First introduced in 1960, the Lotus 18 was Colin Chapman’s first rear-engined car and his first true Formula 1 design. With an incredibly small frontal area, the driver virtually sat on the floor of the car, with the slender bodywork wrapped tightly around the tubular space frame chassis. Fitted with the famous and highly successful 2.5L Coventry Climax 4-cylinder engine, the ‘18’ proved to be instantly quick, qualifying in second place on its debut at the 1960 Argentine Grand Prix.
Rob Walker, heir to the Jonny Walker whisky fortune, who had given up his personal racing career in the 1940’s had continued to fuel his passion for motor racing by forming what would become one of the most famous and successful privateer teams. From 1958 onwards, Walker would compete in the Formula One World Championship, with Maurice Trintignant as his full time driver and Stirling Moss appearing when his existing commitments with Vanwall permitted. The Walker team made a terrific start to their 1958 season with Stirling Moss winning the Argentine Grand Prix, piloting a Cooper Climax. Fortunately for Walker, with the withdrawal of Vanwall at the end of 1958, Moss became a full time driver, and would go on to win two Grand Prix’s in the new Cooper T51.
As the 1960 season got under way, Moss quickly took note of the competitiveness of the new Lotus 18, and demanded that Walker acquire one. Moss would race Walker’s first ‘18’ in the early races of the 1960 season, before the car offered here today, chassis 912, fondly known as the ‘white tape’ car was delivered. Nicknamed the ‘white tape’ car due to its distinguished white tape placed around the windscreen where it met the bodywork.
Chassis 912, was delivered new to the 1960 Portuguese Grand Prix, differing from the factory cars by having the upgraded Colotti Type 21 gearbox fitted. The standard Lotus gearbox, known as the ‘Queer Box’ was famously difficult to change gear, so Walker had specified this upgrade. Innes Ireland would first test the car, with Moss taking to the wheel for the race, running in second for much of the race only to be disqualified for stalling and running the wrong way downhill to restart his Coventry Climax engine. Onto the final World Championship race of the year, The US Grand Prix at Riverside, where Moss once again drove his ‘white tape’ car. Disappointment struck when the car broke its Colotti gearbox in practice.
The 1961 season would prove to be the most active for ‘912’, starting off at Goodwood in the Glover Trophy. Moss was also racing his Cooper in the Inter-Continental race, but in his 1988 book ‘My Cars, My Career’, he fondly referred to ‘912’ as his ‘main car’, finishing 4th in the Glover Trophy. The 1961 World Championship season started with the Monaco Grand Prix. Walker would enter two cars, the ‘white tape’ Lotus 18 and the Cooper ‘Lowline’. Moss, who preferred to race the 18, was up against stiff competition, with Ferrari fielding three of their powerful and highly developed V6 engined cars, and Porsche entering two new cars. Moss rose to the challenge, qualifying his Lotus on pole position. As the race got underway, Richie Ginther in one of the new Ferrari’s got away ahead with Moss dropping back to 3rd. Moss got his head down, punching in some incredible lap times, often more than two seconds quicker than his qualifying time, to eventually cross the finish line 3.6 seconds ahead of Ginther to win the Grand Prix. An exceptional feat, and a race which Moss branded the ‘greatest race’ of his career.
Up next was the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, where Walker and Moss knew that the combination of the faster circuit and the Ferrari engines meant a podium would be a tough ask, and so they were delighted with 4th overall. The Belgium, French and British Grand Prix’s followed, with Moss driving 912 beautifully, with its revised more aerodynamic bodywork.
The World Championship then moved to the Nürburgring, for the German Grand Prix. Moss would qualify third on the grid, with Phil Hill on pole in the Ferrari and Jack Brabham next to him in his Cooper featuring the latest V8 Climax engine. With the track damp in places and Dunlop recommending teams to start on the dry tyres, Moss had other ideas, instead starting on wets. The Englishman’s decision proved wise, and with his vast knowledge of the challenging 22.8 kilometre circuit, Moss went on to win the Grand Prix, his second Grand Prix win in chassis 912.
Moss would go on to win the Modena Grand Prix with ease, before entering 912 in the Italian Grand Prix the following weekend, where overheating problems forced an early retirement.
The final appearance of Stirling’s famous ‘white tape’ car finished in the iconic Walker colours was at the USA Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Having qualified in 4th, Moss would battle for the lead throughout the race, only for his engine to fail putting him out of the race.
Rob Walker would sell this famous 18 at the end of the season to a young Italian nobleman, Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata of Venice, who would enter the car under the name of Scuderia SSS Republica di Venezia. Painted in red, the car was run as the second car for the team for Nino Vaccarella. They would run the car in numerous races throughout the 1962 season, including the World Championship Monaco Grand Prix.
Repatriated to the UK in 1963 by Tim Parnell, son of legendary racer and team owner Reg Parnell, this iconic Lotus 18 would find its way into the Tom Wheatcroft collection in 1965, and would form part of his world renowned Donington Museum. Restored to its 1961 Monaco Grand Prix winning specification during this time, the Lotus 18 would remain one of the museums most famous exhibits for some forty years.
The passing of Tom Wheatcroft in 2009 led to many of the cars in his museum being sold. The Lotus 18 moved to Stephen Bond, an avid historic racer and a connoisseur of significant competition cars. Bond entrusted specialists IN Racing to restore the car to running condition, and Bond would reunite Sir Stirling Moss with his ‘white tape’ car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2012.
In 2019 Chassis 912 underwent a scholastic restoration by Classic Team Lotus at Hethel, ensuring that this significant Grand Prix victor is presented exactly as it was when Stirling piloted it to victory in 1961.
One of the most significant Grand Prix cars extant, and perhaps Sir Stirling’s most famous Grand Prix Car.
Photo Credit: John Colley