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SimpleSevens

Lap 08 - Lotus 23: The Sebring Car

In time for the 1962 endurance event at Sebring, Sy took delivery of a Lotus 23 as described in a telegram of confirmation dated 1/10/62. Apparently Sy went by "Si" for a period in the early 60's...


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Waltham Cross - Herts

Si:

Please airmail written order one twenty three for Sebring dark red white stripes and circles plus long range equipment. Not more than pound 1700 f.o.b. London plus copy to John Batt for confirmation stop Also if require one Elite Super 100 at pounds 1626 f.o.b. London including long range equipment stop Please confirm by cable before weekend.

Regards

Robin

the Sebring car (photos sent to Sy from Lotus works)

In early March of 1962, Sy tested the 23 at Vineland New Jersey. He sent his comments in two letters dated March 5th, 1962 to Knobby Clark at Lotus. A mention is made of missing parts and incorrect tires, suggesting that the process of dealing with Lotus may be somewhat tedious...


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[excerpt]
I tried the Lotus 23 out at the Vineland race track this past Sunday and the results were quite gratifying. The track had not been cleaned off for summer use and some sand and pebbles on the course made the turns dangerous. However, I did do two laps at 1.06 and winning G modified time is in the order of 1.09. therefore, the car is at least 2 or 3 seconds faster than G modified. The all out track record is held by Roger Penske in a Birdcage Maserati at 1.02. Under ideal conditions, I think I can get close to this lap speed with the 1100 c.c. engine and I certainly feel that I have a good chance to better the record with the 1477 c.c.

I do not understand your letter of march 2nd where you mention D9 tires, the tires on this car are plain "S" tires that we received on our Lotus 18 Jrs. We would like the D9 tires and the spares shipped by air immediately. I also feel that the replacement rear end parts and spares for this car should have been included with the car and there should not be any charge for these parts....

...I am most anxious to have the 23 make a good showing at Sebring and would appreciate whatever you can do to insure us receiving the proper rear end ratios and tires as soon as possible.

I think it might be prudent to also send a separate set of the rubber connectors which are used to connect the halfshafts to the rear end assembly if these are available before Sebring.

Apparently Sy was so excited about the performance of the 23 that he was reluctant (or forgot!) to mention concerns he had over the discovery that the wheels were overheating during testing. He sent a second letter the same day presenting his theory of the problem and a possible solution. He apparently never heard anything about it from Knobby.


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March 5, 1962

Mr. N. S. Clark

Lotus Components Ltd.
Delamare Road
Cheshunt
Hertfordshire

Re: Lotus 23

Dear Knobby,

In my letter this morning I neglected to mention the most critical problem we encountered in running in the car. The rear wheels became extremely hot after 4 or 5 laps. The temperature was just below freezing during the entire time that I was running the car and this overheating of the wheels is a matter of great concern when I consider that we will be running for 12 hours in Florida where the temperature will probably be in the vicinity of 80º. At the end of half hour's running you could not hold your hand on the surface of the wheels.

I believe the problem was created when 13" wheels were substituted for the 15" wheels and that there is insufficient cooling for the brake discs. There are also aluminum spacers between the brake discs and the wheels which probably conduct a great deal of heat directly to the wheels. Do you think that it is feasible to install some sort of asbestos or other non-conductive spacer to replace the present ones? I would appreciate any ideas you may have for modifications that we can make immediately to eliminate this problem.

Would it be possible to equip the car with 15" wheels front and rear? The front wheels/hubs only have 4 lugs and we could not adapt any of the magnesium wheels we have in stock to this set up.

Please let me have your thoughts as soon as possible.

Very truly yours,

WEATHERMATIC CORPORATION

S. C. Kaback

And finally, in a letter to Don Black dated October 14, 1993 Sy refers to the Lotus 23 and tells a brief story of his go at Sebring along with the last time he saw the red Lotus 23:

A few weeks before Sebring, Harvey Snow contacted me claiming that he wanted to become a Lotus Dealer in California and that he wanted to be a co-driver at Sebring. Unfortunately, the day of the race the gate was closed a half hour early and we couldn't get onto the track, so we never raced the car. You will note in my letter to Knobby Clark on March 5th, I did test the car on a track at Vineland, New Jersey, and it performed better than any car in its class. We did have a problem with the wheels overheating, and I never got an answer from Knobby Clark.

In any event, we sold the car to Mr. Snow at the dealer price a week or two after Sebring. I unfortunately let him have the car with only a small deposit. He said that he had an interested buyer in California and would send me the money as soon as the deal was consummated.

P.S. After some litigation, we finally got a judgment against him, but he had no assets and I understand that he later went bankrupt. Unfortunately we were never able to obtain any information about the disposition of the Lotus 23.

3/18/02 Lotus 23A4(?) is currently in Australia, and it appears as though this may be the car Sy was to race at Sebring.

According to Lotus records, #23A4 was one of two 23's initially destined for John Posselious, Lotus dealer in Grosse Point, Michigan. It left the works finished in dark red, fitted with long range equipment for endurance racing. It seems that this one of the Posselious cars may actually have gone to Kaback. Since Sy was keen to run it at Sebring, and Lotus were also eager to show off their new car at the 12 Hour race, it is conceivable that Chapman decided to send the car to Kaback instead. Lotus records indicate Sy's Weathermatic Corp. ordered 3 23's, one of which was red and equipped for endurance racing, but left the works on June 16, 1962, a good three months after Sy tested "his" Sebring car and entered it in the 12 Hour Endurance race at Sebring on March 24.

Pat Piggott, west coast Lotus racer, apparently took delivery of two 23's through Harvey Snow, one of which may have been 23A4. The car then surfaced in Singapore in 1965 for the Singapore and Malaysian Grand Prix, and eventually seems to have found its way to Australia.

Further information or speculation on where any of Sy Kaback's cars have been, or where they are now is always appreciated! Please contact me (johnd@simplesevens.com) if you think you might have information!

3/25/02 The latest information suggests that Lotus 23 #4 was in fact at Sebring, listed as entered by Team Lotus, with drivers designated as Ralph Henry / USA , Ernie Harris / USA and Bill Stone / USA - It is apparently NOT the Sy Kaback car, which also appears on the entry list as a DNS, Lotus Factory entry with drivers Sy Kaback, Harvey Snow and Tim Mayer.

Larry Dent writes:

[the Posselious car] was owned, and driven at the event by R. Jerrell Henry of Fort Wayne, Indiana, with co driver Ernie Harris, Harris Mfg. (Flote Boats). The vehicle was supposed to be a factory supported entry and was imported by John Posselious of Detroit, a very good friend of Jerrell's. After the disaster with the engine [spun bearings at practice before tech.] Jerrell had to refund a lot of money to Ernie and the car went back to John P. with Jerrell obtaining a Lotus Elite in a somewhat convoluted series of deals. John P. was a VERY honest and sincere person and all felt really badly over the Sebring debacle.

I don't think any documentation is around any more on the Henry attempt other that some of us that recall it. Henry is dead, so is Harris. John P would certainly recall it. Henry was my best friend, got me into racing in the early 60's so I likely recall more of it than anyone. Dorothy Henry is still alive but she says I recall more than she does.

Paul Moxham of Australia discovered that the Posselious car was returned to the Lotus works for refurbishment after its disappointing "no start" at Sebring. The car has a further traceable history from the mid 60's through today. That history may be posted here at some point.

Having determined Moxham's to be the Posselious/Henry car, the search continues for the Kaback 23. The earliest 23's all seem to be accounted for, except for chassis #1, which would have been the show car - perhaps not even marked as #1. In a recent telephone conversation with Robin Read, Lotus' "man in America" at the time pointed out that the show car was finished in dark green, almost black. The London Motor show was held in the end of December and if Sy's order went in on the 10th of January, Read indicates that it was very likely that the show car was quickly prepared to Sy's spec and sent to him in time to test before Sebring...

6/25/02

Photos surface, provided by Paul Moxham, as he received slides from Jerrell Henry's widow. These photos are mainly of the Henry car inpreparation for Sebring, 1962, but at the top edge of teh top right image, the tail of a second 23 appears, with just enough of the roundel and number visible to be fairly sure that the car is numbered 71, which, of course was usually Sy's first choice of race number.

Further information or speculation on where any of Sy Kaback's cars have been, or where they are now is always appreciated! Please contact me (johnd@simplesevens.com) if you think you might have information!

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