The ex-John Mecom, 1966 Lola T70 Mk2 Spyder, Chassis no. SL71/45

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Lot 336
The ex-John Mecom, 1966 Lola T70 Mk2 Spyder,
Chassis no. SL71/45

£ 290,000 - 340,000
US$ 400,000 - 470,000
The ex-John Mecom, 1966 Lola T70 Mk2 Spyder

Chassis no. SL71/45


  • Lola's sublimely beautiful T70 spyder sports-racer is historically significant as winner of the first ever Can-Am Championship. It was designed and manufactured by Lola Cars Ltd, of Bromley, Kent, a relatively young company that had been building competition cars for only seven years prior to the T70's introduction in 1965. From humble beginnings – the prototype Mark 1 sports car emerged from a garage behind the Broadley family's tailoring shop in Bromley in 1958 – Lola Cars quickly established a winning reputation and grew to become a major force in world motorsport. Eric Broadley, his cousin Graham and Rob Rushbrook, at whose garage premises the first customer production versions were made, were the architects of the early success, which continued with a front-engined, single-seater Formula Junior, the Mk2.
    Among Broadley's early projects was the Mk6 GT coupé, which had been designed to take advantage of readily available American V8 engines that offered the ideal combination of compact size and adequate performance. Lola's first monocoque design, the Mk6 GT became part of Ford's Le Mans programme in 1963, Broadley having been hired by the American company to assist with the development of what would emerge as the all-conquering GT40. At odds with his American bosses, Broadley left in 1964 and the following year, having penned a handful of Formula 2 monopostos, returned to sports cars with a new design for Group 7 racing: the Lola T70. Effectively a 'formula libre' for sports prototypes - enclosed wheels and provision for an onboard spare were just about the only regulations - Group 7 was becoming popular on both sides of the Atlantic and the potential market for such cars looked promising.
    Designed to accept American V8 engines, the T70 spyder incorporated a full-length monocoque body tub fabricated of aluminium panels on a steel framework, the engine being bolted to the firewall bulkhead as a semi-stressed member. The suspension was conventional, boasting unequal length wishbones and coil spring/damper units all round, though the positioning of the disc brakes inboard of the wheels was an unusual feature, adopted in the interests of better cooling. Hewland's new LG500 gearbox was specified, this magnesium-cased unit having been designed specifically for use with large-capacity V8 engines. Enclosing this ensemble was one of the most beautiful bodies ever to grace a racing sports car, the glassfibre panels of which were produced by Specialised Mouldings.
    John Surtees was one of the first customers for the T70, running what in effect was a 'semi-works' team in 1965. Traco-prepared Chevrolet V8s were used, a 5.0-litre unit at first and then from mid-season a 5.9. A MkII version of the T70 became available before the end of the '65 season, Broadley taking advantage of the forthcoming deletion of the 'spare wheel' requirement to redesign the nose, replacing the original twin radiators with a large single unit while incorporating a host of detail improvements to both chassis and suspension. The result was a significantly quicker car, which in prototype form was driven to a convincing victory by Surtees in the Guards International Trophy at Brands Hatch on the August bank holiday weekend. Surtees then wrote off the prototype MkII at Mosport Park in Canada following a suspension failure, sustaining injuries that put him out for the rest of the season.
    He bounced back in 1966, winning three of the inaugural Can-Am Championship's six races for Lola and defeating rivals McLaren and Chaparral in the process. Privately entered T70s won two of the other races making it a magnificent five out of six for Lola. Surtees' success capped what had been a tremendous year for the British manufacturer in North America, Graham Hill already having won the celebrated Indianapolis 500 in a T90. Although the works McLarens would dominate Can-Am for the next five years, the Lola T70 remained a popular choice for privateers, among whom it was rated as the sweetest handling of the customer cars. Given its Can-Am origins, it is not surprising that the long-serving T70 family of sports cars was better suited to sprint events yet, against the odds, a MkIIIB coupé owned by Roger Penske lasted the distance to win the coveted Daytona 24 Hours endurance classic in 1969.
    Chassis number 'SL71/45' was sold new to Lola's North American concessionaire, John Mecom on 23rd September 1966 as a spare monocoque, which Mecom built into a complete car fitted with a Chevrolet 359ci (5.9-litre) engine. In June 1967 the car was sold to Captain Anson L Thompson, of Florida for $7,300 with standard brake system, less transaxle (see copy of bill of sale on file). Ransom Weston (Lotus importer for Texas) fitted a Hewland LG600 five-speed gearbox and race prepared the car, which was finished in dark blue. Thompson raced the Lola under the "Anson Johnson" alias, fitted with MkIIIB spyder bodywork, on a few occasions in 1968 without success. In December 1968, the car also ran in Venezuela with Omar Butari, a fellow pilot and friend of Johnson after which SL71/45 was advertised for sale in Competition Press & Autoweek in March 1969, listing its specification as '359 Bartz Chevy, new 5-speed LG600 Hewland, Bladders, vented disc, Konis, wide wheels, Aeroquip lines, Fabroids, chrome headers, rollbar.'
    On Captain Thompson's death the car passed to his nephew, R H Sessions, and was stored until December 1978 when it was sold by Sessions to M McClendon (see copy of bill of sale on file). A Mk III coupé body was on the car at this time. In 2007 Mr McClendon sold 'SL71/45' to the current owner in Europe, who commissioned a most meticulous full restoration of the car to its original MkII spyder specification. The rebuild was completed in 2009 and FIA HTP papers obtained. Far too lengthy to reproduce here, a fully detailed breakdown of the work carried out and the car's current specification, which includes a fresh, fully race-prepared 5,753cc Chevrolet V8, are available for inspection. Presented in fully restored, effectively 'as new' condition but with continuous history, this iconic sports-racing spyder, eligible for a multitude of events, is offered with a very complete file and the aforementioned FIA papers.
The ex-John Mecom, 1966 Lola T70 Mk2 Spyder, Chassis no. SL71/45
The ex-John Mecom, 1966 Lola T70 Mk2 Spyder, Chassis no. SL71/45
The ex-John Mecom, 1966 Lola T70 Mk2 Spyder, Chassis no. SL71/45
The ex-John Mecom, 1966 Lola T70 Mk2 Spyder, Chassis no. SL71/45
The ex-John Mecom, 1966 Lola T70 Mk2 Spyder, Chassis no. SL71/45
The ex-John Mecom, 1966 Lola T70 Mk2 Spyder, Chassis no. SL71/45
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