LOTUS 20 the Revolutionary Formula Junior

COLIN CHAPMAN’S 1961 Lotus Junior begins its career with one major advantage over its predecessor. It was designed from the outset as a F-J r car, whereas the 1960 Junior was virtually a Ford-engined version of the Formula I Lotus, using a cosworth version of the Ford Anglia engine developed by Keith Duckworth who recognized he could get a lot of power out of this little engine The 1961 car-the Lotus Twenty-is thus much smaller and lower, and structurally much more refined, although the basic design has changed very little. Perhaps the most important feature is that frontal area is 30% smaller than on the 1960 year’s car, while the over-all shape is much more aerodynamic. And all the mechanical components- including the carburetors and the exhaust pipe -are contained within the bodywork; even the Lotus badge on the nose is recessed into the reinforced plastic paneling.

The Lotus 20 is also much smaller inside, as I found when I tried out the 1961  car at Goodwood recently. Three-way adjustment of the seating position is provided: short drivers use the form-fitting reinforced plastic seat with upholstery; those around 5 feet I 0 remove the upholstery; anyone over 6 feet just takes out the seat and sits on the bare floor, with the angled fuel tank-which is surprisingly comfortable-as a back rest. The layout or the cowl hoop, designed to provide the greatest possible degree of chassis stiffness, means that the legs must be almost straight- another snag for tall drivers-but the pedals are thoughtfully spaced and a tubular rest for the left foot is provided alongside the clutch. Controls and instrumentation are limited to the bare essentials. Directly ahead of the 13 inch. steering wheel, with its red leather-covered rim, is a large tachometer flanked   by oil pressure and water temperature gauges. The gearshift lever is on the right. The test car has a Renault Dauphine gearbox with special Lotus close-ratio gears, and the gear change was somewhat unusual in that the engine speed range-5000 to 6000 rpm-there seemed to be a tremendous amount of urge available from such a small power unit, and it was soon apparent that the road  holding was absolutely fabulous. It was possible to use top gear and quite a lot of revs around bends which require a lower gear (at much lower speeds) in an ordinary sports car. I soon found, in fact, that it was possible to cover most of the circuit in top gear. It was necessary to use 3rd for Lavant Comer much gentler turn in the Lotus than in most other cars and for Woodcote, and 2nd for the Chicane, but the rest of the circuit could be taken in top. On the one short straight the car reached nearly 8000 rpm in top gear · ( 115 mph) and as  Team Lotus driver Trevor Taylor later reported (in  period when the car was used in the original formula Junior series)  that he was reaching over 8200 rpm on this section. Far more impressive than this maximum speed, however, was the untroubled ease with which the little Lotus navigated the circuit effortlessly. The Lotus 20 is a very flattering car for the historic racer and there are plenty of formula junior events to enter, plus ist one of the best looking cars Lotus built in the 1960’s !

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