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The Lotus 12 was a Formula Two and Formula One racing car.

Lotus 12
Lotus 12 Chassis No. 353.JPG
CategoryFormula Two, Formula One
Designer(s)Colin Chapman
SuccessorLotus 16
Technical specifications
ChassisSteel spaceframe
Suspension (front)Double wishbone
Suspension (rear)Chapman struts
EngineCoventry Climax FPF 1,475, 1,964 and 2,207 cc inline 4, gear-driven DOHC normally aspirated. front engined, longitudinally mounted.
TransmissionAnsdale-Mundy transaxle 5-speed, with ZF diff. in bespoke casing
Competition history
Notable entrantsTeam Lotus
Notable driversUnited Kingdom Graham Hill
United Kingdom Cliff Allison
Debut1958 Monaco Grand Prix
n.b. Unless otherwise stated, all data refer to
Formula One World Championship Grands Prix only.

Colin Chapman's first foray into single-seater racing, the 12 appeared in 1957. It featured a number of important innovations Chapman would use on later models. To better use the power of the Coventry Climax engine, it was designed, as usual, for low weight and low drag, relying on a space frame. It placed the driver as low as possible, reducing the height of transmission tunnel by way of a "conceptually brilliant"[1] five-speed sequential shift transaxle located in the back. This transaxle was designed by Richard Ansdale and Harry Mundy. The gearbox had a (long-undiagnosed) oil starvation problem, thus earned the nickname "Queerbox" for its unreliability.

Although the first two examples of Lotus 12 had De Dion rear suspension, it also introduced a new suspension configuration with what came to be called "Chapman struts" in the rear, essentially a MacPherson strut with a fixed length halfshaft with universal joints on the ends utilised as a suspension arm.[2]

Lotus 12 was the first Lotus to be fitted with the iconic wobbly-web wheels.[3] Reflecting Chapman's emphasis on engineering for lightness, these were cast in magnesium alloy, a kind of crimped cylinder, resulting in minimum material and maximum strength, without the weaknesses induced by slots in conventional designs.[1]

Despite its engineering advances, the 12 was not a success in F1. In F2, the car won the class in the mixed F1/F2 1958 BRDC International Trophy, driven by Cliff Allison, but in spite of a small number of podiums, was usually drowned in a sea of Coopers.

Complete Formula One World Championship resultsEdit

Works team resultsEdit

(key) (Results in bold indicate pole position; results in italics indicate fastest lap.)

Year Engine Tyres Drivers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Points WCC
1958 Climax Straight-4 D ARG MON NED 500 BEL FRA GBR GER POR ITA MOR 3 6th
Cliff Allison 6 6 4 Ret 10 7 10
Graham Hill Ret Ret Ret


  1. ^ a b Setright, p. 1225
  2. ^ Setright, pp. 1225–6
  3. ^ Ludvigsen, Karl (2010). Colin Chapman: Inside the Innovator. Haynes Publishing. pp. 119–121. ISBN 1-84425-413-5.


  • Setright, L. J. K. Lotus: The golden mean, in Northey, Tom (ed.) World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 11, pp. 1221–34.