Tales of Gathering Lotus Elevens, thanks to John Partridge

Having seen Ashton’s efforts to gather Australian Lotus Elevens for Sydney Retro Racefest, John Partridge recently got in contact to share some of his own stories, images and information about Eleven gatherings over the years. Along the way, he shows that our recent gathering may be even more special than we thought.

These are truly wonderful stories and images, so please take a moment to enjoy them. With sincere thanks to John!

Images and text thanks to John Partridge

Upon seeing your planned gathering of Elevens at Retro Racefest I was prompted to go back and research my albums of LOG 14 (Lime Rock, August ’94, a celebration of the Elite), Sears Point, September ’94, International Lotus Convention and the Monterey Historics in August of ’95 at Laguna Seca, when Lotus was the featured marque. It seems to me that you are managing to get together quite possibly the largest assembly worldwide, never mind in the Antipodes, of Elevens since Monterey ’95 (and probably LOG 11, held in 1991).

I wasn’t at LOG 11 and have no idea of numbers there but I cannot believe that our American friends wouldn’t have beaten our numbers on that significant occasion.

At the Sears Point event in 1994 I’m fairly certain there were no more than three Elevens present. At Brands Hatch in 1996, again a celebration of all things Lotus, I cannot recall seeing more than a handful of them. Even the Monterey numbers were boosted by one (perhaps two) brought from overseas for the event. So in the words of young Mr. Grace, “you’ve all done very well”.

Elevens at Monterey

Turning to the photos themselves, the first is of the lineup Roger Seiling and I managed to organise at Monterey. We stood Jay Chamberlain, the original importer, in the centre of the semicircle for a photoshoot. I was busy lining up the cars and missed getting a photo myself.

Elevens at Monterey

I said to Jay that it must have warmed his heart to see so many assembled, to which he replied “Nah, I imported over 50 of ’em”. The car at the left of the first photo, with Team Lotus markings, was brought across from here for the event by the late Murray Richards. Not present in the lineup but appearing on the second page of photos, is a car brought over from the U.K. for the event.

Hazel and Clive Chapman with Len Pritchard

This image shows Hazel and Clive Chapman with Len Pritchard (Williams and Pritchard) standing between them, and Jay sitting in the highly polished Eleven beside them. Jay later drove some demonstration laps in that car.

I’d met Jay and his wife Marion the year before at LOG 14 when they sought me out as the only Australian there. Jay had been here once in the late ’50s/early ’60s – his memory was uncertain – to race but he’d “tipped the car over in practice and although the guys worked all night to fix it up, I was so pissed off with myself that I went straight to the airport next morning and jumped in the first plane home”.

Jay Chamberlain Lotus Eleven

He and Marion were hoping for a more successful and less eventful visit here one day and we became good friends. Sadly not to be as Marion wrote to inform me of Jay’s death the year following Monterey.

Jay had not had any contact with ACBC and Hazel since the break up of the relationship over Elite imports (another story, which he spoke about at some length for the first time at LOG 14, his first major interaction with Lotus enthusiasts since that time).

At Monterey Jay told me that he was quite nervous at the prospect of sharing the platform with Hazel at the welcoming dinner that night. However, the next day I was with him as he was settling himself into the Eleven and he said that just before the dinner she’d been brought around to their room to meet him and Marion and that she’d been “nice as pie” to him. So, noticing Hazel and Clive approaching us, (slowly, pursued by autograph hunters) Roger Seiling and I suggested that Jay should offer her a ride in the Eleven for the demo lap. At first Jay was reluctant – “she’s too much a lady to ride in this” – but I reminded him of her mud trials car experiences in the early days of Lotus and as she got closer to us Jay called out in his nasal American drawl “Hey lady, you wanna ride?” Hazel grinned and didn’t say no but Roger and I were unable to remove the metal tonneau etc and arrange a seat for her before the demo lap was programmed, so we made do with the photos.

Roger Seiling 4DTN

These are shots of Roger Seiling’s 4DTN, a very interesting Eleven that I first encountered at Lime Rock. It is an ex-Keith Hall car formerly supported by the factory as a developmental car and sporting the factory’s experiment with fibreglass nose and tail sections.

Roger Seiling 4DTN

These are very light – at Lime Rock Roger invited me to pick them up from the ground and fit them to the car. Being well used to the weight of #538’s aluminium nose shell in particular, I picked up 4DTN’s and almost sent it flying skywards!

Elevens at Monterey

Here we have Elevens, including, 4DTN mixing it on the circuit and one of Paul Samuels in Alice, his Fifteen which he and Michael Vigneron brought across for the event.

elevens-at-monterey-7

Paul’s was a lonely race, as the photo suggests. He was headed only by a couple of 450S Maseratis or somesuch, as I recall, to which Alice’s 2.5 Climax gave away a couple of litres, but Paul led the rest of the pack by at least a similar margin and for his efforts was awarded the Driver of the Meeting prize.

Max Balchowski Old Yeller

Finally, and for something completely different, a photo of a special I’d read about and admired since the late ’50s and the days of Sports Car Graphic magazine, Max Balchowski’s “Old Yeller”, which we’ve now seen out here at two Tasman Revival meetings driven by Ernie Y…

A very special ‘Thank you!’ to John Partridge for sharing these wonderful stories and images!

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