1600cc Ford Twin-Cam
45 DCOE Weber carburetors
*Well known, heavily campaigned Type 47
*Ex-Team Palma, Ernesto Neves
*Cosworth FVA power plant from 1970
*International racing career
*A proven race winner
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
By the mid 1960s, Colin Chapman's boundless energy had produced no less than 36 distinctive Lotus automobiles, but the entrepreneurial engineer still yearned to build an inexpensive mid-engine production car and with a race version for Team Lotus and for sale to privateers. Thus the Type 46, or Europa, was revealed in 1965. Built around a box-section central spine chassis, John Frayling's fiberglass bodywork was bonded to the chassis to form an exceptionally stiff monocoque structure. Ever mindful of a good deal, Chapman secured drivetrains and engines from the Renault 16 and massaged them to produce 80 horsepower. Crucially, the Europa was low, as low as a Ford GT40, and aerodynamically efficient, making it a superb platform for a competitive racecar.
By the end of 1966 a racing model, the Type 47GT, had appeared at Brands Hatch and won in the hands of John Miles (who won eight more times that season). Orders began to pour in to Hethel. Heart of the 47GT was Cosworth's Ford twin-cam. Bored out to 1594cc to fit the 1600cc class, it dealt 165 horsepower to the rear wheels through a Hewland magnesium FT200 limited-slip transaxle. Tecalamit-Jackson fuel injection was standard, though buyers could opt for twin Webers. In Lotus tradition, buyers also could order a 47GT absent engine and transmission or request the factory to make modifications. Chapman borrowed widely for the suspension. The independent rear layout was from the Lotus 59 single-seater and in front from the Triumph Vitesse, slightly tweaked. Ventilated disc brakes were at each wheel. The lightened chassis weighed between 600-650kg, and the bodywork boasted a slippery drag coefficient of just 0.29.
By 1968, production of the 47 had ceased after an estimated 50-70 left the factory. There is no doubt that the 47GT was by far the greatest of the Europas, and it remains one of Chapman's most successful sports/GT machines.
This rare survivor of the European racing circuit was one of five identical 47GTs delivered new, in white, from the factory to Portugal's Team Palma. Four cars were sold to gentlemen drivers, but GT-015 was retained by Team Palma.
Each car was powered by the Cosworth 1.6-liter twin-cam. (Eventually GT-015 would receive a Cosworth FVA, but not until its first driver, Luís Fernandes, had passed the reins to Ernesto Neves for the 1970 racing season.) The first race for GT-015 was on July 30, 1967 at Circuito de Montes Claros. One of four 47GTs entered, it finished well back. Then, in August, in just his second outing with the car, Fernandes took GT-015 to victory at Vila do Conde.
Along with two other Portuguese 47GT teams, GT-015 then traveled to Brazil in December for the Mil Milhas Brasileiras at Interlagos. One Lotus team withdrew due to terrible track conditions, and the Fernandes car fell out on lap 180 from suspension failure. Fernandes stayed in Brazil to run -015 at Interlagos a week later and placed fifth.
Returning to Europe, in 1968 Fernandes ran in the GP do ACP at Granja do Marques — and won by almost fifteen seconds over José Lampreia's 47GT-026. The remainder of the '68 season included two DNFs and a 9th, and in 1969 the car passed into the hands of Ernesto Neves, who ran four races that year for a 13th, 2nd and two unclassified finishes. For 1970 it was decided to replace the original powerplant with a Cosworth FVA engine, and Neves entered three races that year to earn a DNF and two 3rds.
In 1971 the driving duties went to António Portela de Morais, then Luis Madeira Rodrigues, and finally, in 1973, to yet another pilot, Joacquim Oliveira e Silva, who campaigned GT47-015 with no great distinction until at least mid 1975, when -015's racing records fade away. Whether it again was raced or when it was retired is currently unknown.
The present owner, a well-known vintage Lotus racer, bought the car in the UK in 1988. It underwent a long restoration, finished in 2005, in America that included crack-tests of the suspension components, renewing them as needed; bodywork repaired and repainted in Team Palma blue; fitment of a competition Lotus Ford twin-cam 1600, rebuilt with all-new components; a renewed valvetrain, new distributor, and dual Weber DCOE carburetors. The estimated c.190 horsepower goes through a new competition twin-plate clutch and FT 200 gearbox. A roll cage was fabricated and installed, and the floor was reinforced with a solid aluminum plate.
Like many early Lotus racecars, 47GT 15's original chassis plate is absent. However, it still wears the plate assigned to it in Portugal and sports the Portuguese-language instruments installed by Team Palma. Though the car was restored for competition, any plans to do so should include a thorough vetting, setup and any refurbishment work necessary. But, whether 47GT-015 ends up in a museum or in a vintage racer's stable, it remains a singular, stunning reminder of Lotus racing history.