Lotus turned 75 this year, a remarkable achievement itself. A reason for celebration. In honor of this anniversary, Lotus unveiled the Type 66 Can-Am Racecar: a long-forgotten concept from the ’70s that was intended to grant Lotus entry into the Canadian-American Challenge Cup (or Can-Am). After 53 years the Lotus Type 66 finally departs from the drawing board and heads towards production line, where only 10 copies will be produced. Happy Birthday, Lotus!

Fifty-three years ago, Lotus aimed to diversify its presence by entering the Canadian-American Challenge Cup alongside its Formula 1 pursuits. Colin Chapman entrusted designer Geoff Ferris with the task of encapsulating everything that Lotus stood for in a Can-Am race car to enter the Canadian-American Challenge Cup. However, due to the unseen success in Formula 1, the Can-Am project never advanced beyond a few sketches and scale models and was shelved. Now, 53 years later, Lotus has rewritten its history: Past and contemporary technologies converge seamlessly embodied in the Can-Am racer wearing its iconic red-white-gold livery. A limited production of only 10 units is planned, symbolizing the intended number of races the Type 66 would have entered, creating a true testament to Lotus’ racing heritage.

“The Type 66 perfectly blends the past and present. It takes drivers back in time, to the iconic design, sound and pure theatre of motorsport more than 50 years ago, with added 21st century performance and safety. This is a truly unique project, and in our 75th anniversary year, it’s the perfect gift from Lotus fans worldwide and to a handful of customers,” said Simon Lane, executive director of Lotus Advanced Performance. “While the visual expression is strikingly similar to what could have been—including the period-correct white, red and gold graphics—the technology and mechanical underpinnings of the Lotus Type 66 represent the very best in today’s advanced racing performance.”

Leveraging cutting-edge computer software, the team under the leadership of Russell Carr, Lotus’ design director, digitally transformed a series of 1/4- and 1/10th-scale drawings provided by Clive Chapman, son of. They built 3D renderings, offering a fresh perspective on the vehicle. The initial sketches faithfully adhered to Colin Chapman’s early designs, showcasing a cockpit enclosure designed to reduce drag and enhance airflow to the rear wing. Clive commented, “The car would have shared many innovative features with our most successful F1 chassis, the Lotus Type 72, which was developed during the same era. It would have been spectacular, as is the actual Type 66 we see today.”

The updated aspects of the vehicle include a modernized driver compartment, an inboard fuel cell, a sequential transmission, and an anti-stall system. All accommodated within a fully carbon-fiber body shell. The design of the front wing aims to guide air from the car’s front, directing it through and underneath the rear wings. This configuration generates more downforce than the vehicle’s total weight when racing at full speed. This concept of porosity, allowing air to pass through the vehicle rather than around it, has become a distinctive hallmark of Lotus vehicle design as seen on the Emira sports car and Evija hypercar.

“We are incredibly proud to have completed such a unique project, and one that Colin Chapman was personally involved in,” said Carr. “There is a real delicacy in remastering the past. This is not a re-edition or a restomod, but a completely new breed of Lotus—a commitment that our past glories will continue to be reflected in our future.”

At the heart of the Type 66 lies a V8 push-rod engine representative of its era. Positioned mid-mounted for optimal handling, Lotus has fine-tuned it to yield over 830bhp at 8,800rpm. Incorporating contemporary, custom components such as a forged crank, rod, and pistons, the engine generates a torque exceeding 746 Nm at 7,400rpm. The distinctive Can-Am-inspired air intake ‘trumpets’ prominently adorn the showpiece of the engine. These not only streamline the air intake to foster laminar flow, ensuring a smooth power delivery and enhanced driveability.

Could Lotus have achieved even greater dominance in 1970s racing if the Type 66 had graced the starting lines of the Can-Am races?

The Lotus Type 66 was unveiled at ‘The Quail, A Motorsport Gathering’ as part of Monterey Car Week 2023 in California, USA. Photography by David Coyne for Lotus.