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Jimmy Clark and Parnelli Jones Both Drove This Amazing Lotus Ford Indy Car
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By Dean Kirkland
Published 1 month ago on
June 14, 2024
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(GV Wire/Dean Kirkland)

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The 1964 Lotus Ford Type 34 is a car that didn’t just race, it waltzed onto the track with the grace of Fred Astaire and the power of a thunderstorm.

This mechanical marvel, also known as Chassis 34/3, was the brainchild of Colin Chapman, the automotive equivalent of a mad scientist with a Ph.D in speed. Chapman took the already impressive 1963 Lotus 29 and sprinkled some extra magic on it, resulting in a machine that would forever change the face of the Indianapolis 500.

Dean Kirkland Portrait

Dean Kirkland

Central Octane

Let’s talk about the aluminum monocoque chassis. This wasn’t just some metal skeleton; it was a work of art that integrated compartments for rubber fuel cells, giving the car both an aerodynamic edge and a safety boost. The independent suspension, complete with coil-over shock absorbers, fabricated A-frames, and cast magnesium uprights and wheels, meant this car could handle turns smoother than a Sinatra ballad.

Powering this beast was a 255 cubic inch, normally aspirated, double overhead cam, fuel-injected aluminum Ford engine. This wasn’t your grandma’s engine; it was a roaring monster ready to unleash chaos on the track. Paired with a ZF two-speed aluminum gearbox from Germany, this car could shift gears faster than a politician changes opinions.

Enter Jimmy Clark, the Scottish sensation and reigning world driving champion. This guy didn’t just drive cars; he conducted them like a maestro with a love for high RPMs. At the 1964 Indianapolis 500, Clark took the Lotus Ford Type 34 to the pole position, setting a new track record in the process. As the race began, Clark shot into the lead like a rocket, leaving his competitors to marvel at his taillights.

Jimmy Clark behind the wheel of 1964 Lotus Ford No. 6 Indy Car
Jimmy Clark in the 1964 Lotus Ford No. 6 Indy car. (Special to GV Wire)

But every great story needs a twist, and here it came in the form of tires. Instead of the Firestone tires from the previous year, Clark’s car was fitted with Dunlop tires. Now, this may not sound like a big deal, but in racing, it’s the equivalent of swapping out your running shoes for a pair of flip-flops.

Around lap 40, the left rear tire decided it had enough of this nonsense, overheated, and threw its tread like it was auditioning for a disaster movie. Clark’s rear suspension gave out, bringing his glorious run to an abrupt halt. He had a six-second lead over Parnelli Jones and Bobby Marshman, but fate had other plans. It was a heartbreaker, folks.

Parnelli Jones Takes Over

But you can’t keep a good car down. After the race, Parnelli Jones — another legend in the making — was asked to drive the Lotus 34 for Ford. Jones, who had a contract with Ford, took the car to Milwaukee, where he set a new track record and won the race with the car now carrying the 98 number. It was like watching a maestro conduct a symphony; everything just clicked.

Jones didn’t stop there. He continued to drive another Lotus, achieving further success and solidifying his reputation as one of the sport’s greats. His mechanical insights led to significant modifications, transforming the Lotus 34 into the Hurst-Agajanian Special. This revamped version of the car was a masterpiece of innovation, and Jones drove it to second place in the 1965 Indianapolis 500, finishing behind Jimmy Clark’s new Lotus 38.

The story of the 1964 Lotus Ford Indy Car didn’t end with its initial successes and setbacks. This car was like a phoenix, rising from the ashes time and again. It changed hands, sponsors, and underwent further modifications. It was driven in various races, achieving more victories and setting new records. However, a severe crash at Langhorne, Pennsylvania, left the car badly damaged and out of commission for several years.

Resurrection of the Lotus Ford

In 1998, Vel Miletich and Parnelli Jones decided it was time for a resurrection. They restored the car to its original 1964 specifications and livery as a tribute to Jimmy Clark. This wasn’t just a restoration; it was a labor of love, honoring the car’s incredible history and the legends who drove it. Today, the restored Lotus Ford Type 34 resides in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, a testament to the spirit of innovation, resilience, and motorsport excellence.

Clark and Jones were more than just drivers; they were artists in the cockpit. Clark, a two-time Formula One World Champion, was known for his smooth driving style and impeccable skill. His partnership with Colin Chapman and the Lotus team resulted in numerous victories and records, making him a legend in the racing world. Clark’s driving was so effortless, he made racing look like a leisurely Sunday drive.

On the other hand, Jones was a force of nature. With his aggressive and fearless approach, Jones became a racing icon. His contributions to the sport, both as a driver and a mechanical innovator, left an indelible mark on racing history. Jones was the kind of guy who could take a car on its last legs and somehow coax it to victory. His decision to restore the Lotus Ford Type 34 with Miletich was a nod to their shared love of racing and their respect for the car’s storied past.

The Restored 1964 Lotus Ford Indy Car
The restored 1964 Lotus Ford Indy car. (GV Wire/Dean Kirkland)

A Legacy of Triumphs, Engineering Genius, and Mechanical Breakdowns

The legacy of the 1964 Lotus Ford Indy Car is a testament to the relentless pursuit of speed and the drive for innovation that defines motorsport. This car broke records, defied expectations, and left an enduring legacy. It was driven by legends who pushed it to its limits, and its story is one of triumph, tragedy, and ultimate redemption.

The 1964 Lotus Ford was a rolling rebuttal to anyone who ever said that engineering is boring. Chapman took the racing world by the scruff of the neck and gave it a good shake. Clark, with his smooth-as-butter driving style, made it look like child’s play. And then there’s Jones, a man who could take a lawnmower and turn it into a race-winning machine. This car’s history reads like a Shakespearean drama—full of highs, lows, and a cast of characters who are larger than life.

Parnelli Jones Behind the Wheel of the Famed No. 6 Lotus Ford
Parnelli Jones Behind the Wheel of the Famed No. 6 Lotus Ford, the car in which he won the USAC sanctioned 200 mile race in Milwaukee. (Special to GV Wire)

The car also had its share of mechanical heartbreaks and near-misses. I mean, it’s like the universe couldn’t decide if it wanted this car to be a legend or a cautionary tale. One minute, it’s setting track records; the next, it’s lying in pieces after a spectacular crash. It’s a reminder that in the world of racing, you’re always one blown tire away from disaster.

And speaking of disasters, how about that left rear tire in 1964? Using Dunlop tires instead of Firestone was like bringing a knife to a gunfight. It overheated, threw its tread, and left Clark scraping along the track like a bad first date. It’s the kind of drama you can’t script, and it’s what makes racing so unpredictably thrilling.

In the end, though, this car is more than the sum of its parts. It’s a symbol of ingenuity, resilience, and the sheer love of speed. Restored to its former glory, it stands as a tribute to the

legends who drove it and the engineers who dreamed it into existence. It’s a piece of racing history that reminds us of what’s possible when brilliance meets bravery on the racetrack.

But hey, that’s just my two cents. Feel free to disagree.

About the Author

GV Wire Producer Dean Kirkland is the founder and director of Gas and Gears, an independent film production company that has produced numerous television series and feature films, including the award-winning documentary “Racing Through The Forest” (2014).

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