The First-Ever Lotus F1 car Is Headed to Auction

1957-58 Lotus-Climax Type 12 chassis ‘353’ is expected to sell for more than $300,000 in May.

byKristin V. Shaw|
green racecar on a track


The first time Lotus competed in a Formula 1 race was at the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix. Five-time Monaco GP winner Graham Hill piloted the race car, and while Lotus didn’t bring home the win, the car made a strong showing.

Shaped like a hot dog bun with an open mouth on one end, the streamlined 1957-58 Lotus-Climax Type 12 chassis ‘353’ holds an important part of racing history. And it will soon cross the auction block in the same country where it made its F1 debut, at Bonhams' “Les Grandes Marques à Monaco.”


Calling it “one of the most historically significant of all British Formula 1 Grand Prix cars,” Bonhams anticipates strong demand for this legendary racecar. Lotus founder Colin Chapman designed the single-seat Type 12 in 1956 with an eye on entering Formula 1 in 1958. Bonhams says that only seven of these skinny racers were built in 1957, and five became works entries.

Later, the Type 12 was sold to Maria Theresa de Filippis, an Italian racing driver and the first woman to race in Formula 1. After that, it was owned by several racers and was brought to Australia, where it was lovingly restored to running condition.

The Lotus is just one vehicle in a cast of superstars at the Monaco event, where the auction house will feature several cars with impressive pedigrees. One of those is a Monte Carlo Rally-winning Delahaye 175 S, which could command more than $700,000 at the sale. If I had the means, I’d get the 1971 Maserati Ghibli with less than 22,000 miles on the odometer.

Bonhams expects the Lotus to sell for between $315,000 and $424,000 at auction on May 10.

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