THE LOTUS 49T(ractor)
In the Australasian summer of 1967/68, the annual Tasman Series featured a very special car and driver combination.
The newly crowned Grand Prix World Champion, (New Zealander Denis Hulme), was entered in a Brabham.
Fellow kiwi, Chris Amon, coming off his first year as number one (and sole) driver for Ferrari, was to drive a Dino 246.
There were other well respected entrants, including Bruce McLaren and Pedro Rodriguez in BRMs, Piers Courage in a McLaren and Frank Gardner in a Brabham-Alfa.
But the star attraction,(and ultimately that season’s Tasman Series Champion),was Jim Clark of Scotland.
If any further stardust was needed, and Jim Clark was already a fair dinkum hero down here, it was provided by the car he was to drive.
This was the novel Lotus 49 which, to meet the unique Tasman Series formula, was fitted with a 2.5 litre version of its equally outstanding Ford Cosworth V8 engine.
This configuration was designated the Lotus Ford 49T.
For the first two races, (the NZ Grand Prix at Pukekohe and the “International” at Levin), the car was seen in the traditional Lotus green and yellow. This livery was already much admired in NZ because of Clark/Lotus championship successes in previous years.
It turned out that these were to be the last meetings at which a Lotus was seen in such colours. At the next race, the Lady Wigram Trophy in Christchurch, it ran, (and won), in the new Gold Leaf Team Lotus red, white and gold.
These facts are well known and, as recited here, historically accurate.
That really cannot be said about this new commissioned print.
However, the print does recall those times, those late sightings of a green and yellow Lotus, Jim Clark’s last championship and his last victory-his long and thrilling duel with Chris Amon in the Australian GP was greatly admired.
It also recalls some aspects of Jim Clark which so endeared him to the New Zealand public.
He was, of course, an exceptionally quick driver; the best of an extraordinary generation.
He was also from Scotland and this went over very well here.
Much as we admired “the Pommie drivers”, not least Piers Courage, Graham Hill and Richard Attwood in this season and Stirling Moss and John Surtees in others, many of us had grown up with the brogue and the culture and the memories of auld Scotland, if no longer immediately ours, were not much faded either.
Also that summer, district Agricultural and Pastoral Association Shows were underway throughout the country. As always, these featured traditional Highland Dancing and Pipe Bands and sheep breeders could be seen loitering,(apparently) nonchalantly, in the exhibition pens and taking sly shuftisto see which animal might catch the judge’s eye.
So, at a time when sheep farming was paramount here, there was a ready affinity with a world champion driver from Scotland who was a sheep manand one with the cocky’s quiet competence and dry humour.
How familiar too was the story that “Jim” had first learned his drifting skills on a tractor in a wet paddock -and on an ex Lend Lease Case tractor at that?
We had had a fair bit of ex WW2 Yank machinery left here too.
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