Darin Schnabel ©2013, courtesy of RM Auctions
Darin Schnabel ©2013, courtesy of RM Auctions
Lola Cars was founded in 1958 by former Quantity Surveyor Eric Broadley, who was located in Huntingdon, England. His first “production car,” the Lola Mark I, was so superior that it immediately made obsolete Colin Chapman’s previously unbeatable Lotus 11s — as well as all Elvas and Coopers. One of Broadley’s most interesting cars was, of course, the Lola Mk 6 GT, which the Ford Motor Company later successfully raced as their GT40. Lola cars have claimed hundreds of victories in the past four decades. Broadley’s early Lolas, beginning with his Mk I and up to and including the Lola T70 roadster and the T70 coupe, were also by far the most beautiful sports racers of their era. This 1966 T70 Mk II, s/n SL7136, was the last of 67 Spyders built, and it was sold by John Mecom, the original U.S. distributor, in 1966. Richard Galloway, whose Colorado Plastics manufactured Lego blocks, became the first owner, along with his designated driver, New Zealander Ross Greenville, with the latter having raced successfully in the Can-Am Series and SCCA Nationals, which included such race tracks as Bridgehampton, Laguna Seca, Las Vegas, Riverside, Road America and Watkins Glen.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1966 Lola T70 Mk II Can-Am Spyder
Number Produced:67
Original List Price:N/A
Chassis Number Location:Tag on frame tube
Engine Number Location:Location depends on type of engine
Club Info:Historic Can-Am Association
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 175, sold for $286,000, including buyer’s premium, at the RM Amelia Island, FL, auction on March 8, 2014.

Regular readers of my profiles know that I frequently hold forth on the confluence of collector values and what I call “weapons-grade” values in any given racing car. I have long argued that without significant collectibility components that give a car value beyond the ones available as a weapon (or toy) to go racing, the limits of value lie somewhere in the mid- to upper-$200,000 range. Our subject car this month is an excellent case study of exactly this premise. Before getting to that, though, I need to lay some background, so the rest of it makes sense.

Lola bursts onto the scene

Having started with the sports racing Mk I, Lola moved to the Formula Junior world with a series of very successful racers, culminating in the Mk 5A, which was — and still is — the car to beat in Formula Junior. Endurance racing, and particularly Le Mans, was a very attractive challenge to the young and newly successful Eric Broadley, so in 1962 he began considering what a successful car would look like.

By this point, it was obvious that the future of racing cars was going to be a mid-engined layout, but a number of formidable design issues had to be confronted.

The first was that putting the engine ahead of the rear axle — but behind the driver — required a very compact unit that could produce enough horsepower to compete. Broadley reasoned that the smaller American V8s would be an excellent choice, but he was then confronted with the follow-up problem: A mid-engined design that used a 400-horsepower V8 required a transaxle that could handle the torque of an engine like that, and nobody built one.

Fortuitously, the Italian firm Colotti was coming out with a suitable transaxle, so Broadley started to build a mid-engined endurance-racing coupe that used a 289 Ford engine mated to the Colotti transaxle. He designed one of the first 2-seat mid-engined monocoque chassis in aluminum and clothed it in a spectacularly low and beautiful fiberglass body.

After an insane thrash, Lola introduced it in January 1963 as the Lola Mk 6 GT, and it stood the racing car world on its ear. In a classic bad news-good news scenario, Lola realized that they didn’t have the resources to build even a few of these cars and develop them into competitive racers, which was the bad. Ford, smarting from having been rebuffed in its attempts to buy Ferrari, was looking for somebody to build pretty much exactly what Lola had presented, which was good.

In very short order, Ford bought Lola and proceeded to develop the Mk 6 GT concept into the Ford GT40.

A fruitful divorce…

There was a brief honeymoon, but Broadley quickly realized that he had made a terrible mistake in selling out to Ford. In the summer of 1964, after barely a year together, Ford and Broadley amicably split the sheets. Ford Advanced Vehicles (FAV) went about building the GT40, and the reconstituted Lola was right across the street and back to building the race cars that Broadley loved.

It would have been bad form (and probably a violation of a non-compete agreement) for Lola to try to compete with the GT40, but the concept of American V8-powered sports racers in a professional racing series was just gaining momentum, particularly in the United States.

So, the logical approach was for Lola to apply what it had learned in the Mk 6 and GT40 projects to this new venue. The Lola T70 was born. The body shape was the result of a fortunate confluence of trends: Aerodynamic and wind-tunnel concerns such as drag and lift were considered — but it was still designed by hand, not computer — and the design concept was still that pretty shapes work best. Envisioned from the beginning to work either as a roadster or as a coupe, the car both worked extremely well and was absolutely flat gorgeous.

Blowing past Lotus, Elva, Chaparral and McLaren

For the 1965 season, the FIA adopted the American SCCA rules for their big-bore category, which opened the door to racing these cars on both sides of the Atlantic. Competing against the notoriously evil Lotus 30 and the still-developing Elva McLaren in Europe and against Chaparrals and McLarens in the U.S., the T70 quickly became the car to beat in 1965 and 1966. Driver John Surtees easily won the inaugural 1966 Can-Am championship.

Starting in 1967, the possibly inevitable decline started, at least for the open racers. Can-Am, with the only real rules being “two seats, four wheels, and covered fenders,” quickly became a horsepower race, and the T70 chassis didn’t lend itself to the big-block Chevy engines that became ubiquitous.

The roadsters quickly became backmarkers, as McLaren — and later on Porsche — took over Can-Am. The T70 coupe version, benefiting from better aerodynamics and engine-displacement limitations, did very well in European endurance racing into the 1970 season as the best privateer car you could race, but that’s another story.

A weapons-grade car with limits

It’s time to circle back to my original premise about collectibility versus weapons-grade values in old racing cars — with all of this, of course, presuming excellent mechanical and cosmetic condition.

The first rule is that “cars with fiberglass bodies aren’t collectible,” and that is particularly true of sports racing cars. The second rule has to do with history of a specific chassis. The implied autographs of famous drivers and aura of cheering crowds at winner’s circles impart substantial market value to the right cars, particularly if “the factory” was the entrant.

The value of famous drivers and trips to the winner’s circle is compounded by rarity. If there were only a few cars made, the history means more than if it was a relatively common racer.

The weapons-grade values are simple and obvious: Is it fun and easy to drive? How much does it cost to race and maintain? And the big one: How competitive is it in today’s racing?

Unfortunately, our subject car suffers on most of the criteria mentioned here.

On the good side, it appears to be well maintained and ready to race, and T70 roadsters are undeniably gorgeous, but most of the rest isn’t so attractive.

Lola built cars with fiberglass bodies for customers to race — in the U.S. at least there was no factory team — and they built a ton of them. This particular car has no special history and was badly crashed to boot.

In fact, with Can-Am cars, only the most important and successful carry much of a collectible valuation in today’s world; it’s pretty much purely weapons values that count with any of them. Today’s T70 has problems there too. Although they are wonderful cars to drive, the T70 was only really successful in 1966, and today’s vintage racing Can-Am grids run from 1966 through 1970, so there is no chance of running even close to the front.

To sum up, this is a beautiful — but ordinary — car that is not competitive in the only real purpose it has. As such, I think it traded fairly for what it was. This car was well bought and well sold. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Auctions.)

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