Flummoxed Formula car – 1963 Lotus 27

Lotus 27 super vee oval track heppenstallIt’s hard not to look at this featured car for sale, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and not wonder what anyone could ever do with it. It is a racing car designed for one purpose, modified for another, and then modified again for yet another application before being put away for what looks like quite a long time. Because of this car’s ambiguity, the buyer will have a few options as far as what to do with it. Regardless, though, a new owner will have his work cut out for him.

The Lotus 27 was built with the intended purpose of contesting what would be the last season of Formula Junior as well as Formula 3. Taking the principle of monocoque construction from their revolutionary 25, Lotus produced a car that, after some initial teething problems and after replacing the fiberglass body with an aluminum one, proved very potent in the Formula Junior series with drivers like Peter Arundell and Mike Spence at the wheel.

The history of this particular Lotus 27 is not as clear as one might hope, but there are certain highlights in the seller’s description. The history of the car during the days of Formula Junior is unclear, but apparently famous East Coast racer Ray Heppenstall bought the car damaged and fitted it with Volkswagen running gear after hearing the announcement of the new Formula Super-Vee series. In an interview in 2000, Heppenstall claimed to have fitted the car with a Type I VW engine before hearing that it needed to be a Type IV. He made no mention of racing the car. The Lotus was apparently later shortened and modified for oval track racing and set up as a midget before doing a few races. The current owner bought it from the oval track racer, and lays out what is included in the sale:

What is offered for sale is a modified tub with wheel suspension arms, 6 pointed star cast wheels, brake disks with calipers and shocks. Steering gear, column and steering wheel, gearbox with Hewland extension and drive shafts, shifter rod, parts of the VW engine that has been used in this car. Rear stabilizer bar, 3 pedal assemblies, support bracket for nose.

A real head scratcher, this cryptic Lotus presents a problem for the restorer who tries to tackle it. Only two or three dozen 27s were ever built by Lotus, so it would be a fine addition to the vintage open wheel racing scene. At the same time, though, the extensive modifications made since the car’s Formula Junior days will make it extremely difficult, or even impossible, to get it back to proper Formula Junior-specs. Trying to get it set up for oval track racing again might be equally fruitless, but no matter what a classic Lotus racing car like this deserves to be brought back to life, whether as a proper and faithful period-correct car or as the interesting mutant it became in the 1970s.

Check out the 1963 Lotus 27 here on eBay, where the reserve is not yet met at $8,875.


  1. Suddenly withdrawn????

  2. billy de hulst says:

    There may have been some hanky panky here with the bidding. It sat with no bids for a few days, then was taken up to just under $10,000, over a short period. Well before the end time, bidding jumped to $16,500 then into the mid $20s and finally to $27,000. The listing was then pulled. It would be interesting to see whether the bidding was stopped by eBay or the sellers. I thought the opening bid of $7,000 was a stretch, considering the very difficult job of putting this 27 back into original condition. It is not suitable for the bump to pass antics of oval racing due to its fragile construction. I am the first to admit that many people know more about these cars than I do, but who would put out that kind of money for a car in this condition. Are the suspension parts and crossmembers worth that much? Unless it might be the value of the production number, which could be attached to someone’s bitsa, or or even a stolen 27. I have seen that with a D type Jaguar which I actually raced against. The car was totally destroyed in a serious accident. An acquaintance acquired the wreck and kept it for many years. A few years ago a D Type appeared in the UK with the same chassis number as my friends wreck. I have not been able to ferret out the real conclusion to this story, but my understanding is that my friend was compensated for the production number. Maybe some news of a sale of this 27 will filter out to the Lotus community. i would like to know because my idea was to spend $3500 for it. i look forward to any further news about the peculiar history and goings on with this Lotus.

    • Bill,
      Interesting story. I too thought the bidding was a little strange given that this car is frankly such a basket case, but these days you never know what someone will pay for something they think is cool. The really run down Ferrari 330 2+2 that sold for $109,000 recently comes to mind. Anyway, let’s hope we see where the car ends up and if it gets the correct attention.

  3. Terry Jacob says:

    At the right price this car would make sense as Formula Junior Lotus 27 are highly desirable . However this car needs to be purchased exceptionally cheaply as the restoration costs are likely to greatly exceed it’s ultimate resale value .

  4. Tim Cahill says:

    I worked for Ray in the late 60’s. When Ray took up this project he had great hopes to kick off Super Vee with Jo Hoppen’s (VW) help and his ability to make something from nothing. This car is so far trashed that it would be impossible to Lotus 27 specs. Age hardening of the aluminum would require reskinning the monocoque.

  5. Dan Setford says:

    Hi Tim do you know who Ray bought the car from? Best, dan

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