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Lotus 16 in the film Grand Prix

Text Box:  The film director John Frankenheimer died recently. Strangely, the obituary in the Daily Telegraph excluded any reference to his 1966 film “Grand Prix” The film had it’s faults, featuring a very tacky plot and lots of thinly disguised FJ cars from Jim Russell. However, it also had some excellent genuine footage of F1 at various circuits…and a  short sequence where a Lotus 16 was the star.

The scene went like this. Scott Stoddard, a character combining elements of Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart is at home recuperating in a grotesquely bandaged state after his Monaco accident.  Played by Brian Bedford, he seems driven by the successes of his dead brother Roger, who became World Champion. Roger’s championship winning car is wheeled out for the crippled hero to drive along the house’s gravel drive as a preliminary to his racing return.

The car was no wood embellished fake like the FJ cars: it was Lotus 16 chassis number 365, at the time owned by Bill Wilks.

Text Box:

Bill recalls..

“The scene was shot at a large house and garden near Goudhurst in Kent.

I had a call at work from Dick Crosthwaite and to be honest was not very keen, just earning a crust and running a Lotus 16 was quite enough for me.  He persisted and mentioned that it was worth 25 a day but would probably be all over in 1 day.  At this I agreed to go and arrived on the set early in the morning to find a large encampment all ready for action but no director.  At about 8.30 John Frankenheimer arrived in a helicopter.

The scene was shot at the back of the house and an ancient shed chosen which had a very dodgy floor about which I remarked.  The director instantly called up a small army of carpenters who made a new floor and stained it to look like the original.  This was the same crew that produced the runway for the very large cine camera and arranged the lights to supplement the daylight.  The car was backed into this shed and the action that you see on the film took place after I had briefed the actor on how to start the car having already warmed it up.

At lunch, produced on site, I asked Frankenheimer how much useful film he expected to get per day and he answer was 2 to 3 minutes.  The one thing that amazed me was that two photographers were taking reel upon reel of still photos of every angle and getting in everybody’s way doing it.

At the end of the day they asked if they could keep the car another day to film it going down the drive and produced Phil Hill as the driver so I agreed to this, as they did not need me.  I briefed him about starting it and he stated that it was the easiest car to start that they had used.  I gathered that some of the others had been something of a pain.  When I asked for my goggles back they refused as mine were now props so I was given James Garners identical pair instead.”

I have yet to find out whether Phil actually had a one off Lotus 16 drive….

At the time it was the tradition for a painting to be commissioned of the latest F1 World Champion in action. Thus Michael Turner was commissioned to produce a painting: it depicted Roger Stoddard leading Mike Hawthorn’s Ferrari Dino at Spa. It was clearly visible in the film…hanging over the mantle shelf in the Stoddard home with a an engraved plaque below it (also produced by Michael Turner) “ Roger Stoddard, World Champion” This painting and the two others commissioned for the film (depicting Ferraris) were eventually sold off in an MGM sale in America. If it strays far into the memorabilia market it could provide a confusing slant on early Lotus F1 history!

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