Remember when you were at school, bored, bored, bored? Gazing out of the window at that blue sky of 1976, your mind daydreaming away about racing cars until you’re brought back into the room by the teacher barking your name, or clipping your ear. Look down into your ruled, dog eared exercise book where you’ve been doodling pictures of racing cars in the margin. If you were a school kid of the sixties and seventies, this car is probably what you drew. Long, thin, cigar shaped body. Incredibly delicate looking wishbones. Huge, almost caricature, racing tyres. No wings. Your driver probably had an open face Bell and some goggles. You drew a Lola.
[quote]..bass note hitting your chest as Johnathon reaches over the carbs to blip the throttle linkage[/quote]
This is a Lola F5000 T140. Number seven in a production run of seventeen cars sold in the USA by Carl Haas in 1967-68 to compete in what was known as Formula A in the US and Formula 5000 in Europe. We’re saying ‘Lucky Seven’ as a title, because were it not for the efforts of owner Richard Summers and the team of people at Hardy Hall Restoration, she certainly wouldn’t exist in her current state. Originally, Number 7 is believed to have been bought by Jerry Rosbach a Honda dealer in the mid-west USA, what race results Richard’s research uncovered suggested he did not race it much or with much success. At some point the car was crashed. Studying the remains of the car and the spares that arrived with it, Richard’s pretty sure that there was an unsuccessful attempt to repair it. After that, she disappeared into that wilderness in the late seventies that all un-competitive racing cars go to. At that point, not old enough to be historic, just an old chassis and considered of little value. Her engine and gearbox was gone, leaving the badly bent chassis, suspension, brakes and uprights.
In the early 2000’s, the F5000 racer’s remains are sold on eBay to a UK buyer and she’s shipped across the Atlantic. The all important chassis plate is there, together with the other parts. In 2007, Richard acquired her and set about the restoration. He wanted to make her as close as possible to the F5000 specification when she left the Lola factory. The chassis was pretty bad, a heavy front corner shunt had ended the car’s short career and the age and damage meant that Johnathon Hall constructed a fresh chassis, but wherever possibly, carrying over the original tubes. The original uprights were crack tested and found to be fine, even the one that bore the brunt of the impact. They are all used in the restoration, together with gearshift linkage and many other components. Brakes and suspension were complete, but the decision was made to make new items on safety grounds, the originals being retained for storage.
[quote] Even though you think you’re ready, the Chevrolet still hits you in the chest when it bursts into life[/quote]
T140’s originally had a Hewland LG600 Mk1, four speed, but when they tried a Mk1 in the restoration, the cross piece and fittings were for a Mk2. Luckily, the only gearbox they could find was, in fact, a Mk2, Richard managing to find one of the very last casings from a production run done a few years ago, so a beautiful, pristine crackle paint finished casing sits at the very end of the chassis. Wheels and tyres are 8″ wide front and 13.5″ rear running cut Avon slicks on original Hallibrand Mecom Lola wheels
“The engine is correct for the period. Several people suggested I should use alternative, lighter, engines, but I wanted it to be as accurate as possible. It’s a genuine, date stamped, 1968 block, 302ci, taken out to 305ci, complete with cast iron Fuelly heads. I was in the USA on business and the discussion moved to cars. Hearing about my Lola, someone pipes up, ‘I can get you a genuine engine as a base for less than $600’. He was true to his word several days later”. Indeed Richard had the race engine built in the USA for a very competitive figure using this as the base, such is the widespread use of big block V8’s in motorsport, even today.
“Some T140’s ran with small wings, but I wanted the period, ex-factory look, plus the clean silhouette is the one I prefer.” We’re at Blyton Park, Lincolnshire, UK with McKenna to photograph and drive this beautiful car. Bodywork removed, the high quality of the restoration work is evident. Each crisp lockwire aligned with precision with it’s opposite number on the other side of the car, the delicate bodywork blemish free, the mesh covered intake trumpets of the Weber carbs an iconic symbol of seventies racing cars. Johnathan squirts fluid into the intakes, reaches in, snaps the electrics into life and clicks the shift from side to side, checking for neutral. Ready to start. We’re running sans-silencers today, thanks to Blyton’s generous noise limits. Even though you think you’re ready, the Chevrolet still hits you in the chest when it bursts into life. Sanity should really dictate that I retreat to a safe distance, but the bass note hitting your chest as Johnathon reaches over the carbs to blip the throttle linkage, the eye watering exhaust fumes stinging and the deep aromas all keep us there. Up to temparature, he shuts down. Ringing noise in my ears. “Fantastic.”
We push the car into position, the brand new Salisbury LSD fighting us with the slightest steering angle “Needs more running time to bed in”, is the comment. McKenna hops aboard. The seat is unlike a modern, ‘poured’ competition seat and is exactly as they were in period. He finds it tight across the shoulders and some wriggling is needed. Snap, switches on. Fuel pumps…. “You have her,” from Johnathan and the Chevrolet comes alive. Battery pack removed, into first, visor down…
Ten laps later, he’s pouring out his impressions. “I need to be closer to the wheel, my forearms are pumped…..fantastic power, seamless, just goes and goes…..even at six eight, it’s pulling so strong, doesn’t want to stop……gearshift is superb…..not as loud in the car as outside…..but my feet are in fire, that radiator is damn hot!”
This is only the cars third serious outing since it’s restoration and Johnathan Hardy is pleased that his guessed settings are pretty much bang on. The steering column is adjusted and McKenna gives more input to Johnathan’s clipboard as Richard Summers takes the wheel of his car for his session. McKenna – “The throttle linkage needs a very slight adjustment on the initial pickup, it’s still a little stiff… the diff’s freeing off, still tight…. settings are pretty much bang on….actually quite forgiving as long as you’re wide awake….radiator heat is positively painful after ten laps….But only noticed on my slowing down lap how cool the wishbones look moving in front of your eyes!….Love it…”
For a car to run like this, right out of the box, after a zero time rebuild, is testament to the experience and dedication of Hardy Hall. “Richard has been a great client. He wanted everything to be just right, no corners cut and this is the result. Everything was crack tested, even the original wheels we found were fine, nothings been left to chance. When you do it right, like Richard wanted, then this is the result you get.”
Best time of the day was 64.5 seconds around Blyton Park’s 1.4 mile circuit. The consensus is that below 60 seconds is on the cards with the feedback from today. A return visit is pencilled in. If you live within a five mile radius and this summer allows us to continue opening our windows, trust me, you’ll know when the Lola returns.
With thanks to:
Richard Summers and family http://www.lola-t140-7.com/T140-SITE/Home.html
Johnathan Hall of Hardy Hall Restorations
Richard Usher of Blyton Park
Driver Andrew McKenna http://www.andymckennaracing.co.uk/
Words, video and images copyright Neill Watson