Charles P.'s Rolling Lotus Cortina Lessons

California Speedway, July 2002 during the "Old vs. New Challenge".

"This is a 1966 LHD import originally sold in California. It still has the original "Black and Yellow Plate" registration."

"The car was owned and race-converted by Ford Team Trans-Am Driver (1972-1979) Todd Gerstenberger, who owned it for 20 years. I purchased it from him in 1999."

"In 2002 Tony Ingram up-rated the engine, trans, and rear end to full race standards with the engine dyno'd at over 180HP utilizing a stock stroke."

Shortly after the incident, September 2002 "Lotus vs. BMW Challenge" at Buttonwillow Raceway, California.


"The race conditions were as follows- time: 4:20 p.m. temp: 85F weather: overcast with 15mph crosswind at accident site. The accident: I came over the rise called "Magic Mountain" at speed and in the perfect line (validated by the corner workers). The car unloaded at the top, then loaded heavily over the back side of the hump. This is where the axle snapped. The wheel tucked into the wheelwell and turned me sideways. I then did a slow roll onto the drivers side then on over until the tires on the other side "caught". The corner workers said the car jumped 4 - 4.5 feet in the air and came down on the driver's side again. This is the roll that hurt. The next 2 were mild. I ended up just off the tarmac right side up. I was awake, eyes open for it all. To sum it up, it felt like I was in a washing machine full of glass."

"Locorts have two major issues (not including the trailing arm problems on early cars, which are well documented). The most common is that the centers of the locort wheels crack. If rust takes hold at the center welds (where the centers meet the rim), the centers can "punch out" around a corner. Even bead blasting won't help this problem, it just hides it! The solution is to bead weld the center to the rim for insurance or to get different wheels (which I did). The other problem is the one I suffered...catastrophic failure of the axle at the outer wheel bearing. This area acts as a heat sink for the bearing. Bad bearings or dry ones speed the process of metal fatigue. People have raced with original axles for years without problems but... it's Russian Roulette. The normal route is to put in new bearings periodically and have the axles crack tested (mine were)."

"The best solution is to replace the originals with billet, forged, or full floating type of modern manufacture (the hard lesson I learned). The one thing I am most glad I did, was not to cheap-out on the safety stuff (It saved my a*s). I had five point race belts which I tightened REALLY tight before each race. A window net kept me(arms, head, etc.) in the car. I wore a neck brace collar so I suffered NO whip lash. I had a FULL FACE helmet with visor. It kept the flying glass out of my eyes and face. And finally, I had a very good roll cage, which is MOST important!"

"Hope this info helps keep you guys (and gals) safe."

"Plans are in the works to re-skin this car using all period correct sheet metal and to use as much of the original car as possible. Then to have another go."


Text and photos copyright 2002, and courtesy of Charles P.


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