Lola Heritage

LOLA HERITAGE SCRAPBOOK

Being presented with some random old photographs recently I had a flashback to life at Lola Cars in the 1970’s. We certainly did things differently in those days!

The Premises - Huntingdon

The move of the entire factory from our base in Slough to the newly completed building in St. Peter’s Hill Huntingdon was accomplished in January 1971. I remember the entire area was little more than a building site at that time with the car parking area just a sea of mud. All the heavy machinery from Slough had to be transported over this quagmire and was accomplished, I think, mainly by our own staff. So much of the original building has been changed to produce the impressive structure that comprises the present day Lola home, that it is quite difficult to remember the original layout without reference to these pictures.

Design Approach

The typical route to the production of a new car (as opposed to an update), was for Eric Broadley to come up with a concept that met the requirements of the relevant regulations then pass the project over to me for turning into layout drawings / production drawings and everything else required to make the project “happen”. The whole design and production process was very much a collaborative effort with all concerned.

Eric seen viewing the quarter scale model of the T460 that he had produced overnight. At this point he would have handed it over to me to produce the full-scale body sections from which the body-bucks and moulds would be produced.
The design office was equipped with 4 drawing boards for individual use for detail design, plus a central layout table that was long enough to take drawings of the full-scale car. All drawings were made full-scale if at all possible since it cut down on the potential for errors - something I learned very early on in my career! The designers these day’s have it very easy in comparison – CAD sorts it all out for them!
The design team in the 70’s consisted of Eric, as chief designer, myself as chief engineer, and up to 4 other designers/draftsmen. Included in that number was our technical illustrator, John (forgotten his surname) who was responsible for producing the cut-away drawings, exploded views and parts lists that made up our “user manuals”. When I first joined the Company in 1969, I felt there was a lack of organisation within the design process – no standardisation of drawing sizes or logical parts numbering system etc. so using my previous upbringing in the aircraft industry I instigated what I considered to be the minimum requirements for reproducible and traceable manufacturing. I believe the system is still in use although in a much more sophisticated and professional format.

Manufacturing

Machining

Almost all of the wheels fitted to Lola Cars during this era were cast externally but machined in-house. All our castings were magnesium alloy which had to be very carefully machined with very sharp tools to make sure the cutting did not produce enough heat to set fire to the swarf. Once magnesium catches fire there is very little you can do except try and extinguish it with a special foam formulated for just that situation. Any other type of extinguisher just doesn’t work.

Fabrication

Fabrication of the chassis, whether tubular frame or monocoque, was another in-house speciality. Only when orders far outstripped capacity did we resort to using outside suppliers for the tubular chassis. The company helping us out then was Arch Motors, again conveniently located next door to Specialised Mouldings in Redwongs Way. If memory serves me right, we never outsourced any monocoque chassis during my tenure, every one was manufactured in-house. Aluminium sheets to NS4 specification was the preferred material, although aircraft standard L72 specification was used where extra strength was required although it was twice as expensive and very difficult to “work” hence unpopular in the workshop!

Other fabricated steel components such as wishbones, radius rods, brackets of all descriptions, foot pedals etc. were all manufactured in the workshop along with aluminium items such as oil tanks and catch tanks. We had an incredibly proficient ally-welder, Ray, whose handywork often drew complimentary remarks from paying customers.

Assembly

Assembly activities were carried out under the same roof as manufacturing, which was not ideal but borne of necessity. Usually there was a “line” of cars being assembled which could look most impressive, but unfortunately I cannot find any pictures reflecting this. Since it was usual to have several different types of formula under construction at the same time, things could get a little crowded but we managed somehow! How different the workshop of today.

Other fabricated steel components such as wishbones, radius rods, brackets of all descriptions, foot pedals etc. were all manufactured in the workshop along with aluminium items such as oil tanks and catch tanks. We had an incredibly proficient ally-welder, Ray, whose handywork often drew complimentary remarks from paying customers.

Stores

The Stores department was run by John Biedrikoff who had, if I remember correctly, a fantastic memory and could locate any part within the stores without recourse to paperwork. Considering the number of components that we stocked in those days, this was no mean achievement. John is still there with the distinction of being the longest-running employee, having originally joined straight from school.

Sales and Marketing

Derek Ongaro, pictured in the de-rigure pose of the day - telephone stuck to right ear. Every manager worth his salt adopted this posture, although I presume today’s required pose is to be photographed in front of the latest PC, looking as though you know how to use it!

Derek was our much-respected General Manager and Sales Manager combined. He joined Lola from Team Surtees where he had similar responsibilities. A great deal of the commercial success of Lola Cars during this period was the result of Derek’s business prowess. He later left to join the RAC sporting committee and finally became the FAI’s first “professional” Formula 1 Starter. It was deemed necessary to have a “professional” starter after several debacles occurred, including one fatality, when local personalities were used to “drop the flag”.

Derek was replaced by Mike Blanchet at Lola who had joined us around this time to take over sales and who had been campaigning our Formula Fords very successfully. Mike also became our resident test driver along with his other responsibilities – an arrangement that worked incredibly well to the benefit of all concerned.

The total workforce around this time was in the region of 120 employees. I do not know how many cars were produced then but it ran into the hundreds, encompassing practically every true racing formula. A significant milestone during this period was the manufacture of the 1000th Lola car, which happened to be a F/Ford. I read recently that the most prolific producer ever of production racing cars was March Engineering. Whilst they undoubtedly were more evident in Formula 1, I question the validity of the “most prolific” accolade – I am sure it was ”us”.

Bob Marston (Chief Engineer Lola Cars 1969 – 1983)

WEB DESIGN BY GJD SOLUTIONS

© 2018 LOLA HERITAGE