For the 1956 season, Colin Chapman continued his line of lightweight sports cars with the type 11. It became Lotus’ most successful sports car and many of the 270 examples manufactured raced at top international events.
The 11’s unusual bodywork was the work of Frank Costin who created a low-drag shape which also added rigidity to the chassis. Gone were the stability fins from previous Lotuses, and for night driving two recessed night lights were sometimes included.
Like it predecessors, the 11 was fitted with a variety of engines which usually included Coventry Climax engines ranging from 750 to 1500cc. Cars also varied in specification with some having a DeDion axle instead of the swing type used for amateur drivers.
Colin’s lightweight principles combined with Costin’s low-drag body to become an instant success on the track. 11s held the speed record at Monza and provided fierce competition in the 750cc, 1100cc and 1500cc classes. The car’s best moment came when a FWB-engined example took the 1100cc class victory at the 24 Hours of LeMans.
For the 1957 season the 11 was slightly upgraded to include a front wishbone suspension and an upgraded chassis and driveline. This helped it repeat its feat at LeMans as well as take 1957 Sebring 1100cc class.
1956 Lotus 11 Le Mans – sold for $209,000 ‘Wide-chassis’ model tailor-made to meet International cockpit-width regulations and initially developed specifically for Sebring and Le Mans. known to the Historic Lotus Register as ‘the Lavers/Hart’ car after its modern-era UK re-importer, and British specialist restorer Steve Hart who rebuilt the car for Historic racing to the order of British collector/racer Peter Hannan. Auction Source: 2015 Quail Lodge Auction by Bonhams
1956 Lotus Eleven Series 1 189 – sold for $126,500 Well-known, polished-aluminum Lotus Eleven Series 1. Spectacular 56-year competition record in Europe and the U.S. Most desirable, finned, single-seater Le Mans model. Top speed of 165 mph from aluminum Coventry-Climax engine. Auction Source: Monterey 2012 by RM Auctions
1956 Lotus Eleven Le Mans 220 – sold for $126,500. Little is known about the early life of chassis 220 other than that it is among the approximately 150 first series Elevens built (from 270 or fewer total production). Graham Capel’s authoritative book ‘Lotus – The Historic Years 1956-58’ records it as a Le Mans model with U.S. delivery. The history trail picks up in 1984/5 when it was acquired by Jim Ellis of Cincinnati, who restored it in 1988. He reported that very little repair was required with the frame or body panels.
Fully race prepared and cosmetically sharp in Team Lotus livery, with the desirable full tonneau and streamlined cockpit, this important racer had its engine renewed in 2007 and is offered fully competition-prepared and features the close-ratio ‘dog box’ transmission. The combined dynamics of good horsepower, low weight (under 1000 lbs.), unmatched aerodynamics, powerful brakes and exemplary roadholding fated that the Eleven would have no rival – then – or today. Auction Source: 2008 Monterey Preview