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Restoring a British Motorsport Icon: The 1957 Lotus eleven

Here at ADP Classic Racing, we enjoy working closely with clients just as much as we love restoring classic cars. Making automotive dreams come true is always a privilege, whether those dreams involve sourcing a vehicle, restoring a valuable classic, or even taking part in one of the world’s most prestigious historic racing events. 

One client commissioned us to do all of the above. After locating the perfect vehicle – one with a storied racing lineage that the client had a personal connection to – we began the journey of getting it race-ready. That journey would be filled with the type of twists and turns that ironically, the Lotus Eleven would take it in its stride. 

Making an Automotive Dream Come True

Our client’s vision was to race around the jaw-dropping streets of Monaco in a wonderful heritage racing car; tasked with finding him one such vehicle, we carefully researched the market, assessing strong possibilities in person across the UK and Europe.  

Out of the three options we presented with him, the client was most enamoured with the Series 2 1957 Lotus Eleven, and specifically chassis number 313. As heritage car specialists, we were thrilled with his pick – the car is a much-beloved British motorsport classic, one of Lotus’s finest hours. 

When I was a kid in California, there was an early issue of Road & Track with an Eleven on the cover. I fell in love with it, and the history behind it.  

David, owner.

The Lotus Eleven

During its production from 1956 through to early 1959, the Eleven became one of the most prolific racing cars of its time, dominating its class not only in the UK and Europe, but throughout the motor racing world. The low-slung chassis, snug, aerodynamic and beautifully formed shape, allied to the Coventry Climax FWA engine and A30 close ratio gearbox are a beauty to behold with the promise of a great drive.

It would turn out that the client had a personal connection to the Eleven. “When I was a kid in California, there was an early issue of Road & Track with an Eleven on the cover and I fell in love with it and the history behind it. It’s just one of the most gorgeous pieces of industrial design I’ve ever seen.” We shared a mutual appreciation for the body, the last one ever made by the legendary Len Pritchard.  

Chassis Number 313 had been raced almost from the moment it was built in 1957 to when it first came onto our radar; this racing pedigree was a decisive factor for the client’s choice to move forward with the 313. “It had a wonderful history, – not a famous international history, but a continuous one.”

The selection process couldn’t have gone better – the client was happy, and we were excited to kick on. Next step … getting it ready for Monaco. 

Keynotes: Making the Lotus Eleven Sing Again

  • Extensive engine rebuild of the 1500cc Coventry Climax FWB engine including the sourcing of repro DCO3 carbs (originals = proverbial hen’s teeth, these were remade copies). Delivering 120 horsepower, and 110 foot pounds torque. 

  • Full gearbox rebuild of the ZF box fitted back in the 60s.

  • Variable Wind Screens - interchangeable single cockpit windscreen and double windscreen.

  • Manufacturing of period correct magnesium wobbly web wheels. 

  • Chassis alignment – substantial jig work to ensure that the chassis was perfect and ready for its next 50 years.

  • Bodywork – although the beautiful and original Pritchard bodywork was great, substantial aluminium panelling work was carried out across the vehicle; wheel panels, seal and closing panels

"It's just one of the most beautiful pieces of industrial design I've ever seen"

David, owner.

Collaborating With the Client

David played a key role in almost every aspect of the restoration/design process. His dedication to preserving and building around the body was something we deeply admire – both from an engineering standpoint and as students of heritage vehicle history.  

He also had a clear vision for the head-turning colour scheme.

David had lived his life green, and so he wanted the vehicle to reflect that. We were impressed and motivated by David’s genuine passion for heritage vehicles, and bonded over a shared desire to do the Lotus Eleven justice. 

Off to the Races

After a tumultuous journey to bring the Lotus Eleven up to concourse-level, the client and the vehicle were ready. The stage: St Moritz Automobile Week, a prestigious racing competition that gives owners a shot at glory, not to mention the chance to experience the Swiss Alps from the beautifully engineered comfort of their historic vintage cars.  

The client’s dream was simply to take part in a racing event like this. He and the Lotus Eleven 313 ended up not just taking part, they won the design award. A crowning moment for both the client and the team here at ADP Classic Racing; one that made the 3000 hours or so of engineering, dedication and collaboration feel like a breeze. 

That wasn’t the Eleven’s only moment in the spotlight; it was also lovingly appraised in issue 246 of Octane Magazine.

In Summary

It was an utter joy to work on the Lotus Eleven 313. Working with a special version of a special vehicle was something to be treasured. Ultimately though, we’re just thrilled all that hard work culminated in an unforgettable moment for the client – a moment that didn’t just meet the dream he asked us to make a reality but exceeded it. 


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