Searching for those elusive photos

When one thinks about the size of the crowds that used to attend motor races in the 1960s, I still find it amazing that it is so hard to find period photos of even the most noteworthy cars that were racing.

This is particularly an issue with the lower formulae. At the moment, I am researching Lotus Formula Junior racing cars from the early 1960s, specifically the Lotus 27, which was a monocoque car raced by the works-supported Ron Harris Team Lotus equipe, with drivers including Pete Arundell, Mike Spence and John Fenning.

A monocoque in a lower formula such as Formula Junior was quite revolutionary. In fact, it didn’t catch on because if you were a privateer owner, and you dinged your car while racing in Europe, it was very difficult to repair a monocoque tub compared to a spaceframe chassis, where cutting out damaged tubes and putting in new ones was a relatively straightforward task.

Additionally, the early versions of the car proved a bit of a handful. The side skins of the tub were made of fibreglass rather than the more traditional aluminium, and it turned out that they flexed under load, particularly under braking, making for some unpredictable handling. The car really only came right when they discarded the fibreglass skins and went back to aluminium.

Anyway, back to photos. In total, the Ron Harris Team Lotus team used five cars during the 1963 season. Usually, they ran three drivers, and one of the chassis was only delivered very late in the year, so most of the time they had four cars between them, with one acting as a spare, maybe for the team leader, Pete Arundell.

What is particularly tricky is trying to work out which chassis was used by which driver. I have been trying to do this through analysing photos of the cars at each race but boy is it difficult! Firstly, the photos need to be of sufficient quality to be able to see certain features. At the very basic level that means being able to see if it has fibreglass or aluminium sides, as that narrows down which car it could be a little. At a more detailed level, hopefully this means that one can see the rivet patterns on the side of the car, so that individual characteristics of each car can be identified.

To say I’ve had mixed success with this would be an understatement. Even trying to find out at which race the first aluminium-sided car made its appearance has proved difficult: some say it was the International Trophy meeting at Silverstone on 11th May 1963, with Pete Arundell driving, others say it was the Grand Prix de Monaco Junior on May 25th. Unfortunately, the only good photo I can find from the International Trophy meeting is of Mike Spence, and he is still driving a fibreglass-sided car…

The two photos I have from the Monaco meeting show Arundell driving a fibreglass-sided car. One, taken in the first heat, has Spence behind him, also in a fibreglass-sided car and the other, which could have been taken in practice, also clearly shows the distinctive oval cut-outs of a fibreglass-sided car. Yet the Motor Sport report, written by none other than John Bolster, reports that the problems with the car had been solved now that it had aluminium sides!

I don’t have any photos of the next race for Arundell, at Mallory Park on 2nd June but the following day a race took place at Crystal Palace, and photos show all three Ron Harris Team Lotus cars to be fibreglass-sided… There was quite a gap to the next race at Rouen-les-Essarts in France on 23rd June and for that I have the evidence from a super piece of film from that both Spence and Arundell raced aluminium-sided cars.

What I really need is a couple more really clear photos of Arundell during the final of the Monaco Junior race. If anyone knows where to find such shots, please contact me!

After that, what I am looking for are really clear side-on shots of the Ron Harris Team Lotus cars, especially Arundell’s. Preferably taken while the cars are stationary in the paddock or on the grid, as this gives the best clarity to be able to count rivets!

Here’s a summary of the meetings I am looking for photos from (all 1963):

Aintree, 27th April
Silverstone, 11th May (Arundell only)
Monaco, 25th May
Mallory Park, 2nd June
Reims, 30th June
Clermont-Ferrand, 7th July
Zolder, 25th August
Zandvoort, 1st September
Albi, 9th September
Brands Hatch, 14th September (Deserti only)
Nurburgring, 29th September

In the meantime, I will keep looking, and also trying to trace the histories of these cars post-1963. At the moment, I have a fairly good idea of this, it is just that I cannot pin specific histories to specific chassis. I can narrow it down a little, but I can’t say for sure…yet. I live in hope.

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