1959 ‘Le Mans’ Lotus Elite 'Ex Dickie Stoop’
|Estimate||£45,000 - £55,000|
- Ex Dickie Stoop
- Car number 58 - 1959 Le Mans entrant
Every once in a while a special motor car makes an appearance, quite out of the blue, very much under the radar. And with that, it gives us much pleasure to offer this 1959 Lotus Elite that was to race at Le Sarthe that same year. Most Le Mans motor cars are well known and accounted for but this particular entrant has an interesting history, both with its Le Mans sojourn and for its characterful racing driver and owner.
Dickie Stoop: Flight Lieutenant James Richard Stoop (Dickie as he was always known) joined the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and was flying Spitfires with 610 Squadron out of RAF Westhampnett (today, part of the Goodwood estate) along with his friend, Squadron Leader Tony Gaze. Douglas Bader also served at RAF Westhampnett prior to Dickie being posted there, however, it is worthy to note that Bader spent much time at the Stoop family residence whilst he was recuperating from the loss of his legs, suffered in an air accident during December 1931. Dickie Stoop and Tony Gaze were often seen tearing their MGs around the tarmac perimeter track of Westhampnett, perhaps these japes led to Dickie becoming an accomplished post-war racing driver? His first race was at Silverstone in 1948 and over the next 20 years he campaigned many types of car, but remained faithful for most of his racing career to Frazer-Nash. He later transferred his loyalties to Porsche and owned successive Type 356 Carreras, registered U 4 and 5 HOT, bringing him a number of wins; having been co-victor in the 1959 Autosport Championship with the Sebring Frazer-Nash, he won the Autosport three hours at Snetterton the following year in U 4 after a tremendous battle with Chris Summers’ Elite, won his class in 1961, and then won the two-litre division of the championship in 1962 and 1963. He also had a few races with an RS60 Porsche Spyder, and in 1964 drove a 904. He competed at Le Mans no fewer than ten times. In 1950 he was ninth overall and won the two-litre class, in 1951 he was 19th and subsequently, in 1955, he was tenth. In 1958 he drove the works space frame AC into 8th place, again winning his class. He also took part in long-distance racing at Spa, Rouen, Montlhéry and elsewhere, and in 1964 was third overall in the Rand three hours co-driving Peter Sutcliffe’s Jaguar E-type. Perhaps somewhat fittingly this larger than life character passed away whilst at the wheel during a club race at Croft in May 1968 having suffered a heart attack.
Lotus Elites & the 1959 Le Mans: With the Elite, Colin Chapman had built a genuine race car for the road and he knew it. He understood that if the car did well at race meetings in pretty much standard form, it would go on and sell well. It is little wonder then that the first page of the Elite factory records is a who’s who of the racing fraternity at the time. In 1959, Lotus were under pressure with orders for road and racing cars and as much as Colin Chapman wanted to, he did not have the resources to enter a ‘works’ Elite team for Le Mans that year; their efforts going into the three Lotus Fifteens entered the same year. It was left to the privateers in the Frost car number 41 driven by Peter Lumsden and Peter Riley, car number 42, entered by Border Reivers and driven by Jim Clark and John Whitmore and car number 38, Equip Los Amigos, driven by the French pairing of Jean-Claude Vidilles and Jean Francois Malle; and all running in the 1101cc to 1500cc GT class. The Elites were up against the three new Porsche RSKs and an older RS. Not many gave Lotus a chance against them, however, with the Elites applying constant pressure, the German cars, one by one, broke. Clark and Whitmore, although putting in constant fast laps were hampered by mechanical problems resulting with them having to pit with unscheduled stops but eventually finishing and achieving a credible tenth overall. The French Elite of Vidilles and Malle were out on the 105th lap having suffered an exhaust problem that led to the car completely burning out. It was the pair of Lumsden and Riley that went on to finish first in class and a fabulous eighth overall. But perhaps what is less known was a fourth Lotus Elite was due to run in the 1959 24-hour endurance race…….
Lotus Elite chassis number 1037:
As recorded within the Lotus production records, Dickie Stoop purchased the Lotus Elite, chassis number 1037 on the 10th June 1959, just eleven days before Le Mans that year and entered it with British drivers Douglas Graham and Mike McKee. Dickie registered the Elite with one of his other private number plates, OU 4 and at Le Mans, was scrutineered, practiced but unfortunately, suffered a road accident and that led to it being withdrawn from the race and recorded, within the official Le Mans records, as DNS (did not start). An extract from Autosport, June 26th 1959, reported, 'The Dick Stoop Lotus Elite, was wrecked in an accident returning from the circuit, Jack Britt the mechanic being injured'. A further examination of the Lotus factory records show that on the 30th November 1959 Dickie Stoop acquired a replacement CBU (chassis/body unit) to repair 1037. Dickie’s friend and fellow Porsche 904 GTS racer Patrick Guy Godfrey acquired 1037 from him and road registered it on 29th March 1966 as OKX 84D; Patricks details are shown in the green buff log that accompany 1037. The cars original colour was dark blue. During 1970, the car was painted red and subsequently, in 1973 violet. Not a great deal is known as to what happened to the Elite from then, however, in 2007,chassis 1037 surfaced as a complete car but as a non-runner. The new owner, a very good friend of the vendor’s late fathers, unfortunately passed away in May of 2018. Prior to his passing, the car was completely stripped and a lot of restoration work was carried out.
Chassis 1037 today: As far as may be accessed, it is believed that 1037 is in a complete but stripped state and ready to be completed by a new owner. There is, what appears to be, a rebuilt FWE Coventry Climax engine (not the original unit we might add) with the car. The gearbox is the correct MG unit, again looking fresh and ready to be put in and all the suspension and brakes are in clean restored condition. There is also a pair of fully rebuilt SU carburettors. Most of the paint has been stripped from the coachwork, an arduous task and, we are informed, appears in excellent and undamaged order. Everything else, including all the small components, have been boxed and labelled correctly.
The car comes with a buff log book and copies of the factory records. The car is featured in several books whereby it is photographed alongside cars 41 and 42, with Jim Clark and John Whitmore, during practice at the 1959 Le Mans and parked at the Le Mans circuit. With its history and provenance, this Lotus Elite is a rare opportunity to acquire a genuine period Le Mans entrant and will surely be invited to the most premiere events including, of course, the Le Mans Classic.
Interested parties should satisfy themselves as to the description and condition of each lot prior to the sale. Buyers are advised to inspect the car in person or use a professional to carry out this service.