The Lotus Eleven on the cover of Road & Track Magazine
The Lotus Eleven was a racing car built in various versions by Lotus from 1956 until 1958. The later versions built in 1958 are sometimes referred to as Lotus 13, although this was not an official designation. In total, about 270 Elevens of all versions were built. From 1982 to 1986, a replica of the car was available from Westfield Cars. Westfield has recently begun production of the XI once again.
The Lotus Eleven
The Eleven was designed by Colin Chapman and fitted with a sleek body designed by aerodynamicist Frank Costin. Its standard version, dubbed Le Mans, was fitted with a 1100cc Coventry Climax engine mounted in the front of a tubular space frame and featured a De Dion rear axle and Girling disc brakes. Fully loaded, the car weighed only about 1,000lbs. Versions with a 1500cc Climax engine (Club) and a 1200cc Ford engine (Sport) were also produced; both featured a fixed rear axle and drum brakes. Some versions of the Le Mans were fitted with a closed body with gullwing doors to meet GT specifications.
Despite the wide variety of engines installed, the car was primarily designed to compete in the 1100cc class where it was one of the most successful cars during the mid- to late-1950s. A Lotus Eleven driven by Stirling Moss set the world speed record for the 1100cc class in Monza in 1956 at 143mph. Several victories at Le Mans and Sebring followed, and the Eleven became Lotus' most successful race car design.
In 1957, the Eleven underwent a major design change, including a new front suspension and improvements to the drivetrain. Although officially called Eleven Series 2, these late models are sometimes informally referred to as Lotus 13 since they were produced between the 12 and 14 models and the 13 designation was not used by Lotus.
The Westfield XI replica
The rear of a Westfield replica
In 1982, Westfield Cars offered a faithful replica of the 1957 Le Mans racer with a fiberglass body, available as either a finished car or a kit car. The factory-finished cars were usually fitted with an uprated 1275cc BMC "A" engine (the same engine that was used by such classics as the MG Midget and the Austin-Healey), although some factory cars were fitted with Ford Kent engines. Kit cars were sold without engines, and owners have fitted anything from Climax to later Lotus and Alfa engines to the chassis.
In 1983, the magazine Road & Track featured an article about the Westfield replica, telling the story of how the magazine's team built a kit car and subsequently took it for a 5000-mile cross-country trip from California to Wisconsin. The article is said to have sold more Westfields than anything else the company could do to advertise their cars ( westfield.html) .
Production of the Westfield XI ceased in 1986, although the company offered unsold kits until about 1988.
As of 2004, the Westfield XI has been re-introduced, still based on the A series engine.