Memorable Racecars 1965 Lotus 38

Memorable Racecars 1965 Lotus 38

Firsts seldom come in fours. However, as an embodiment of the representative quantum leap taken over its competitors of the era, at the 1965 Indy 500, the Lotus 38 heralded just that.

The Colin Chapman/Len Terry-designed 38 was the first rear-engined and non-American-built car to win the event, and in the hands of Jim Clark, the first non-American driver to conquer the event since 1916.

Memorable Racecars 1965 Lotus 38

Piling further plumes of Scottish sea salt on to the hot-dog-loving Americans’ parade, the 38 set the then-fastest-ever average race speed, exceeding 150 miles per hour, in addition to leading 190 of 200 laps. That said, the latter does fall short of Billy Arnold’s 1930 record of 198 laps led.

Similar to its 29 and 34 predecessors, which also ran at Indy, and favouring the course’s left-only turns, the Lotus 38 featured suspension arms of unequal length that held the chassis off-centre.

A key difference was the debut of a fully enclosed aluminium monocoque, said to have not been favoured by Chapman as he feared it hampered rapid access to the car’s internals. The upside was significantly improved chassis rigidity.

The quad-cam, fuel-injected Ford V8 from the 34 – producing 372 kW @ 9 000 r/min – was carried over and mated to a two-speed ZF gearbox. Its midship mounting position optimised handling and weight distribution, ultimately consigning Indy’s front-engined roadsters to evolution’s scrapheap: AJ Foyt’s 1964 win would be the last for the concept.

Clark skipped the 1965 Monaco GP (an event he never won) in favour of that year’s Indy 500. Nonetheless, he also aced the season’s F1 championship and to this day remains the only driver to have earned both crowns in the same year. Not a bad consolation prize.

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