The following photos and text document the "resurrection" of a Mk 1 LHD Lotus Cortina which had languished in the original owner's garage for 35 years without any "tender loving care".
In early 1967, Charlie Barns purchased a brand new street version 1966 Mk 1 LHD Lotus Cortina from Ken-Ray Ford in Dallas, Texas. He drove it on and off from 1967 until setting it aside in 1973, accumulating a total of 18,460 miles on the odometer, and turned his attention to other cars and other matters.
To understand how this could be so, it helps to know a bit about the car's only owner. Charlie Barns began sports car racing in 1958, driving a red Alfa Romeo Veloce Spider. A few years later, he was becoming recognized as one of the finer racing drivers in the southwestern United States. He became the SCCA G Modified National Champion in 1964 driving a Merlyn. In one memorable race at Green Valley Raceway in Smithfield, Texas in 1965, Charlie took the overall win, besting a highly respected Brit, Ken Miles. Miles was driving one of the very first Shelby GT-350 Mustangs, and their battle was truly a case of "David vs Goliath". Both cars were becoming airborne on every lap, but at the checker, Charlie's little Merlyn (Cosworth Ford 109E 1100cc powered, by the way) was ahead of the bellowing Mustang. ( That Merlyn (chassis number 65RS) is now in San Diego- See http://5pointsmotorsports.com/no_45RS.htm.
The following year, Charlie was chosen by Peter Quenet, Ford's Competition Department Manager, to be one of seven US drivers to receive a fully race prepared RHD Lotus Cortina for a very nominal sum, rumored to be $1.00. Ford's intention was to win the SCCA's B Sedan National Championship and to win the Under 2 Liter class of the SCCA's new professional sedan racing series (Trans-Am).
Charlie started 40 races in that Cheshunt-prepared racing Lotus Cortina, and won 29 of them, on the way to the SCCA Southwest Division B Sedan Championship in 1966.
In 1968, Charlie sold that racing Lotus Cortina, and Don Gwynne subsequently acquired it for the princely sum of $1300 cash plus the trade of Don's 997cc Anglia D Sedan race car. In 1971, Don sold the ex-Barns racing Lotus Cortina to Robert Winkelmann, who still owns it. http://www.lotus-cortina.com/photos/gwynne/gwynne.htm
To understand how an original LHD street 1966 Mk 1 Lotus Cortina could so completely fall from view, it helps to review Charlie's current stable of vintage racing cars:
- A McLaren M1B (ex-Moises Solana)
- A Penske/Donohue prepared IROC Camaro (ex-Bobby Unser)
- Two small-block Chevrolet Corvettes
- Two Alfa Romeo Spiders
- A Bobsy SR-3
The Project Begins:
In summer 2008, Charlie finally decided to bring his street LoCort out of storage and refurbish it. Don Gwynne readily agreed to assist him with the refurbishment project, and on July 8, 2008, it was photographed "as is" before the initial clean-up began.
Several things were immediately apparent and some fundamental decisions were made:
1. Most of the rubber items, including tires, window glass moldings, and suspension bushings, would absolutely have to be replaced.
2. The original exterior paint would be preserved. Underneath the car, some re-priming and respraying would be done to prevent corrosion, where dirt and grime removal revealed bare metal.
3. Although the carpets exhibited significant fading, they were in otherwise good condition. The original carpets would be re-dyed, not replaced with new.
4. All the seats, both front and rear, were in very good condition. A few small areas needed to be repaired with matching materials, but the seats would not be recovered.
Some interesting discoveries were made:
1. The glove box still contained the original owner's manual and service booklet.
2. The parcel tray still held a half-full box of "Kleenex" tissue which dated back to 1973. Unfortunately, the offer coupon on the back of the box had expired in 1974!
3. The 1964 G Modified National Championship trophy was laying in the back seat. So that's where it went! Charlie thought it had been lost forever.
4. An envelope in the boot contained the original bill of sale from Hutchison Racing Engines (HRE) for the 1875cc stroker Lotus twin cam street engine built especially for Charlie by his friend Gus Hutchison. See http://www.myf5000.com/files/champlin_racing_1970_3.pdf