This sucker is one big, low car with ground clearance that would scare a cockroach

Lola constructed just 12 examples of the T600. Chassis T600-HU3 was completed on March 28, 1981, the only example built with a four-cam Cosworth/Ford engine, and the only one retained by Lola Cars, Ltd., as a factory "works" car.

It was entered throughout the 1981 FIA Championship season, campaigned for Lola by Grid Racing and driven by Guy Edwards and Emilio Villota. The car won the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch and the 6-hours of Enna in Italy. The car was leading the Martini Trophy at Silverstone until it ran out of petrol.

Chassis T600-HU3 was quite successful and earned Lola significant respect throughout the 1981 season. Being one of the first true Formula One-inspired "ground effects" sports prototypes, its success led to a full revolution in race car design. For that one shining summer, with chassis T600-HU3, Lola had it right.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1981 Lola T600
Years Produced:1981
Number Produced:12
Original List Price:$75,000
Tune Up Cost:Cost per hour to race: $200
Distributor Caps:$200
Chassis Number Location:Tag on the tub by front suspension
Engine Number Location:Top rear of block above flywheel
Club Info:Historic Sportscar Racing Ltd., 404.298.5616
Alternatives:Nissan GTP (Lola T 810), Porsche 956
Investment Grade:B

This 1981 Lola T600 sold for $121,001, including buyer’s commission, at the RM Monterey auction on August 15-16, 2003.

Before we get too enthusiastic about this “revolutionary” race car, let’s remember a bit more of its history: It also flipped into a tire wall at Watkins Glen and ended up upside down in a pool of fuel. The marshals wouldn’t get near it, so driver Guy Edwards had to kick out the windshield to get out of the car, shaken but fortunately okay.

This is not to say this T600 was-or is-a bad race car, but to point out that there’s always more to the story than at first glance.

The value continuum for vintage race cars runs from “collector grade” to “weapons grade.” At one extreme, a collector grade car would be something like a 1947 Ferrari 125S. It’s a slow, unreliable, and almost un-drivable car that’s still an icon, a museum piece before which the cognoscenti genuflect.

At the other extreme, a weapons grade racer would be something like a racing Sprite. It’s neither exotic, nor rare, nor particularly collectible; its value is strictly defined by how much fun somebody can have racing it for the money spent.

Every vintage racing car has some weapons value and some collector value, they just exist in different quantities in any given car. Where both values are extremely high, like a Testa Rossa, the multi-million dollar market valuation reflects it.

The breaking point here is about $130,000-spend more and what you buy better have significant collector value. For less than that, just buy a toy and have fun.

This brings us to the Lola T600. We all have pretty good ideas about what gives a car collectible value: age, rarity, beauty, historical importance, cool mechanical bits, etc. By those criteria, I would argue that this car should be considered primarily as a weapons grade, rather than a collector grade, race car.

Though only twelve were built, it is the first of a rather extensive category of FIA Class C/IMSA GTP cars that followed, most of which were faster. The mechanical package of the Lola’s Cosworth DFX engine and Hewland gearbox is marginally exotic-but hardly rare-and it’s technically incorrect, as the 1981 car ran DFL and DFV engines. (Remember, we’re talking collector values here.)

The tub is an aluminum honeycomb monocoque and the body is GRP (glass reinforced plastic), appropriate, but lacking the romance of tube frames and hand-formed aluminum bodywork. For a brief period of time this Lola T600 was the car to beat, but it very quickly became the car everybody could beat.

All right, so it’s a weapons-grade, i.e. have fun, race car. How do we figure out what its worth? First issue: Where are you going to run it? If you live in the Pacific Northwest, where our shop is, you’d better have a trailer because most of the venues are in the East and South.

Speaking of trailers, you need to be careful because this sucker is one big, low car (15′ 6″ long and 6′ 6″ wide) with ground clearance that would scare a cockroach. Moving it around isn’t for amateurs. Nor is driving it, as it is a ground effects car. As with the Alfa 179C F1 car I reviewed in the December 2003 issue, “In any given corner, at 80 mph you’re on mechanical grip, at 100 mph you’re on aerodynamic grip, and at 90 mph you’re in the gravel.”

Second issue: What will it cost to keep it running? Cosworth DFV-engine derivatives are reliable, but not cheap to run. In normal racing use you can figure about 20 hours before a roughly $20,000 “refresh.” The DFX in this car is a 3.3-liter, short-stroke derivative that makes more horsepower but doesn’t last as long, maybe 18 hours. Most of the T600s were pushrod-V8-powered, making them a lot cheaper to run and every bit as fast.

So we’re looking at a race car that will be difficult to transport and run, expensive to maintain, and probably finish no higher than mid-pack at most events. The upside is that it sounds great, it’s pretty (in that early-1980s kind of way), it is somewhat exotic, and it’s got a relatively significant provenance.

We’re still under the magic $130,000 mark, so I’d say this was fair money-I’ve seen folks spend far more for much less car. And as long as the new owner steers clear of tire barriers, there’s a lot of fun to be had without too much concern for depreciation.-Thor Thorson

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