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Jay Chamberlain "Flying on Fork Trucks"

Written by Kirk Lockwood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was LeMans 1957 and the world stage was set once again with thousands, and thousands of people poised and ready to pounce on the competition to prove superiority in motor sport industry! Who ever won or placed in this huge event could reap great dividends in sales of product or vehicle production as the world watched in anticipation of who would come out on top! And who would go home under defeat!

Great fortunes were won or lost here and this year the majority of the motor racing enthusiasts were starting to take notice of this American chap by the name of "Jay Chamberlain". They say he travelled some 8,000 miles just to race with his fellow countryman "Mac" Fraser at the most mentally demanding, and physically draining endurance racing known to man. The 24 hour race at LeMans! But how, why, and who does this chap know and how on earth did he end up driving a Lotus of Colin Chapman fame? Quite frankly if they weren't asking these questions before the huge 24 hour endurance race, it seems that they all definitely were asking afterwards!

MacKay Jay Colin BW

"Colin Chapman, Jay Chamberlain, MacKay Fraser On A Sunny Day At LeMans"

You see it all started in school for Jay, like many of us the school days were filled with guidence and trying to make our own mark on the world. Find our own way, find out who we are, what we're made of, what makes us tick...you know inside our hearts while figuring out what really stirs our souls. What do we really enjoy in life, what gives the heart and soul meaning and maybe turns a few heads our way and helps us make a few green back dollars going down the road to life we Want to travel! Well for Jay like many of us it was the love of the automobile. Not just your everyday type, but the fast ones! The ones that'll surely make your pulse race till the heart skips a beat and sets the soul free into the warm breeze of the California Dry Lakes region. We all remember the old school days, and Jay tried all too hard to forget them as he had his own path in life! In the 40's when he should have been getting good grades and studying hard he was...well just on to different things as he was an enthusiastic builder of the California style "HOT RODS" and very talented at it as many would pay Jay sums of green backs to "build" their cars up for competition, or "Street Creed".

Jays Hot Rodding days and Jag days

"Jays Earlier Days, And With The Jag Some Will Remember!"

His studies suffered from this "hobby" since the large amount of time Jay spent earning money to fuel his creative efforts on the streets resulted in more than one bad report cards but some fantastic hot rods! James Dean definitely would've been proud alright but "Life Happens" as we know all too well and Jay exchanged his love of sports cars to serve our country in the Navy, as well as the Marine Corps. After serving our military he became a part of the "52-20 club" which was the term our veterans described "Uncle Sam's" compensation of the United States Governments guaranteed 52 weeks of unemployment benefits at $20 U.S.Dollars a week after completion of their term of service. Needles to say Jay took great strides to live off that $20.00 a week for a year with an awful lot of Hot Rodding! The life of any Hollywood rebel drag racing on those cool nights on those lone highways (at least up until the local police would show up)! This helped Jay cut his teeth a little (since he seldom got caught) but also made him in a sense a little smarter about his love and he did the only thing he could. He took it to the track!

Img01526820Jay Chamberlain Portrait Resize

"Mr. Cheeky"

It was a hard knocks apprenticeship racing with many of the pro's at California's dirt tracks as you had to earn your way, your OWN WAY as those on top naturally wanted to remain on top thus making it almost impossible for any new kid on the block! But love always wins out, although Jay spent many nights swallowing dirt, smelling of oil, and high octane petrol he again cut his teeth on the dirt track scene and the streets. He then graduated to the "Midgets" and on up to the "Big League" 1 mile oval dirt tracks. In 49 Jay did a stint on some road racing for a Danish gent but ended up eating more dirt as the vehicle wasn't fit for it's own good let alone road racing , but it did give Jay the experience of some real road racing... almost as good as the English Circuits he'd often dreamed about racing in his youth! Not one to relax too long Jay went back into Midget racing in the East and Mid West and made a pretty good following for himself! He was entered into the Indianapolis 500 in 52 but could not get his car to "Fly Right" and couldn't even make the qualifying lap times which for anyone would be devastating! This with race winnings dwindling down to bare bones it was extremely hard to travel and meet car repair expenditures, let alone the meals , fuel, and hotel accommodations so Jay went on home to Burbank, California. Once back in his hometown of Burbank the Hot Rod kid with that charming smile got back to his true love, but this time with a twist. You see the California scene was really changing then as the foreign sports car "thing" was an absolute "shoe in" with the "chicks"! Of course Hollywood started to glamorize the whole sports car from European vehicle manufacturers and YES they took notice as well! So there you have it, of course they're were always going to be the "cool surf dudes" with the VW vans, or the woody wagons absolutely, but now their world would have to include a European sports car "Invasion" on their "coolness" as Jay was one of the first to notice this new "Wave" and he was going to be the one to tame it! With the help of a good friend a partnership was struck to purchase a building and Jay Chamberlains Foreign Car Service was indeed "IN BUSINESS"!

Jays Imported Cars

"Jay Chamberlain Imported Cars - The New Kid In Town!"

As Jay opened his business his wife suggested to break from professional driving and favored the New Local Sports Car Racing as it should bolster sales to the new importer in town and be safer for the new businessman and not require long hours on the road away from home. Obviously Jay couldn't agree more and with his fair share of experience he did quite well for himself being more then the average driving enthusiast as most drivers to the new Sports Car class were just cutting their teeth for the first time. Jay did very well indeed on the local scene from courses in Santa Barbara, Torry Pines, Pebble Beach, and Palm Springs and as you can guess with his charismatic charm and warm smile the locals were buying cars from that "cheeky new guy in town" and business was good! So good that Jay had to acquire a larger premises at 4110 Lankershim Boulevard, in North Hollywood California! Jay then made sure that he had the best foreign car service station around and made sure he put his past experiences to good work as to his future profits by preparing "hot rods", and all different types of racing vehicles for customers as he did in the past and since his own past experience at Indianapolis also noticed the whole racing game was starting to lean towards those who "Have $" then those who "Have Not $" especially on those professional circuits. Jay also was very smart to include "Jays Lube Lab", a "Tune Up Lab", an "Alignment & Tire Change Lab", and a "Service Lab" which you had to drive past all the cars in the showroom to get to!

Img01526831Jay Chamberlains business 

"Jay Chamberlains 4110 Lankershim Boulevard North Hollywood California"

Now Jay was not only the first but thankfully for all who love Lotus the most important importer of foreign sports and racing cars in the U.S.! He had the ultimate location, was very highly educated and well versed in these European treasures. Light years ahead of anyone else thinking of venturing into a foreign car market. Here in the States you might even get hung for even thinking about buying "anything" from a foreign land, and your ride .. well that "Better be coming from Detroit!" With that said it would have to take someone pretty damned good to sell them or pretty damned dumb! As I said thankfully it was "Jay Chamberlains!" Jay actually first came across the Lotus Racing cars while doing race prep work for one of his customers who had brought in a new Lotus IX for some of Jays race proven preparation work. Needless to say Jay was really short for words over the simplified way this type of race car was set up so light weight in construction from the ground up. He HAD to know more about "Colin Chapman and his Bare Boned Hi Revving Winning Machines!"

Colin Cheeky Grown Service and Striving

"A Cheeky Colin At 8,As A Young Man,Receiving RAF Wings,Advertising His Skills,&Successful Racer!"

(Seems Colin Chapman & Jay Chamberlain Had More In Common Which Made Them Inseparable At 1st)

It wasn't by chance that Colin and Jay were to eventually meet up as they shared more than just the love of cars. They would later see that their lives were so similar, and the lust of being successful in the motoring world was just bridging the gap across "The Big Pond" as each one of them were "Perfect" for each others success in the directions that they wanted to go in their careers! Jay was so excited about this Lotus IX he was preparing that he soon ordered his own! So if you know anything about the California scene during this European Invasion of sports / race cars you could not describe it better than "The Fabulous Fifties" by Art Evans. If you get a chance to read his same titled book... Do so! You will really appreciate the impact of how the California scene not only Exploded but took the whole racing scene to a "whole nother level" all over the world with some of the greatest racing drivers of all time cut their teeth! While this scene took on a life of it's own Jay Chamberlain was enjoying win after win with his new-found glory of the Lotus IX as well as his many "NEW" customers who were clamoring for Colin's prize winning race cars! (One of which was a Lotus X specially ordered in July and to be set - up for James Dean, Hmmm, I wonder who ended up with that one? When Dean introduced himself to British actor Alec Guinness outside the Villa Capri restaurant in Hollywood, he asked him to take a look at his brand new Porsche Spyder. Guinness thought the car appeared 'sinister' and told Dean: "If you get in that car, you will be found dead in it by this time next week." This encounter took place on September 23, 1955, seven days before Dean's death! There is an ironic epilogue to James Dean's fatal crash in 1955: While filming Giant, Dean also filmed a short Public Service Announcement (PSA) with actor Gig Young for the National Safety Council. It featured James Dean dressed as the young Jett Rink talking about how driving fast on the highway can be more dangerous than racing on the track. It ends with Dean, instead of saying the standard phrase "The life you save may be your own", humorously ad-libbing, "The life you might save might be mine." This legendary black and white PSA, released following Dean's death, can now be viewed on YouTube.) In 1956 at Sebring Colin Chapman and Jay Chamberlain finally were to meet up. Colin had discussed many things Lotus with Jay and his plans for the dual purpose GT car that not many people were privileged  to know about.

LeMans  Ferodo Trophy  Celebration

"1956 LeMans Line Up,Accepting the Ferodo Trophy,Celebrating Jay & Mac's 1957 LeMans Win"

Then came Colin Chapman's Home Run the Lotus XI in its 3 variants #1. The LeMans with De Dion rear suspension and Disc Brakes around. #2. The Sports with Drums and a Live rear axle. #3. The Club which basically is a "Sports" but was only fitted with the 1172cc Ford Ten side valve and intended use was directed solely for club, 1172cc class Formula racing, or for that James Dean "Road Racing" with the Local Police (remember them guys) trying hard to catch them! With things hopping on the California scene and many, many Lotus cars being imported to satisfy this incredible demand by those who not only came to race , but came to "WIN!" Colin now HAD to meet up with Chamberlain once more and accompany that Eleven of Jays! He also wrote a formal letter ahead of his visit that declared Jay Chamberlain's the sole U.S. Distributorship for Lotus Cars of America!

 

Colin and Jay Information Image 

 "Colin Chapman And Jay Chamberlain In California With Earls Court Eleven"

 

And thus it was a well awaited meeting when the Earls Court Eleven was put on display at Jay Chamberlains Showroom after the well received showing in London England. There was much to discuss including that much anticipated dual purpose "Production Car" that was to be ahead of it's time and against everything known to the masses. A very exciting time for both men as Colin was to take the next huge step and Jay was the man to make his dream a reality as his clientele consisted of many known racers, sports car enthusiasts, and a large interest of those involved in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, as well as business reps. and engineers from the huge pool of the budding local aerospace industry.

Earls court Interior Eleven

"Chassis #236 Was One Of A Kind Show Car Thus The Only One Made From Lotus With An Interior!"

Jays Earls court Eleven Resized

"Here's Colin Chapman & Jay Chamberlain With A Beautiful Sales Pitch!"

Jay sold to Jack Webb of dragnet fame Jackie Loughery 3rd Wife of Jacks  Resize

"The Eleven Was Sold To Jack Webb Of 'Dragnet' Fame Seen Here With 3rd Wife Jackie Loughery"

Colin Chapman Joe Shephard Dick Dungan 57 Sebring

"Getting Things Ready For Sebring 1957"

In 1957 Jay was invited by Colin with his fellow countryman Herbert "Mac" Mackay Fraser to enter the LeMans 24 hour race for Colin's "Team Lotus!" once in England Jay always stayed with Colin and Hazel at their home and their friendship grew increasingly strong with every meeting. All of this as Colin truly wanted to "Shock the World" with a 3 car "Team Elite" Entry at Lemans! This as we now know was not to be, however the team of Fraser and Jay went on to win their LeMans run which took the event to an otherwise exciting high for those at Lotus and the American distributor of Lotus cars! Russ Hoenig interviews Jay Chamberlain at that time as well as some factual excerpts from Colin Chapman, and Graham Hill interviews at the same time for clarification of events,etc. It is a wonderful recollection of the events through his own eyes that put's one right there;

 

The race course as described in 1957 by Bernard Cahier, European correspondent for Road & Track:

The circuit of LeMans is a first class example of a near perfect type of road, beautifully designed with smooth pavement on which very high speeds can be had by all types of cars. When leaving the pits, you first have the long, uphill Dunlop bend, then a short downhill before entering the Esses, which end with the slow turn of Tertre Rouge. After that, you have a long three mile straight, ending brutally with the 30 mph turn of Mulsanne. From Mulsanne the road goes into the esses of Arnage, and then, after another sharp turn, it is straight going up to the stands, cut in the middle, by the fast and dangerous bends of La Maison Blanche (White House).

Team Lotus drivers remembered LeMans this way:  As you breast the brow of a blind hump 500 meters before the Mulsanne corner for the first few times, your foot to the floor, the marker board indicating turn right, you start to lift off, unnecessarily so as over the other side there is another quarter of a mile to go. As the XI goes over the bumps and humps at full speed, about 135 MPH, the shape acted like a wing and made the steering very light. It did not take long to start enjoying the famous corners, Arnage, the cambered Indianapolis, and the Esses. The thrill of pulling maximum revs and then changing into top gear just as you pass the pits is never to be forgotten.

Russ Hoenig's interview when Jay Chamberlain drove LeMans for the first time that year and recalls the challenges:

“Chapman built a really fine little race car, but that’s all they did. I mean they raced them right out of the box and assumed that, ‘from the factory’ was the best that these cars would ever be.  I got them in touch with Dunlop, and we measured the circumference of every Lotus XI tire that they were to supply for LeMans, and set about matching tires.  What resulted was an unbelievable improvement in handling.  We used this throughout the season including introducing Colin to the time honored ‘sprint car ’ traditions of staggering tires and frame jacking.  We wedged the rear springs on the LeMans cars and even experimented with shimming the deDion to alter the rear camber and toe-in.

Colin was very resistant to any of those changes to His cars, so after all of the long, hard hours of preparation, we would work after hours setting the cars up to handle.  We experimented with all of this, plus cam profiles and timing, as well as carb settings.  All of this quite normal preparation for racing in the States, but again remember that ‘from the factory’ was the best that these cars would ever be.

Wednesday’s practice in Ashdown’s backup 1100 was spent trying to learn the track under Colin’s scrutiny.  After each of us had done some laps, we took the team 1100’s out to make sure that all was ready and the loose ends had been fixed.  Mac (Herbert Mackay Fraser) had the 1500 out but it was plagued with overheating, which by the time the mechanics had corrected, the valves were starting to go.  With the team cars ready, we continued to practice in Ashdown’s 1100 backup car, each taking turns trying to become accustomed to driving the course in the dark.

Thursday’s afternoon practice was going a lot better along with my first driving of the 1500 car, but I still could not better Mac’s time.  Mac was a downhill and slalom skier and he used that balance and rhythm in his driving. Later Colin took the 1500 out and set a new course record for the 1500cc class, taking only 5 laps to do it.  That gave all the other 1500 teams an awful lot to worry about.  Although it was not to be, as just before the end of practice, Mac failed to pass the pits.  The 1500 had dropped an intake valve on the Mulsanne.

The only other 1500 engine running that Colin knew of was back in England and was fitted as a marine engine as I remember.  There was not enough time to retrieve this engine and convert it from marine use to our use.  Colin scratched the 1500, rearranged drivers and cars, so Mac and I ended up with Peter Ashdown and Alan Stacey’ s reserve entry 1100 car.

Race plans for us called for fuel and driver changes every 35 laps, which worked out to just under 3 hours driving time.  Our car, in fact all of the cars ran without mechanical problems, even though Colin had anticipated electrical problems, and had a second wiring harness installed as backup under the cowl.  We ended up 9th overall, 1st in the 1100 class, and followed the 750 car with 2nd in the Index of Performance.

This was a great moment for all of us, and it seemed to me that now that the race was over it was time to celebrate, but all anybody else wanted to do was take photographs and congratulate each other.  As soon as it was prudent, we went up to the Girling and Dunlop rooms above the pits for some food and drink, with the emphasis on drink. The mechanics enjoyed this, but not for long as everything had to be packed up and taken with the cars to Rouen for the next sports car race.

We stayed for the awards dinner and presentations to which we were late in arriving.  Colin picked up the money and we took over the first unoccupied table, which, quite handily, was next to the table the fashion models were seated at.  Some of those ladies are in one of the photos.

This was the high point of my 1957 European racing association with Chapman.  The next weekend of racing at Rouen was okay for me, coming in second to a Porsche in the team’s 1500 single-cam car. Mac had a wheel hub break in the LeMans entry 1500 twin-cam car, which is very scary to have happen in an Eleven.  The following weekend at Rheims, I destroyed the 1100 car in practice, and ended up in a Paris hospital.  Poor Mac was killed during the race in the 1500 LeMans car.  The excitement of LeMans was over.”

 Color Lemans Large

"Well Sunny Days Are Here Again! But Slowly Tides Sadly Change For Colin, & Jay As Mac Soon Loses His Life As Jay Chamberlain Lays Incapacitated In Nearby Hospital Just 2 Races After This Photo"

This image is a rare color shot of Colin Chapman giving a victory lap to LeMans winners Jay Chamberlain and Herbert "Mac" Mackay Fraser which brings us full circle with the start of this story, but it is not the end of Jays story but a beginning of bittersweet things that seem to haunt those at Lotus and the U.S. Distributor which coincides with the very untimely death of "Mac" in his outing in a Lotus Works car. This was a very hard blow to both Colin and Jay, but as we know "Mac" may have been the first tragedy at Lotus it began a very different path for Lotus with many Big Highs that were unfortunately followed by very BAD Lows. While back home Jay did everything he could to take his mind off the bittersweet ending of Lemans by racing at local tracks. The Big Event that year was the opening of "Riverside International Motor Raceway" and who was called to test the new track layout but many of the "Good Ol' Local Boys" Jay Chamberlain with his Lotus, Jim Peterson with his XKSS Jaguar, and Ken Miles among several others...Here comes the "Big Time" auto races!

Testing the New Riverside International Racetrack

"Testing The Waters At Riverside International Motor Raceway"

While Jay was once again enjoying his Lotus at home tracks Colin was back to work on his "Secret Project" across the big pond. Rather quite upset that things hadn't materialized for the unveiling of his new production model at LeMans he and Peter Cambridge had payed John Frayling and John Standen a surprise visit at the secret location of Len Pritchards panel beaters. Quite upset about the delay in completing the molds and processes of the new secret Lotus project he set a date for the Earls Court Car show for the unveiling. He also appointed Ron Hickman to help aid in the design and fitments of the molds and they were all instructed to do whatever it took to simplify the mold process and come up with a design requiring the fewest amount of production molds as possible after the Earls Court car was built. This was to speed up production time once the mass production of body shells was underway. With this the group from Lotus working still in secret moved the operations into leased space  from Maximar feeding off of each others failures, progres, and expertise with much assistance from those at Maximar willing to help out and make the new project a reality after the Earls Court Car (mock-up) was built and took the motor world by storm with its revolutionary designs and concepts with new technology and an incredible whole new design of rear suspension that was way ahead of it's time! Many may not be aware that Colin Chapman was extremely livid with John Frayling after devoting so much time to the project at a much lower rate of pay then he was previously making at Ford and his whole "CHANGE" of the interior panel molds for the Elite. As many will note those first few production cars had more flat panels and right angles in the inside. For ease of mold release, negative draft, and a much more smoother appearance with superior strength John Frayling re-designed the interior to the more radius design most all of us know. He also was responsible for the double skin panel of the Doors, Bonnet, and Boot lid which also infuriated Colin Chapman to no end as it added much time, Epoxy Resin and Glass, Weight, overhead in costs, and more curing problems to deal with! Since John Frayling was pretty much un-guided by what Colin actually wanted he had to improvise on what he thought he was hired for. Basically to design and build the molds around all that was already engineered to create molds for the final production cars filling in the rest of the interior panels to make it all work so John Standen could get part suppliers for all the trim and fitments, locations, and mounting hole patterns,etc. worked out for future production needs. It wasn't until the Earls court show when most observers commented about how they liked the idea of NOT seeing the "Shredded Wheat" appearance of most fiberglass panels or kits, or how nice and smooth the streamlined interior matched the beautiful flow of the exterior, or how much more firm the doors and other double panel pieces felt compared to "single flimsy skinned" items of other attempts in the past by "cheaper companies" that Colin warmed up to accepting that these little ideas made others think he was quite a genius in coming up with those great ideas! What most also may not know is that when Peter Kirwin Taylor announced the "pretty pastel" production colors for the Elite it was one of the very last straws for John Frayling and thus if you find a color shot of the Earls Court Car you'll notice that John had painted the inner wheel wells a very "Hot Bright - PINK" in his defiance of the color pastels knowing full well the time restraints of getting the car done in time leaving no time to "correct" this custom paint application ( I still wonder if Albert Adams knew anything at all about this ;o).

Mock-Up Lotus Elite Tottenham Lane 1kwide

 

lotus 1957 elite 

 "Nothing Like Hot Pink Wheel Wells On An Elite!"

 

 Working the Elites out at Maximar

"The Invisible Man Of Maximar!  Wait A Minute Is That Mike Ostrov?"

At this stage the pressure was on to get those prototypes worked out, built, and out on the tracks to boost awareness that Colin was actually producing the Elites! Colin was a bit of an illusionist as he took Ian Walkers Elite and had it all done up pretty for the front page photo shoot of the very first Road & Track Magazine! It had shiny chrome turn lamp bezels in the front. The nose section made of stainless steel was completely round the nose opening as the Left and Right front bumpers do not make contact with it or thus hold it down in any way. It came with a flip up door "flap" for the front mounted gas tank in the wing. It was the very first Elite made to Left Hand Drive configuration for the photo shoot later changed to Right hand and repainted to look as though other cars were being produced. All of these pre-production cars were different in one way or another till Peter Cambridge, John Standen, John Frayling, Ron Hickman, and Colin Chapman were pleased with the fitment, form, and function of all things relating to the very first production car to come from Lotus! Perhaps another article at all the oddities with these unique one of a kind Elite prototypes in the future? Any rate back to my story... While all this was going on across the big pond in "Colin Country" Jay was ecstatic about the profits he could see in this incredible opportunity to sell a production car for the sports car enthusiast that they in turn can race, rock, or roll with a great handling package you could not get anywhere on any other car! He also knew of the money troubles for Lotus in that once finalized on Elite production schedules, parts and processes they would need a much larger facility to work out of. Jay was behind the project 100% and was willing to move the mountains if he could to help Lotus bloom! He had thought of his military days when money was tight and then it hit him that he could in fact finance Lotus race cars for those brothers of the 52-20 club! He also needed a "Money Man" of sorts...and he knew just the man to turn to for a little financial backing!

Jays Finance ad with 11

"Rare Ad Of Jays To Finance A Race Car From Lotus!"


Although Jay had many financial backers from many different sources and backgrounds he really needed one who was as passionate about not only the Hot Rod, Street Rod, Club, National & International events but Grand Touring as well who could help put Lotus, Colin Chapman, and Jay Chamberlain "On the MAP" so to speak. Sure his advertising, and sales were doing very well indeed for Jay, and this financing a new race car angle did him one better you might say. But this venture was a huge endeavor and would only take flight if they could find a source who could "Throw Money" at it so to speak. Hopefully someone with a considerable amount of patience and an aptitude to not be too interested in the "Returns" coming in "ANYTIME SOON". Someone obviously who had access to an unbelievable amount of clout looking for what seemed to be a sure investment by local and international trends ... This man we now know was Dr. Jack Briggs an heir to the world famous "Briggs Family of Briggs & Stratton". He became Jay Chamberlains "Silent Partner" as we would refer to the "money man" or "financial backer" today. (simply put you can't keep that a secret for long these days can you?)

 Jays AD WOMAN

 "Another Popular Ad Of Jays Featuring Chassis 1007P Which Was Originally To Be The London Show Car"

With many races being won by pre-production Elites over seas there was a BUZZ stateside about this fabulous sports / racing car of Colin Chapmans latest design. It was a craze that both Jay and Colin wanted to create for this rather expensive new line of Lotus. With the financial backing by Jack Briggs Colin devised a way to borrow monies against the pre-ordered cars to California to begin his ground breaking in Cheshunt on a brand new assembly, service, components, and sales production facility in desperate need for Lotus if they were ever to be a formidable production car company. With the contracts already in place for Maximar to build the first 250 body shells Colin was compelled to keep the first 100 of production in England so he could monitor and address any and all issues pertaining to the Elites production woes through those at the track to the everyday driving issues with personal sales and test drives. With most of the financial backing coming from Peter Kirwin Taylors investment arrangement and Dr. Jack Briggs Colin wanted to make sure most every issue had been delt with before the shipment of Elites began to flow to the States. Although this took some time it was also having a slight impact on Stateside tracks as there had to be at least 10 units to be able to compete with a newly developed car...and as we know there were none in the states so with all the advertising and promoting Jay was doing in anticipation of these fine autos he had nothing to show. Take it from any car salesman it get's extremly hard to keep selling vehicles you don't have, can't show, or can't race! Although the pressure for Elites were mounting with anticipation the States finally got a chance to see the Elite first hand at the 1959 Sebring 12 hour race!

59Sebring-45ElitePit Jay Chamberlain Car

"Colins Sebring Elite Chassis 1015P"

59Seb-45Elite Colin Chapman SEBRING

Colin was to accompany 2 race prepped Elites for the event..and what an event it was as they were held up on the docks with paperwork and much nonsense that seemed to want to derail the whole event and keep the cars from even participating. Colin though in his magical, mystical ways somehow got the powers that be to release the cars from the port and they were "broke in" on the run from docks to Sebring with just enough time to qualify and get on the grid with # 45 driven by Colin Chapman and Pete Lovely, and #46 driven by Jay Chamberlain and Sam Weiss. These good ol' boys all from the great California racing scene! The Chamberlain/Weiss car was a DNF (did not finish), and Chapman/Lovely took a 2nd in class and a 21st over all which regarding the circumstances was pretty good ! The Elite was constantly bouncing off the sump pan as the Sebring course had many of the access roads incorperated into the straight smooth runway sections which allowed no clearance at slow speeds let alone trying to reach speeds in access of 100mph around the course!

Img01526822 Sebring cars on the way to California 

"Colin And Jays Sebring Cars On The Way To California"

After the race both cars were loaded onto Chamberlains transporter and taken to Jays in Northern California. The #45 Chapman/Lovely car was to be stripped of it's numbers and placed in the Lankershim Showroom and the #46 Chamberlain/Weiss car was to become Jays personal racing Elite. Now don't take this as gospel but I "heard" that customers were "clamoring" about this Elite that was driven by the "Great Colin Chapman" and that it must make it worth so much more because of it! Jay was said to be a little "miffed" by this statement and retorted that he too with his Lemans win and all the local, national, and international placements being every bit as well of a driver as Colin could also fetch a bit more for the Elite that he drove as well! But the customer insisted that the car that Colin drove would definitely be the one most in demand of value at the time of sale and thus worth much more! With this I believe Jay Chamberlain had Both cars re-painted and I think that Jay ended up painting RED with the trademark SILVER NOSE CAP that their car that "Colin Chapman Drove" figuring that the car must be "AT LEAST" worth twice as much now that "both" of them had raced it! The car then appeared shortly after the re-painting on the Cover of the short lived SPORTS CAR GUIDE magazine in front of the Griffith Observatory.

Img01526824 Jays Elite After Sebring on photo shoot

 "Griffith Observatory Photo From Sports Car Guide Magazine"

Jay had set - up his car with many of his personal touches and fitments as there wasn't any time before Sebring and those at Lotus were set on the idea that the way the cars are set-up from the factory are best. Jay knew a little different as far as the engine set - up from Coventry could have a better cam set - up for the entire power band. Of course one must also understand the course, style, conditions, and duration as well as several other aspects will determine how you set your car to perform as obviously one set - up will not work on another track or outing. With Jay having many years of experience at the tracks he was running at he knew what engine response would work best for his applications and it's the little things that make a huge difference in the winners circle. So with Jays experimentation he and his tuning mechanics came up with a slightly different cam grind that optimised more horsepower and better compression for his Elite. In later years Jay maintains he showed these grinds to Cosworth which ultimately made copies for use under their trade namesake. As far as those Elites were concerned there were many customers stateside that were going to start cancelling orders in opting for other sports car brands that seemed to be readily available and at a much lower cost and without all those issues with a new production car addressed and pressure from Jays financial backers Lotus soon was forced to start sending units to sunny (did I say sunny? yes I believe I did) California! From the outset things could NOT be sweeter! The Elites are here! That's right the Elites were finally hitting the United States and it seems that the wait was well worth it, even though at a trickle the sums of people putting money on this new car line were at least relieved that they truly must be making these vehicles and that theirs would soon be stateside where they can finally enjoy them first hand. Jay was so excited of the news he had those first few Elites flown in to satisfy his patiently awaiting customers and to assure the others waiting with baited breath that the Dream of owning a new Elite is now a certain Reality! Of course this did not quite fit into Colins original plans of keeping the first 100 chassis numbers in the U.K. more like 20 or so after the pre-production cars. How could this have been such an issue? Parts suppliers late on deliveries, fitment of parts once received by them, redesigning of some things. Lotus at this point was small fish to other manufacturers and they were the last company that any other manufacturer could care about making a deadline with. Especially if they were competing for the same market. This obviously was a problem with using so many of the Elite parts from so many other car makers as they had to depend on the very undependable. Great idea saving time and monies not having to tool up a company to make so many of the basic necessity parts, bumpers, brakes, lights, knobs, switches, regulators, etc. But definitely not the kind of thing you really want to deal with when launching your first public production model and can't get them on any kind of schedule. Many cars sat waiting for parts other cars had but were waiting for other items! With that known just think if Lotus couldn't get the parts to build them Jay Chamberlain and his customers (no matter how rich) didn't stand a chance! So at first you could say the Elites were off and running, they may have been missing a few bits and pieces here and there before shipment but things were at least moving now! For dealer installed options how long was the wait on the optional heater/demister units and TEX Rain Master pumps!

 

 Jay Chamberlans new elite RESTORED 1kcrop

"1015P & The Very First Shipment Of Elites Flown In By Jay On Flying Tiger Lines!

 Jay Chanberlains 001

Jay Chanberlains 002

Jay Chanberlains 004

Img01526817 Resize retouch 1st Car at Jays 

"New Elites, Full Parcel Shelf, Umbrella Brake, No Steering Wheel Medallion, Rear View, And Soft Leather Interior Being Some Noticeable Differences Between S1 & S2 Elites"

Jay as well had worked up 3 Elites that he was going to once again enter in the Sebring 12 hour in 1960. They were all painted in a nice American Blue with White stirpe down the center and for headlight protectors Jay fashioned some "Pot-Pie" or small "Vending Pie" Aluminum tins with 2" Masking Tape to hold them in place...Now that's "Hot-Rod Ingenuity" right there! The #55 car was driven by Jay Chamberlain/Charles Evans and had finished 3rd in class and 25th overall, the #56 car was driven by Sam Weiss/Jim Hughes, and the #57 car was driven by Phill Forno/Frank Bott and ironically on LAP #57 Bott was at the wheel and was forced off course by a backmarker and ended up rolling the Elite but thankfully being able to just walk away very shaken and distraught thinking of another Elite that wrecked with horrible consequences earlier in the same race with the worst twist of fate. Especially being an Elite from the very same team. Still as tragic just mentioning it here, we always hate the tragic ending of a drivers life this is just an extremely different and difficult fatality... You see on LAP #5 Hughes was screaming towards the entrance to Sebrings 120 degree corner and not realising how quickly it was approaching Jim realised he was going much to fast to make the sharp bend and took the escape road to avert any disaster trying to keep a position that would only end in trouble. What no single person could've ever known was straight ahead stood a photographer. Taking many action shots of that 120 degree action. His tripod firmly set-up to get those perfect unwavering shots which had taken up his  and his undivided attention. Although a split second before this tragic ending no single person even gave it a second thought, not even the photographer that he was illegally set up right in the center of the escape route. His eye focused into his viewfinder he never saw what many others hopelessly seen following the #56 car. Jim Hughes realising the photographer obviously distracted cranked the wheel of his Elite to try to avoid the man... to no avail the Elite caught a rut and the Elite began to roll throwing Jim into it's path killing him instantly as the car landed onto him rolling violently out of control careening wildly out of control toward the photographer who incidentally never looked up from his camera as this graphic dual tragedy unfolded before the crowd at Sebrings 12 hour race and not a thing any one could do but feel the pain and intense sorrow of auto sport. The 3rd place finish was a very hollow and empty affair as a pall hung over the Lotus camp following the event. The California racers had lost not only a great friend and fellow racer, but also felt the grim pain of another innocent life lost although there wasn't a single thing anyone could've done everyone there at Sebring and especially the Lotus camp felt the impact of tragedy that would last a lifetime from that single event. After Chamberlain had made a few calls and took care of the very grim arrangements he sped away from the course obviously distraught and teary eyed was arrested for reckless driving, and because he was out of state he was immediately booked at the local station despite his explanation of the days events. Jay never returned to Sebring as it surely played over enough in his memories for a lifetime.

Hughes Sebring Elite crash1

Hughes Sebring Elite crash

SORROW OF SEBRING 

"Very Rare Images Of The Fatal Jim Hughes Sebring Elite"

Back in Northern California business was booming and Elites were starting to now hit the docks in ever increasing numbers and at least it seemed that things on the homefront were going good for Jay. Because Chapmans bills of lading for cars shipped to California was so vitally important to his bottom dollar as he used this expected monies from overseas sales to pay for the Cheshunt works facility and to pay off Coventry Climax and other suppliers with these letters of credit. You can then see why it was that Chapman did not stick to keeping those first 100 Elite chassis in England to "work out all the bugs first" as Jay was soon to get 200 of the first 364 Elites to come off the production line! Yes 2/3rds of the production thus far in not much time after hounding Chapman for enough Elites just to satisfy at least the first customers and get some much needed promotion from having some of the Elites out and about on the streets. From that to being totally inundated with vehicles at the docks and since Chapman actually never got paid for the cars till they were here at the docks they started sprouting like mad. So much more "Sprouting" then Jay had customers for and so many sat at the Long Beach docks since Jay didn't have the room for them all! Seems like sunny days again for Jay right? Well as I stated earlier those "Sunny Days" Jay and eventually Lotus ended up paying for.... dearly!

 Overseas Delivery Charges Jay Chamberlain

 

 



Tania Jay Inset paperclipping

"Pretty Starlet Tania Velia Also Lends A Hand For Jay"

Here's the rare Motor Racing ad and one of the few photos from the shoot!

 

 

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