Len Terry obituary: 1924-2014

Legendary Lotus designer Len Terry, who was integral to the team's success in Formula 1 and at Indianapolis in the 1960s, has died at the age of 90

Len Terry obituary: 1924-2014

After involvement in the Delta and Moorland Formula Junior projects, the first car Terry (pictured above with Dan Gurney) designed was the Terrier Mk1 for 1172cc racing, which he drove himself.

Terry subsequently joined Lotus as a draughtsman, and soon emerged as the senior designer working under the legendary Colin Chapman.

There, the pair had a productive, if not entirely harmonious relationship, with Terry having to translate Colin Chapman's sometimes inspired and sometimes unreasonable design concepts into reality during the years when Lotus was still establishing itself.

During this period, Terry notably worked on the Lotus 15 and 17, but in 1959 Chapman decided to fire him.

This was claimed to be partly motivated by a clash over Terry's Terrier Mk II, which Brian Hart used to dominate the British 1172cc category ahead of Chapman's designs, but the difficult relationship between the pair was also a factor.

After leaving Lotus, Terry joined Sid Greene's Gilby Engineering, working first on its sportscar project and then the minnow British marque's F1 car.

The Gilby appeared in Formula 1 races in 1961 and '62, first with a Climax engine and then, with a revised chassis, a BRM powerplant.

It started two world championship races in the hands of Sid's son Keith, finishing 15th in the '61 British GP, as well as appearing in myriad minor races.

While designed and built on a small budget, Terry's design was very well-regarded, and when Bruce McLaren tested the car at Goodwood he lapped close to the lap record for F1 machinery.

Gilby's future was not bright and it closed at the end of 1962, but in September that year Terry re-joined Lotus, reflecting the esteem in which Chapman held him.

The old frustrations of working under Chapman, who sometimes led Lotus down blind alleys, were still there, but Terry once again played a vital role in translating his vision into reality during this period.

Initially, Terry worked on the Lotus 29 that led the 1963 Indy 500 and finished second with Jim Clark at the wheel.

Under Chapman's direction, he was charged with designing the Lotus 33, which was based on the Lotus 25 and dominated the '65 season in the hands of Clark.

Most famously, he also headed up the IndyCar project, single-handedly conceiving and designing the Lotus 38 that took Clark to a famous victory at the Brickyard in '65 in just four months.

Terry decided to leave Lotus again in '65 to go to work for Dan Gurney on both his indycar and F1 projects.

There, he designed the stunning Eagle Mk1, often hailed as the most beautiful F1 car of all time, in which Gurney won the 1967 Belgian GP.

That year, he moved to BRM where times proved more difficult and his last involvement with F1 would be with the same marque in 1977, when he designed the ailing team's final F1 car, the uncompetitive P207.

During the late 1960s and 70s, his design skills were highly sought after and he was involved in a number of projects outside of F1.

This included the Surtees TS5 F5000 car, the BMW 269 F2 and Gulf-Mirage sportscars.

There was also the aborted Eifelland F1 car, intended to be raced in 1973.

Later in life, Terry built replica vintage vans and, recently, was a keen supporter of Classic Team Lotus.

AUTOSPORT, which ran cutaway drawings produced by Terry in the 1950s, offers its condolences to his family and friends.

shares
comments
Gutierrez deems Sauber F1 team's engine issues unacceptable
Previous article

Gutierrez deems Sauber F1 team's engine issues unacceptable

Next article

Felipe Massa says Williams F1 team must improve pit procedures

Felipe Massa says Williams F1 team must improve pit procedures
Load comments
The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push Plus

The “glorified taxi” driver central to F1’s continued safety push

As the driver of Formula 1’s medical car, Alan van der Merwe’s job is to wait – and hope his skills aren’t needed. JAMES NEWBOLD hears from F1’s lesser-known stalwarts

Formula 1
Jan 15, 2022
When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push Plus

When BMW added F1 'rocket fuel' to ignite Brabham's 1983 title push

There was an ace up the sleeve during the 1983 F1 title-winning season of Nelson Piquet and Brabham. It made a frontrunning car invincible for the last three races to see off Renault's Alain Prost and secure the combination's second world title in three years

Formula 1
Jan 13, 2022
How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner Plus

How “abysmal” reliability blunted Brabham’s first winner

Brabham’s first world championship race-winning car was held back by unreliable Climax engines – or so its creators believed, as STUART CODLING explains

Formula 1
Jan 10, 2022
The steps Norris took to reach a new level in F1 2021 Plus

The steps Norris took to reach a new level in F1 2021

Lando Norris came of age as a grand prix driver in 2021. McLaren’s young ace is no longer an apprentice or a quietly capable number two – he’s proved himself a potential winner in the top flight and, as STUART CODLING finds out, he’s ready to stake his claim to greatness…

Formula 1
Jan 9, 2022
The original F1 maestro who set the bar for Schumacher and Hamilton Plus

The original F1 maestro who set the bar for Schumacher and Hamilton

Juan Manuel Fangio, peerless on track and charming off it, established the gold standard of grand prix greatness. NIGEL ROEBUCK recalls a remarkable champion

Formula 1
Jan 8, 2022
How Russell sees his place in the Mercedes-Hamilton F1 superteam Plus

How Russell sees his place in the Mercedes-Hamilton F1 superteam

George Russell joining Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes this year gives it arguably the best line-up in Formula 1 – if it can avoid too many fireworks. After serving his apprenticeship at Williams, Russell is the man that Mercedes team believes can lead it in the post-Hamilton era, but how will he fare against the seven-time champion? Autosport heard from the man himself

Formula 1
Jan 6, 2022
How F1 pulled off its second pandemic season and its 2022 implications Plus

How F1 pulled off its second pandemic season and its 2022 implications

OPINION: The Formula 1 season just gone was the second to be completed under the dreaded shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in many ways it was much more ‘normal’ than 2020. Here’s the story of how the championship’s various organisers delivered a second challenging campaign, which offers a glimpse at what may be different next time around

Formula 1
Jan 5, 2022
The adapt or die mentality that will shape F1's future Plus

The adapt or die mentality that will shape F1's future

As attitudes towards the motor car and what powers it change, Formula 1 must adapt its offering. MARK GALLAGHER ponders the end of fossil fuels

Formula 1
Jan 3, 2022