THE LOLA Mk6GT
All pictures copyright Lola Heritage unless otherwise stated.
The Lola Mk6 makes its debut at the the 1963 Racing Car Show complete with glamorous model.
Following the end of Lola’s first involvement with F1 when Bowmaker (the team sponsor) withdrew from racing at the end of the 1962 season Eric Broadley was looking for another project and, perhaps not surprisingly, he returned to his and Lola’s roots with a new sportscar design. Considering the previous design, the Mk1, was a front engined 1100cc/83 bhp, spaceframe design the new Mk6 was a major step-forward.
Debuting at the 1963 Olympia Racing Car Show the Mk6GT was built to comply with the FIA Grand Touring Prototypes regulations and was presented in road car guise. It comprises a centre section monocoque made up of two large box members housing the fuel tanks and creating the sills for the doors, at the front and rear are two tubular steel sub-frames. The inner face of each side-member is made from sheet steel whilst the outer face is duralumin with four internal magnesium formers with attachment bolts for the roof structure and the doors. The boxes are sealed with rubber compound as no fuel cells are used and each side holds 15 imperial gallons, butterfly valves are fitted to prevent fuel surge and twin Bendix fuel pumps are located on the bulkhead behind the driver suppling the fuel to the engine.
The side members are separated by a steel floor pan with small boxed bracing sections for the attachment of the driver’s seat and the central gear-change. Behind the driver is a triangular section cross-member of folded sheet with an internal pipe connecting the two fuel tanks and containing the roll-hoop. The rear of each of the side members have a fabricated extension pointing slightly inwards with a pyramid box at the end which allow for the attachment of the coil-springs and dampers to the top. There is a ladder-shaped strut between the two pyramids which can be removed for engine installation/removal and from the rear of each a tetrahedral tubular frame cantilevers backwards to a curved cross-member which extend sideways for the attachment of body supporting pivots.
The rear suspension features symmetric “A” shaped wishbones at the bottom of the cast magnesium uprights with transverse links and very long forward-facing radius rods that fix to the triangular cross-member at the top and outboard brakes.
Eric Broadley shows legendary sportscar team manager John Wyer the new Mk6.
The front of the car has a, mainly square section, frame attaching to the scuttle and supplies the mountings for the front suspension, radiator and spare wheel. The suspension consists of unequal length wishbones with a screw adjustment for altering the camber settings and the caster is set at 30° to reduce front-end dive under heavy braking. A Saab rack and pinion steering rack is mounted ahead of the centre line.
The cockpit roof has a steel spider-shaped member for roll-over protection and the front and rear GRP (glass reinforced plastic) bodywork, made by Specialised Mouldings, is hinged and can be removed completely for accessibility.
The engine is a Shelby-tuned Ford 4,262cc V8 with four twin-choke Webers producing 260 bhp. at 6,200 rpm and the power is transmitted via a Colotti Type 37 four-speed gearbox connected to the cockpit by a three-cable system and 3rd and 4th gears can be changed with the gearbox in situ. The driveshafts are tubular with the inner ends attached to the gearbox via Metalastik Rotoflex rubber couplings with Hooke joints on the outer end. Wheels are cast magnesium, the front taking 6.00 X 15in tyres and 7.00 X 15 at the rear.
The first race for the Mk6 was at the 11th May 1963 Silverstone International Trophy meeting in a 12-lap race for unlimited sportscars. Although John Surtees practised the untested car the Ferrari management withdrew permission for Surtees to race the car and South African Tony Maggs was drafted in at the last minute. Never having even sat in the car before and starting from the back of the grid and only using an engine fitted with a single downdraught carburettor Maggs did well to bring the car home 9th in the race.
One week later the car was at the Nürburgring for the World Championship 1000 Kms where Maggs shared driving duties with Bob Olthoff, a fellow South African. The pair qualified 9th (out of 67) with a time of 10:00.100 but had to stop at the end of the opening lap with loose rear wheel nuts before an early retirement with a broken distributor.
A cutaway drawing of the Mk6 that originally appeared in the Autocar magazine from August 1963.
The Le Mans 24 Hours was next up and a new car was built, it was hoped a second car would be entered by the John Mecom team but time constraints meant it could not be completed in time. The works car missed the Wednesday scrutineering but the ACO permitted the car to be checked on Thursday and, after moving the engine air ducts from the roof to behind the doors to improve driver visibility, the car passed. For this race Richard Attwood and David Hobbs were drafted in and, now fitted with a 4727cc Cobra engine, they qualified the car 22nd (4:13.100). Atwood stared the race and was running just outside the top 12 in the first hour when the car had to pit to have a slipping dynamo belt fixed. Later a two hour pit stop to repair gearbox problems dropped the car back and Hobbs then crashed at the Chicane when the recalcitrant gearbox refused to change down to third.
The final race of the year for the Mk6 was the Guards Trophy at Brands Hatch on the 6th August. The new Ford-powered chassis was entered by the Mecom Racing Team in the over three-litre category and driven by Augie Pabst but the car was very much a last-minute effort, it missed practice altogether and retired after just four of the fifty lap race when the oil pressure vanished.
Behind the scenes the Ford Motor Company had taken an interest in the Mk6 as they were planning on a Le Mans assault followitg the company's failure to buy Ferrari! They approached Eric Broadley with a view to taking over the project with the two Ford-powered cars acting as mobile test-beds for components for what would become the legendary Ford GT40 so this was the end of the racing careers of these cars although they saw plenty of testing mileage, frequently with Bruce McLaren at the wheel. Eric Broadley would work on the design of the new “Ford GT” with John Wyer and Ford Engineer Roy Lunn.
The Mk6 in the Le Mans pits in 1963. A partly obscured Eric Broadley is visible on the left in the green shirt.
Meanwhile there was still the 4.6-litre Chevrolet-powered car that was supplied to John Mecom (something Ford were not delighted about) and it made its debut at the Bahamas Speed Week where on the 1st December, at the Oakes Field Circuit, Augie Pabst won the Nassau TT race (and the Preliminary race). Its next race was the Sebring 12 Hours on the 21st March 1964, driven by Augie Pabst and Walt Hangsen, it failed to set a time in practice and engine problems forced it to retire after six hours when the engine seized.
This was effectively the end of the Mk6 in major races, it only completed in a handful of shorter races and its final British outing was on the 3rd August at the Guards Trophy at Brands Hatch where Pabst took 11th. The car then went back to the Lola factory where it was fitted with wider wheels, larger brakes with improved cooling and improved ventilation for the driver. The last appearance for the car was at the Los Angeles Times Grand Prix at Riverside on the 11th October 1964 when a stuck throttle in practice caused Pabst to crash and miss the race.
The Mk6 may not have much to show in the way of results but, as the progenitor of two of the most charismatic sportscars; the Ford GT40 and Lola’s next sportscar the T70, it more than earned its place in motorsport history.
The Hobbs-Attwood car in action at Le Mans, it ran as high as eighth before crashing out on Sunday morning.
Lola Mk 6 Specifications
|ENGINE (Ford V8)
|No. of cylinders
|8 in 90° vee formation
|96.5 mm (3.80 in.)
|72.9 mm (2.87 in.)
|4.262 cc (260 cu. in.)
|Overhead, pushrods and rockers
|9.2 to 1
|Max BHP (net)
|260 @: 6,500 r.p.m.
|269 @ 3,600 r.p.m.
(brake mean effctive pressure)
|1 four-barrel Holley or 4 dual-choke Webers
|2 Bendix electrical
|4 speed, central change, no synchromesh
|Top 3/68 - 3rd 4/24 - 2nd 5/58 - 1st 8/18 - (alternative Top 3/49)
|Straight cut bevel, 3.27 to 1 (alternative 3.09 to 1)
|Girling discs, front & rear
|11 in, dia, front & rear
|Independent, wishbones and coil springs. Armem adjustable telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar.
|Independent, wishbones and coil springs. Armem adjustable telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar.
|Cast magnesium, center-lock, 6.5 in. wide rims front, 8.0 in. rear.
|Dunlop R6, 5.50- or 6.00- 15 in. front, 6.50- or 7.00- 15 in. rear.
|Rack & pinion
|7 ft. 8 in.
|Track (front & rear)
|4 ft. 4 in.
|12 ft. 10 in.
|5 ft. 3 in.
|3 ft. 4 in.
|Kerb weight (approx)
|1,800 lb. 16.1 c.w.t. (817 kg)
|3 (Prototype - LGT-1 - LGT-2)
Eric Broadley stands by the Mecom Racing Team Mk6 at a very wet Brands Hatch, August 1963...
This article originally appeared in Autosport magazine published on the 18th August 1984.
Lola GT Mk6
David Cole reviews the history of the forerunner to the Ford GT40, the often ignored, but lovable Lola GT.
In different histories of the classic Ford GT40 that have been produced, the Lola GT tends to receive only a few short lines, and a number of fallacies have built up. For instance, the Lola was not designed specifically for the Ford engine. Nor was it the first European car designed for competition use with an American engine — remember the Nash-Healey and Sydney Allard's use of Ford, Cadillac, and Chrysler engines a decade earlier. Not only was the Lola the predecessor of the GT40, but a second series of classic sports cars was also developed from it: the Lola T 70, which shared a similar monocoque chassis layout, was also designed to be powered by a range of different engines and would, eventually, be produced in coupe form for endurance racing.
Twenty years on from the first GT40, Lola Cars have developed an IMSA GTP car, powered by a new-generation Chevrolet V6 turbo, to race under the name of Corvette. The names of Lola and Chevrolet have become almost synonymous in racing after years of CanAm, F5000, New Era ‘CanAm' and the IMSA series, but it is often forgotten that the first ever Lola-Chevrolet was a Mk6, and that it was a race winner before the prototype GT40 was even assembled.
Nothing is more powerful than an idea when its time has come, and several factors coincided to ensure that 1963 was to be an excellent time for a new Grand Touring project to be started.
Charles and John Cooper had recently proved that Dr Porsche had been right all the time — the correct place for a racing car's engine was behind the driver. Declining manufacturers' interest in endurance racing had prompted the FIA to drop the out-and-out sports-racers in favour of the homologated GT category for championship honours in 1962. However, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest had successfully petitioned for the introduction of a class for 'Prototypes' to be allowed to race along with the GT cars. Other organisers admitted these cars to their events (together with obsolete sports-racers ineligible for championship points) and a limit of 4 litres was set for that initial season.
Jim Hall ran a pair of front-engined Chaparrals at Sebring with special 3988cc Corvette engines to compete against a 3990cc Ford Challenger, and one of the Texan cars finished sixth overall. Ferrari ran a mixture of old and new, front and rear-engined cars from the start of the year but his first genuine prototype, a 4-litre GTO, appeared at the Nürburgring 1000 Kms where Willy Mairesse and Mike Parkes drove it to second place behind a 2.4-litre V6 Dino sports car.
The sports cars were not admitted to Le Mans, so Ferrari fitted regulation windscreens to two Dinos to convert them into 'Prototypes' and took them to the circuit along with the special GTO and a similarly powered Testa Rossa Prototype. Maserati had received sufficient backing to build a trio of splendid V8 powered coupes, two for Briggs Cunningham and the third for Maserati-France, but they all retired. Another famous company to be tempted out of retirement was Aston Martin. Their single entry, known simply as the Project 212, was highly competitive in the hands of Graham Hill and Ritchie Ginther and, although it failed to last eight hours, it inspired a three-car team from David Brown's marque the following year.
Porsche were stretching their resources a little too far (with both Grand Prix and sports car racing at this time) to be consistently successful in either class, and the only other major new prototype was the woefully underfinanced Tojeiro-Climax from Ecurie Ecosse.
Another manufacturer to try the 'high windscreen' conversion trick was Colin Chapman but, unfortunately for the Englishman, his Lotus 23s were in direct opposition to the Renault and Panhard contenders for the Index of Performance (then much-prized as it was the only competition that the French cars could win!). Despite the fact that the cars were quickly modified to comply with the scrutineers' initial objections, both cars were banned from the race. The resultant publicity did nothing to ease Britain's entry into the EEC...
Another factor which increased interest in the Grand Touring category in 1962 was the introduction of the Ferrari GTO. Ever since the early 250GTs had outclassed the Mercedes-Benz 300SLs seven years before, there had been grumbles about the Commendatore's "Homologation Specials" but the GTO, with its full race-tuned Testa Rossa engine, five-speed gearbox and lightweight aluminium bodyshell, really stung his rivals into action. Aston Martin had had little real success with privately entered DB4GT Zagatos, so they built a pair of Project 214s with enough standard components to get them past the Le Mans scrutineers as DB4GTs, and Jaguar were forced to build a dozen racing versions of the E-Type to defend their reputation.
The early history of Lola Cars has been told often enough, most recently in AUTOSPORT's feature on their 25th anniversary (November 24, 1983), but we should remember that Broadley's emergence from the ranks of British special builders to Fl constructor took place over only four years and, when his Fl sponsor withdrew at the end of that first season, he was to be much hampered by a proverbial shoestring budget as he searched for pastures new...
To tell the story of the Lola Mk6 GT, it is necessary to go back in time to June 1957, when the infamous Automobile Manufacturers Association ban, intended to keep Detroit out of "any public contest, competitive event or test of passenger cars involving or suggesting racing or speed", had been signed. This deal stuck until 1962; Ford, for good commercial reasons then went their own way and started to participate in American racing on a small basis. They signed a deal with Carroll Shelby to product the Cobra and, at the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, demonstrated the prototype Mustang 1. Totally different from the later production Mustangs, this was a little sports roadster designed by Roy Lunn. It had independent suspension inspired by Lotus, a multi-tube spaceframe and a 1.7-litre Ford Taunus V4 engine mounted behind the driver and ahead of the rear axle. Cooling was by radiators placed ahead of the rear wheels, fed by side scoops just aft of the doors. For a while, it appeared that General Motors would follow. The single-seater mid-engined Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle had been taken around several American racetracks by Corvette designer Zora Arkus-Duntov two years earlier, while a number of exotic 'show cars' were produced for exhibition.
In early 1963, the two industrial giants were rubbing shoulders on the NASCAR tracks and, when the Le Mans entries were published, the first ten cars on the list (arranged in descending order of engine capacities) were to be powered by American V8s: three Chevrolet Corvettes, two Chaparrals, two works Lolas, and three Cobras.
However, April's traditional Le Mans Test Weekend came and went with disturbing evidence that all was not well with the transatlantic challenge. Not a single American engined car participated. The Ferraris were frighteningly fast, with all their works drivers breaking the lap record consistently, the Aston Martins impressed, as did the now-famous Rover-BRM on its public debut. But where was the distinctive rumble of the big V8s?
Chevrolet had left the scene early. GM's Board had been horrified to discover that they had signed Masten Gregory to race their new Corvette Grand Sport homologation specials. The motoring press had gleefully reported that Masten was setting sensational lap times at Sebring in pre-season testing. So, before he could do any more damage such as leading the 12 Hours race, they cancelled the entire programme! For Zora Arkus-Duntov, this must have been a most frustrating time. It was the second occasion in seven years that his bosses had killed his ambitious plans for a Chevrolet works team in International racing, and they were to confirm this stance again within 12 months.
The private 'stock' Stingrays which did make the race were uncompetitive with the Ferrari GTOs, one of which was driven by Roger Penske and Augie Pabst for Houston oil tycoon John Mecom, soon to play a major part in an unofficial Chevrolet racing effort.
Jim Hall's attempt to convert his front-engined Chaparrals to GT Prototype specification had led to no small amount of difficulty with Sebring's scrutineers, and they would be much more tolerant than the ACO. The Texan was already busy enough learning the European circuits with the British Racing Partnership's Fl Lotus 24, so he decided to allow his own team to concentrate on building the new, rear-engined Chaparral 2s. He would go to the Sarthe that year to share a NART Ferrari with Dan Gurney, but his own cars were not to race there until 1966.
Carroll Shelby was still only in his first full season with his Cobras. The inevitable teething troubles prompted him to concentrate on home-based SCCA events for a while. The Yanks — in the shape of Ford — were coming, but they were running late.
Silverstone's Daily Express International Trophy Meeting at the beginning of May showed that Dearborn meant business. Peter Jopp was struggling with an uncompetitive, privately entered Cobra in the GT race, but the first of the long-promised Galaxies was to dominate the saloons. The crowd, bored with the endless string of Jaguar victories (don't times change!), were cheering for Jack Sears in John Willment's red and white 'monster' and Ford suddenly had a whole new image. Unlike Dan Gurney's Chevrolet Impala of two years before, this one stayed together and won.
The final race on the full day's programme was a 12-lapper for unlimited sports cars (Appendix C) which marked the competition debut of the Lola GT.
The hastily assembled car was virtually untested and fitted only with a single downdraught carburettor to its 'cooking' V8. But guest driver John Surtees did a best practice lap of 1m 50.2s compared to pole position man Roy Salvadori's 1m 38.6s in the latest Cooper Monaco with Innes Ireland's BRP-entered Lotus 19 just 0.4sec slower. For comparison, the fastest under 2-litre time was set by Mike Beckwith (Lotus 23) at 1m 42.4s while, for the separate GT event, Mike Parkes had lapped in 1m 42.8s in a Ferrari GTO, 1.2secs faster than Graham Hill and Roy Salvadori in semi-works Lightweight E-Type Jaguars which the Coventry-based company hoped to turn into Ferrari-beaters.
Eugenio Dragoni, then Ferrari's team manager, withdrew permission for John to race the Lola which threw Eric Broadley's tiny outfit into something of a quandary. The Italians were to be criticised in some quarters for their attitude but, while their change of mind was a little late, they could hardly be expected to relish the sight of their number one driver testing a car which would soon be racing in direct competition with their own GT Prototypes.
Tony Maggs, the very talented South African driver then with Cooper but who would have joined the Bowmaker-Lola team for Formula 1 had they continued, was given the chance to race the Mk 6 at the last minute. He had never even sat in it before. From the back of the grid, he quickly picked his way through the bulk of the field to finish ninth, getting down to a lap time of 1m 45s (100.35mph) in the process.
There then followed another rush to get the car to the Nürburgring 1000 Kms race, due the next weekend. Tony was joined by fellow South African Bob Olthoff, who was driving Ford Cortina GTS in saloon car racing for John Willment that season. This was the famous occasion when Peter Lindner took advantage of a particularly ragged 'Le Mans' start to lead all the prototypes for a complete 14.2 mile lap in his Lightweight E-Type. One car not featuring in the leading group was the Lola. It stopped at the pits at the end of its first lap, with the rear wheels tending to come adrift! It rejoined with the leaders already on their eighth lap but, after a second stop and driver change, the Lola was retired when the distributor failed.
A story leaked to the press at this time revealed that Ford's attempt to buy Enzo Ferrari's company had failed…
Eric Broadley and his small team were now into another mad scramble, attempting to prepare two brand new Mk6s for Le Mans. David Hobbs and Dickie Attwood were both driving Lola Mk5s in Formula Junior for the Midland Racing Partnership, a semi-works team, so they were nominated for one car, but Maggs was due to drive for Porsche and was therefore unavailable.
It had been hoped that the second car would be fitted with a 4639cc Chevrolet engine supplied by John Mecom, with his regular drivers Roger Penske and Augie Pabst imported to perform the heroics. Sadly, the Mecom car could not be completed in time, nor could the prototype from Silverstone and Nürburgring be refurbished for the 24 Hours.
Fortunately for Broadley, the ACO had decided to improve their act after the scandalous banning of the Lotus 23 the previous year. When the GT Lolas failed to make their appearances for scrutineering on either the Tuesday or Wednesday, the race officials agreed to allow a special session on the Thursday morning. After working virtually non-stop for five days and nights, Eric had to sweat out a further delay when fog held up the air-ferry services. He did succeed in producing his one new car, complete with a 4727cc Cobra engine, installed with the assistance of Shelby's mechanic/development engineer, Phil Remington. The car was initially rejected on the grounds of insufficient driver visibility to the rear but, after the engine air-intake trunking was modified to draw air from ducts behind the doors rather than through the roof, they were in the race.
Dickie Attwood, driving in his first Le Mans, took the initial stint. During that first hour, he ran just outside the top twelve, but he soon dropped with the car trailing a worrying haze of blue smoke. After a delay to sort out a slipping dynamo belt, Dickie and David Hobbs (a class winner the previous year with Frank Gardner in a Lotus Elite) brought the Mk6 up to eighth place by 2am, only to be stopped for a further two hours by a faulty gearbox. Hobbs set off, determined to make up some of the lost time, but the race ended for the Bromley-based concern when the troublesome gearbox prevented David from shifting down into third gear for the Chicane, and the car left the road and crashed.
In an AUTOSPORT interview six years later, he remembered the accident as "one of my worst moments in motor racing. I could see Eric Broadley's hopes for the future being scattered all over the road and I knew I was going to hit something hard. Going back to the pits was a nasty 10 minutes walk, wondering what I was going to tell Eric."
The Ferraris had taken seven out of the first eight places at the Ring. A happy Dragoni could phone the Commendatore with the news that they had taken all of the first six at Le Mans. Of the planned American challenges only two old fashioned looking Cobra coupes joined the Lola at the start. One retired, but the AC Cars entry finished seventh: team manager Stirling Moss could hardly have hoped for more. Ferrari's traditional European rivals fared poorly. None of the beautiful Project Astons lasted into the second half of the race while Jaguar's sole finisher struggled home ninth. Porsche were keeping a low profile after their expensive Grand Prix failure and had yet to move out of the 2-litre class, while Maserati-France obeyed the dictum that if you can't win, at least lead the early stages, and swapped their 4-litre V8 for a 5-litre. Veteran Andre Simon did pass all the Ferraris, but his car was out well before lighting-up time. To the spectating Ford personnel, Ferrari was the man to beat, and the performance of the Lola GT had given them an idea...
The next scheduled public appearance for the Mk6 was to have been in a 25-lap sportscar race supporting the British Grand Prix at Silverstone a month later. In the contemporary issue of AUTOSPORT the only reference made to the car was, "Missing from the Sports/GT line-up was the Lola: it will appear shortly with a most powerful V8 engine…” Meanwhile the Brands Hatch publicity machine was forecasting that, among other exciting contenders, two Lolas for Maggs and Augie Pabst would be running in the 133-mile Guards Trophy Race on August Bank Holiday Monday.
By the that AUTOSPORT's race preview was written, Augie Pabst was "to drive the Chevrolet-powered Lola GT that was not finished in time for Le Mans". This was now the only Mk6 entered, so Maggs was able to switch to the BRP Lotus 19, allowing regular driver Innes Ireland to rejoin the Aston Martin team for whom he had driven at the Sarthe.
The desperate last-minute rush to get to the race was becoming something of a Broadley trademark in 1963 and, this time, the car missed practice altogether. Pabst qualified in John Mecom's other entry, the Cooper-Zerox-Climax to be raced by Roger Penske, while a Ford-powered Lola was produced for Monday. Sadly, the effort was wasted—the oil pressure zeroed on lap 4.
This last disappointment came in the middle of behind-the-scenes negotiations which led to Ford effectively taking over the Lola GT project. After the critical success of the Mustang 1 experiment, Roy Lunn had gone back to the drawing board, not to mention the wind tunnel and the computer, to design a Le Mans car, but no in-house project could be made ready for 1964 without specialist assistance. Ford knew all about the Mk6, of course, so, after talking briefly to Cooper and Lotus, a marriage of convenience was hurriedly arranged. David Hobbs need not have worried after all. The results of this alliance have already been the subject of several books...
The two existing Ford-powered cars were to be used as test cars for components for what would eventually become known as the GT40. Richie Ginther, Roy Salvadori, Tony Maggs, Jack Sears and Eric Broadley himself were all to have a hand in these early test sessions, held at Brands Hatch, Goodwood and Snetterton, but the bulk of the work was to fall to the brilliantly qualified Bruce McLaren.
In his AUTOSPORT column From the Cockpit he was to describe driving what was a brand new car (presumably the chassis built to replace the Le Mans wreck), with extensive suspension modifications, and one of the rare Fairlane based Indianapolis V8s as used by Jim Clark and Dan Gurney in the Lotus 29s that year. To the eternally optimistic Bruce, the Lola made his 21/2-litre Tasman Cooper seem like a Formula Junior car. After the Mexican GP, he flew over to Monza where "various carburation arrangements were used, fuel injection was experimented with, and different brake and suspension settings were tried. A considerable sized dossier of facts and figures was compiled, and this was the major point of the exercise."
The Lola was also modified to try out the new upward-ducted air outlet from the radiator as intended for the GT40, and Borrani wire wheels to improve the radiation of heat away from the brakes.
John Wyer's memoirs That Certain Sound show another side to the picture. Amidst all this Ford-financed activity, there was still the small outstanding matter of John Mecom's Lola-Chevrolet to be delivered. This car finally made its debut at Nassau for the Bahamas Speed Week, where it was garaged in a large hangar along with Roger Penske's Cooper-Chevrolet-Monaco, A. J. Foyt's Scarab-Chevrolet, three Corvette Grand Sports and the first of the Chaparral 2s. All sorts of rumours circulated about GM technicians being in the Bahamas on holiday, and the Shelby-Ford personnel were convinced that they were faced with the Chevrolet works team. Actually, they were watching a preview of the CanAm series...
Augie Pabst, scion of a Milwaukee brewery dynasty, had been competing for 2-litre honours in the North American sports car series with a Climax-powered Lotus 19 until the Lola ready. The first race for the new combination was to be a 25-lapper around the 4.5-mile Oakes Field, an old airport, for the Bahamas Tourist Trophy on December 1. Pabst ran third from the start and was soon dicing for the lead with the Chevrolet Grand Sports of Dick Thompson and Jim Hall. By the 16th lap, both the rare Corvette specials were out with transmission difficulties, leaving Augie with a clear lead over a Ferrari GTO. The final laps (the race was stopped on lap 22 for what cricketers’ call "bad light”!) were enlivened by the Lola driver opening his door several times to clean his oiled-up windscreen, but he was able to hang on to win by 26secs.
The first of many Lola-Chevrolet variants had won its first race. Pabst was to drive a Grand Sport later in the Speed Week, and the Lola did not race again until the Sebring 12 Hours held the following March. As the first major endurance race of the 1964 season, Sebring naturally drew a marvellous response from both sides of the Atlantic. The entry of two Ford GTS was cancelled early (neither had yet been completed, never mind tested — the 'plan' was nothing if not optimistic), but the Lola was in the field, even though it was relegated to the wrong end of the Le Mans type line-up after practice problems. Sharing the car with Pabst was ex-Cunningham team leader Walt Hangsen and they were joined at the unfashionable part of the starting order by Mecom's Grand Sport (A. J. Foyt/John Cannon) and Ken Miles's experimental 7-Litre Cobra, which had wrestled control from its intrepid driver and beat itself out of shape against a tree!
Roger Penske, taking the start in Jim Hall's Grand Sport, brought the crowd to its feet when he led all the Ferraris past the pits at the end of lap 1. Surtees, Pedro Rodriguez and Graham Hill had all forced their red cars in front of the America before they crossed the line again, but Roger still held off Scarfiotti and Parkes in the other factory prototypes for five more laps.
The Lola was already in trouble, with Pabst stuck out on the circuit with an electrical fault. Hangsen and a mechanic set off on foot to sort things out. They did succeed in getting the car going again but, after other setbacks, the Lola was retired when the 4.6-litre V8 Chevrolet engine seized during the sixth hour. The spectacular Penske/Hall Grand Sport did make it to the finish — in 18th place. Ferraris took the first three places as usual, but they were followed home by three Cobras — all of them ahead of the first GTO in the Grand Touring category.
Sebring was the last race in which the Mecom Mk 6 appeared and was likely to be competitive. It was to be used, along with Mecom's other specials such as the Scarab, Lotus-Oldsmobile and Hussein 1 (basically a Cooper Monaco with a 7-litre Dodge engine mounted under its new body) in some of the shorter events, but its heavier weight and larger frontal area left it with an unfair disadvantage against the more liberally regulated Appendix C cars.
However, the car did return to Britain, where it finished 11th at Brands before being taken to Lola's new Slough factory where it was to be given wider wheels (Mecom's cars all ran on Goodyear tyres at this time), larger brakes and improved brake cooling and driver ventilation. Mecom had already announced that he would be buying one of the new Lolas for 1965, now that Broadley had split from Ford. So, when Pabst crashed the GT in practice for the Los Angeles Times Grand Prix at Riverside with the throttle stuck open, its career was over. The new car was, of course, the fabulous T70. This car followed the Mk6 and GT40 design trend, with a twin-fuselage chassis of monocoque construction. It was fabricated from sheet steel and alloy with built-in fuel tanks, covered by an unstressed glass fibre body. The first car, shown at the 1965 Racing Car Show, was fitted with a Ford Cobra engine, although a wide range of V8s would eventually be used. Chevrolets proved to be the most consistently successful. In the later T70 Mk2, a considerable weight saving would be achieved by the use of aluminium alloy in the monocoque instead of steel, and the first coupes were to be produced in 1967. With the Indycars and the new F5000 coming along, the Lola company's reputation was now fully established in both Europe and America.
Almost all of the information contained in the article was garnered from contemporary AUTOSPORT reports, but some additional details came from the following sources:
Ford: The Dust and the Glory by Leo Levine (MacMillan).
Ford Verses Ferrari by Anthony Pritchard (Pelham Books).
The Inside Story of the Fastest Fords by Karl E Ludvigsen (Style Auto).
The Certain Sound by John Wyer && AUTOMOBILE YEAR (Edita).
Chevrolet = Racing...? by Paul Van Valkenburgh (Haessner).
...where, driven by Augie Pabst, it retired. (The John Mecom Collection)
The Chevrolet-powered Mk6 at speed.
In the Brands Hatch paddock.... (The John Mecom Collection)
...for the Guards Trophy August 1964. (The John Mecom Collection)
The rear of the Mk6. (The John Mecom Collection)
Augie Pabst finished 11th overall and 3rd in the GT+2.5 class. (The John Mecom Collection)
The field comprised such luminaries as winner Bruce McLaren, Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill, Denny Hulme and A. J. Foyt amongst many of the top sportscar drivers of the day. (The John Mecom Collection)
Augie Pabst and the Mk6 on the Brands Hatch grid. (Picture courtesy of Ben Cowdrey)
Augie Pabst lines up next to a Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport on the Nassau TT grid. (From the Collections of The Henry Ford)
Augie Pabst on his way to victory in the Nassau GT. (From the Collections of The Henry Ford)
Augie Pabst and Walt Hansgen drove the Mk6 in the Sebring 12 Hours. (From the Collections of The Henry Ford)
The subframe to which the front suspension, radiator, spare wheel and battery (mounted under the wheel) are attached can be seen here.
The Ford V8 engine.
The plexiglass windscreen and the door windows which slide open for driver ventilation.
The rear end of the Mk6.