After watching McLaren dominate the Can-Am series for four years, in 1971, Lola and its American team leader Carl Haas seemed to have it all: a World Champion driver in Jackie Stewart, huge sponsor dollars from L&M cigarettes and a brand new machine, the T260. But the results were disappointing, and the season ended with Haas’ team in search of both a new driver and new sponsorship to back its 1972 entry, the Lola T310. Only one was built, serial number HU-01, and it has survived the years to become a popular entrant in the exciting world of vintage Can-Am racing.
Frustrated by the T260’s boxy aerodynamics, Lola designed what would be one of the longest, widest, lowest cars ever to compete in the Can-Am series. The T310’s slippery low-profile shape was partly the result of information gleaned by Haas mechanic Ike Smith from Porsche driver Jo Siffert in a casual conversation about Stuttgart’s aero findings.
Smith recalled, “We were talking about needing more front-end downforce, and Jo took a piece of paper and sketched a profile of something he said Porsche was playing with. Apparently it was very efficient. It made a lot of downforce and also punched a good hole in the air.”
It is no surprise then that the T310’s scoop-like nose is almost identical to that of its Porsche contemporary, the 917/10K. Indeed, the basic design proved so effective that it is still in wide use today in sports and prototype racing cars. Unfortunately, like the rest of the competition from 1972 to the Can-Am’s demise in 1974, the T310 proved to be no match for the turbocharged Panzers from Stuttgart.
Driver David Hobbs struggled mightily with the car after it missed the first round of the 1972 season held at Mosport. Instead of simply racing, Hobbs was forced to also develop the car in the heat of real competition, an almost impossible task in the frantic atmosphere of the virtually unlimited Can-Am. Despite all that was working against them, Haas, Hobbs and crew finished the series admirably in seventh place.
By season’s end the car had become reliable enough to finish six races with Hobbs at the wheel, and in late 1972 new owner Jerry Hansen took it to Road Atlanta for the SCCA Championship Runoffs, where he handily won the fifth of his eventual record total of 27 National Championships. Hansen then sold the car to fellow SCCA racer Elliot Mendenhall. In 1977 the car was raced in the highly restrictive second-generation Can-Am series by Bruce Langson, who crashed it at Road America, ending its professional racing career.
Years later the T310 was purchased by vintage racer Bob Lee, who methodically researched and documented the car while commencing a thorough restoration. The car was eventually completed and prepared for vintage racing by Scott Drnek’s world-renowned Virtuoso Performance in Hayward, California. It has competed in a number of vintage racing events since 2001, including appearances at the Monterey Historics in 2007 and again in 2008, when its new owner Tim Mullins, a longtime Can-Am fan and collector, watched as Bobby Rahal drove it from the back of the pack to win its race. It has also appeared at the Goodwood Revival run each September at England’s Goodwood circuit.
After another full race preparation by Tony Nicholson of Robin Automotive in September 2008, the T310 was invited to join several other cars driven by David Hobbs in a special “Cars of David Hobbs” display at the 2009 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. In 2010 it was inspected and freshened once again before being photographed for the new Pete Lyons book Can-Am Cars in Detail: Machines and Minds Racing Unrestrained.
The last Can-Am Lola ever built, HU-01 is also extremely well documented with several large binders containing period documents, newspaper articles, and dozens of period photographs of the car including several with David Hobbs. Dozens of schematics and diagrams of various components are also included, along with a parts book, photos of the restoration and a folder containing recreations of the decals used on the car in 1972. The car also has two log books, including the original log book from the 1972 season, which is extremely rare. The car is also featured prominently in Pete Lyons’ book Can-Am, where it appears in a two-page spread.
T310/HU-01 is offered with spares and parts including a complete spare front clip. It remains in exceptional condition, with very good paint and decals that recall its original race livery from 1972. The interior is typically purposeful for the period and is properly fitted with approved modern safety equipment including outside electrical cut-off switch and Willans five-point harness. Close inspection reveals a very clean chassis and engine compartment, reflecting the car’s professional preparation. It is also important to note that the engine and gearbox have just 4 hours of operation since being refreshed at a total cost of over $90,000.
With a well-documented history and an exacting restoration to recommend it, this final Can-Am entrant from Eric Broadley’s Lola Cars is literally a world-class sports racer demanding a level of skill and courage reserved for the world’s top drivers. One of the fastest, most outlandish machines ever created for the world’s most innovative racing series, it is eligible for a wide range of motorsports events around the world and a highly competitive contender in any vintage Can-Am racing event.
This 1972 Lola T310 Can-Am is available at the upcoming Mecum Kissimmee sale, scheduled for January 16-25, 2015, where it’s estimated to sell for $550,000 – $750,000. For more information, visit Mecum.com.
1972 Lola T310 Can-Am – Highlights
– Driven by David Hobbs in the 1972 Can-Am season
– Finished 7th in its debut at Road Atlanta
– Finished 4th at Watkins Glen, 6th at Mid-Ohio, 5th at Edmonton, 8th at Laguna Seca and 5th at Riverside
– Driven by Jerry Hansen to first place in ASR class at US Champions Road Atlanta
– Competed in 1974 and 1976-77
– Discovered by vintage racer Bob Lee
– Restored with the help of specialists Bruce Burness, Steve Ruiz and Matt Weiss
– Refinished in the original livery
– Correct 510 CI engine
– Original chassis tag still on car
– Original Can-Am logbook and brass ID tag
– Driven by Bobby Rahal to first place in Can-Am Group at the Monterey Historics in 2008
[Source: Mecum Auctions; photos: Mecum, Peter Harholdt, Peter Falkner, Sports Car Digest]