While English rock band ‘the Kinks’ are well-known for writing the famous song Lola, a Bellevue man is becoming well-known for restoring a Lola … a 1965 Lola race car from Great Britain that is.
Lee Buchanan, who lives in north Bellevue along the river, recently finished up his four year project, which all started with a 1965 T70 Lola chassis and fiber glass body in pieces. Then he purchased a 2003 Corvette engine and a fuel injection kit and installed it all in the classic road racer, which features a rear engine and a rear transaxel.
“It’s light and fast,” said the 85 year-old Buchanan, who has built many fascinating projects, including an airplane in his basement. “I decided to go with the Corvette engine rather than a Shelby, because they make beautiful aluminum engines.”
Buchanan, who has driven the Lola here and there said that with its light aerodynamic design, it can reach speeds of over 200 miles per hour.
“I had to make some adjustments to the driver’s seat, cause it was hard for me to fit in the thing – and you’ll notice that the steering wheel is on the right because it was made in England.”
There are two 10-gallon gas tanks, one on each side, to balance out the weight.
Buchanan, who grew up in Rockford, Illinois and lived in Wisconsin in his younger years used to race cars at various tracks in the area, including the track at Elk Hart Lake.
“I built a race car out of a Pontiac that I called ‘The Hustler,’ but that was a long time ago,” said Buchanan, who used to fly helicopters to spray crops in the Tri-State area.
As well as building rare race cars, Buchanan has also built travel boats and racing boats. “I raced in Parker, Arizona and won my class,” he said. “But I’m really proud of this Lola – I’ve always wanted one.”
According to background information, the Lola T70 was developed by Lola Cars in 1965 in Great Britain for sports car racing. Lola built the chassis, which were typically powered by large American V8s, usually a Ford or Chevy engine.
The T70 was quite popular in the mid to late 1960s, with more than 100 examples being built in three versions: an open-roofed Mk II spyder, followed by a Mk III coupé, and finally a slightly updated Mk IIIB.
Early success for the Lola T70 came when Walt Hansgen won the Monterey Grand Prix, at Laguna Seca Raceway, on 17 October 1965, driving John Mecom's Lola T70-Ford.
During the filming of Steve McQueen's Le Mans, Lola chassis were disguised as the Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512s that crashed in the film. A T70 Lola coupe also appears as a car of the future in George Lucas' first commercial film, THX 1138.
In 2005, Lola Cars announced a revival of the T70 MkIIIb in "an authentic and limited continuation series" of the original racer. It is unclear if any were ever produced before Lola Cars went defunct in 2012.