The ex-Sir John Whitmore, Alan Mann Racing, European Touring Car Championship-winning 1965 Lotus Cortina Competition Saloon Registration no. KPU 392C Chassis no. BA74EU59019 Engine no. LP2864LBA
Arguably the most famous of all racing Lotus Cortinas, 'KPU 392C' was campaigned by Alan Mann Racing and driven by Sir John Whitmore during the 1965 European Touring Car Championship season. In a crushingly dominant performance, Sir John and 'KPU 392C' won all eight races and hill climbs they contested, including six outright wins. His singular achievement was summed up in Autosport by Patrick McNally: 'In the European Touring Car Challenge Sir John Whitmore was outstandingly successful, his Alan Mann Racing Lotus Cortina proving to be both fast and reliable. The popular racing baronet often won his races outright as well as the class, and shattered course and circuit records everywhere he went.'
Born into a land-owning family, Sir John Henry Douglas Whitmore first turned to motor sports in 1956 and after a spell of rallying and sprinting began circuit racing with a Lotus 6 in 1958. In 1959 Lotus boss Colin Chapman offered him a drive at the Le Mans 24-Hour Race in which he shared an Elite with Jim Clark, finishing 2nd in class. British Saloon Car Champion in 1961 driving a Mini, Sir John later became associated with Ford, driving a GT40 at Le Mans and the Targa Florio. He was also a member of Carroll Shelby's World Sportscar Championship-winning team.
In 1966, at the height of his fame, Sir John retired from motor sports to pursue a career in the emerging science of sports psychology. He is author of the influential work 'Coaching for Performance'. After many years away from motor sport, Sir John returned in 1987 and enjoyed many successful seasons of historic competition, including driving for the revived Alan Mann Racing. He shared cars with Alan himself at times and finally hung up his crash helmet a few years ago.
Throughout the 1960s, Ford had pursued an ambitious and wide-ranging motor sports programme - 'Total Performance' - that would see the 'Blue Oval' triumph at Le Mans with the GT40, while Ford-powered cars also won at Indianapolis and took the Formula 1 World Championship. In Group 2 production car racing the firm was just as dominant, thanks to one particular model: the Ford Lotus Cortina.
Ford's Walter Hayes commissioned Lotus boss Colin Chapman to develop the Group 2 competition version of the new Cortina saloon; Lotus would then build the 1,000 cars required for homologation. Launched in 1963, the Lotus Cortina - Cortina Lotus in Ford parlance - featured the Elan's Ford-based, twin-overhead-camshaft, 1,558cc engine in the two-door bodyshell. McPherson strut independent front suspension was retained, with revised spring and damper rates, while the rear leaf springs were replaced by coil-spring/damper units, axle location being achieved by trailing arms and an 'A' bracket. The latter arrangement was not entirely successful; reversion to Ford's standard leaf-sprung axle in 1965 improved reliability.
Production of the Lotus Cortina began in February 1963 but it was not until September of that year that it was eligible to race. Driven by Jack Sears, a works Lotus Cortina finished 1st in class on the model's racing debut at Oulton Park on 20th September, with Trevor Taylor 2nd in another car. Lotus Cortinas dominated saloon racing's 2-litre class, often challenging for outright honours. Works cars were driven by Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Peter Arundell and Jackie Ickx.
Its early outings had proved that the Lotus Cortina was fast, but the handling was far from perfect and designer Len Terry was asked to make the necessary changes to the rear axle's locating arrangements. After the axle change, the hitherto fragile Lotus Cortina proved a highly capable rally car, works driver Bengt Söderström winning the Acropolis and RAC rallies in 1966.
Alan Mann's Lotus Cortinas had dominated the 1964 European Touring Car Championship, trouncing the opposition at Brands Hatch, Zolder and the Mont Ventoux hill climb, only to have almost certain victory snatched away when the final round at Monza was controversially cancelled. The team's top driver with five wins, Sir John had to be content with 2nd place overall behind Warwick Banks's Mini Cooper S.
At the start of the 1965 season, Mann used the 1964 cars pending the homologation of the leaf-sprung rear axle, and when 'KPU 392C' made its debut at the Championship's second round at Mont Ventoux, still finished in standard white/green colours rather than Mann's red livery, it carried one of the '64 cars' registration numbers. Although not a regular hill climber, Sir John nevertheless secured an overall win and set the touring car course record for the mountain.
One week later he shared 'KPU 392C' with Jack Sears at the Nürburgring 6-hour race, winning overall and setting the touring car lap record on a wet track. This was followed by overall wins at Zolder and the Olympia hill climb at Innsbruck. The next weekend brought with it a class win at Karlskoga, Sir John finishing 2nd overall. By this time it was beginning to look like the Championship would go to Whitmore and after he had driven 'KPU 392C' to overall victory at the Snetterton 500km it seemed all but certain. Another overall win at the St Ursanne hill climb in Switzerland was followed by finishing 1st-in-class and 2nd overall at Zandvoort and the Championship was in the bag.
Among the cars beaten by the combination of Sir John Whitmore and 'KPU 392C' were Ford Galaxies, Alfa GTAs, Mercedes-Benz 300Es, BMW TISAs and Alan Mann Ford Mustangs. The same car/driver combination also finished ahead of Alan Mann Lotus Cortinas piloted by drivers such as Jackie Stewart.
After the '65 season's end, 'KPU 392C' was retired from racing, rebuilt, re-sprayed and despatched on a promotional tour of Ford dealerships. In 1967 the car was acquired by Sir John Whitmore, who owned it until 1995 when it was sold at auction to the current vendor. During Sir John's ownership the Lotus Cortina spent time on display at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu (from approximately 1972 to 1978) before being retrieved by its owner and placed in storage at the premises of another of Alan Mann's drivers: Jack Sears. In the meantime, the car had been back to Alan Mann Racing for a major service. Its distinctive features, such as the lowered rear suspension, were retained.
Subsequent outings were few, being confined to a couple of track tests for Thoroughbred & Classic Cars magazine (1987 and 1989). On the latter occasion, 'KPU 392C' was driven at Ford's Boreham test track by Sir John and racer/journalist Tony Dron, now of Octane magazine. Some 24 years after the Boreham test, 'KPU 392C' was reunited with Sir John Whitmore at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed Press Day on 20th March when Sir John drove the car up the Goodwood hill.
Since its acquisition by the current vendor in 1995, 'KPU 392C' has been carefully preserved. In 2012 extensive detail re-commissioning was undertaken by local specialists the USA (see bills totalling $8,292.74 on file) but the car remains as it was at time of purchase. It has just been gently re-commissioned again ready for sale (the braking system was completely rebuilt and new Dunlop racing tyres fitted). Offered with two old-style Swansea V5 registration documents (both recording Sir John Whitmore as owner) and an extensive file of period race reports, 'KPU 392C' represents a unique opportunity to acquire one of the most famous and historic of all racing saloon cars, possessing an unrivalled provenance.
Should the vehicle remain in the UK, local import taxes of 5% will be applied to the final purchase price.