboard that the steering/suspension ball joint on the tip of each lower wishbone is almost entirely hidden inside the brake. At the back of the Lola 70, the brake discs have been moved inboard behind the box-section light alloy hub carriers, to a position on the outer ends of 2-joint wheel driving shafts. Magnesium alloy wheels w/6 spokes have been cast to a design which permits the passage of brake cooling air, & for short races a 6-bolt wheel is used.

There are no revolutionary suspension features on the Lola 70, merely a little more precision in the application of known design principles. Twin wishbones at each front corner have accurate roller-bearing pivots rather than the rubber bushes used in mass-production automobiles, & have been redesigned to be even more rigid than those on the Ford GT. At each rear corner of the Lola, the lower wishbone which carries the main traction & cornering forces is strongly triangulated, & a very short upper transverse link is used. At each corner of the car, a tube shock carries a coil spring & also an Aeon hollow rubber buffer.

At this moment, the competitive situation among the American-engined cars which are challenging Ferraris in sports & GT racing looks incredibly exciting, & until a new 3.0L formula takes full effect the G/P races are liable to be overshadowed by faster events for 2-seat cars! The mid-engine layout is now universal, but in other respects design is in a state of flux, the 2 locally built rivals to Britain's pontoon-chassis Lola 70 being the McLaren Elva w/multiple-tube space frame, & the Lotus 30, which has a backbone frame forking to enclose its engine. This season's races for big sports cars will be fast &, w/limited crash protection for fuel tanks & for drivers, perhaps more than usually dangerous.

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