The Elise Garden Party
With the news headlines dominated with stories of politicians fiddling the
expenses, lining their pockets at the taxpayers’ expense whilst mere mortals
worry about whether or not they are going to get a wage packet at all, or be
able to pay their own mortgage let alone buy a duck house, how about a good
news story? Yes, there really is one out there!
Starting in 2004, Michael Hipperson has run an annual event called the Elise
Garden Party to raise funds for Little Haven’s Children’s Hospice in Essex.
He’s been remarkably successful over the years, his combination of charm
and powers of persuasion helping to cajole people into contributing to the
cause in various ways. The event has taken different forms in different years,
2008 being a high point when no less than £52,000 was raised from two days
For this years’ event, Lotus Cars generously donated the use of the test track
at Hethel for the day, so the focus became a track day organised by Lotus-
on-Track, themselves no strangers to charity fundraising over the years. As
one of the biggest track day organisers in Europe, they lost no time in filling
all the available places, again with the entry fees going to the charity. The
majority of the entrants were running Elise, Exige or 2-Eleven variants, but
provision was also made for a Heritage class and that enticed along some
very unusual and interesting machinery.
Earliest cars in action were a pair of Lotus 6’s, but a pair of single-seaters
from opposite ends of the success spectrum attracted a lot of interest. Lotus
25/R5 was a chassis used by Jim Clark during the early part of his World
Championship-winning campaign in 1963, before being written off by Trevor
Taylor at Spa in June that year. Lotus mechanic Cedric Selzer salvaged the
remains and over the years he rebuilt it into the beautiful machine we see
today. A rare site at Hethel, the Type 25 predating the company move to
Norfolk, the car was driven last week by Lotus collector Nick Fennell.
The Lotus 58 Formula 2, by contrast, never raced in anger. The model was
designed in parallel with the Formula 1 Type 57 over the winter of 1967/68,
with both models utilising the same tub. The Formula 2 was built first and
serious testing was planned for the spring but the untimely death of Jim Clark
disrupted plans and Lotus not unreasonably lost interest in F2. The car was
eventually converted to F1 spec. and then was destined for the following
winters’ Tasman Series, but Graham Hill tested the car without enthusiasm
and the Team took 49T’s ‘down under’ instead, and that was that. The sole
car now exists in F2 trim, owned by Classic Team Lotus and was given an
outing at the Elise garden Party by Malcolm Ricketts.
Aside from the representatives of Little Havens, probably the most emotional
moment of the day at Hethel belonged to John Bolding. Some years ago he
acquired a pile of wreckage that purported to be one of the original Team
Lotus 47A race cars from the 1968 season. However, such was the state of
the car nobody could be certain of exactly what it was – until by good fortune
Bolding was able to get former Team Lotus driver John Miles to look at it.
Miles immediately spotted that it had a seat mounting unique to his race car,
necessary in order to accommodate his lanky frame.
That was all Bolding needed to know, and he embarked on a seven-year
restoration to recreate the Gold Leaf Team Lotus Type 47A, chassis number
47/69, raced by John Miles to a variety of successes in 1968. Anyone who
has seen the car will know just what a stunning job Bolding has done and
upon completion he had just one wish remaining – to see Miles back behind
the wheel. That wish came true at Hethel, making Bolding a very happy man
as he described the occasion as his best day out ever.
The 47A was not the only Lotus sports racer in action, for Classic Team
Lotus have recently completed the restoration of a Type 30, and Fennell was
the brave man to take this on the track. It has to be said that the 4.7-litre
Ford V8-powered machine was not one of Lotus’ more successful efforts in
period, but it nevertheless looked and sounded gorgeous as it warmed-up
under the watchful eye of Team Lotus stalwart Bob Dance.
Amongst those on static display was ex Team Lotus Cortina Mk1 PHK 614D,
brought along by JD Classics who currently have this and other ex works
Cortinas on sale. This particular car was built for the 1966 season and mostly
raced by Peter Arundell, its best result being a first in class at the Brands
Hatch British Grand Prix support race.
One or two non Lotus products sneaked in under the radar too, most notably
Terry Hoyle bringing along a totally unique Ferrari 268SP, this car having
raced at Le Mans in 1962 when Giancarlo Baghetti/Ludovico Scarfiotti got it
up to third place before gearbox gremlins forced a retirement at the 18-hour
Lotus themselves put several examples of the new Evora on show, including a
crash-test chassis, and there was at least a chance to try the cockpit of
Lotus well-received new product, if not put the car through its paces. Lotus
Sport threw their workshop doors open and Nick Adams and his colleagues
were kept busy giving Elise passenger rides in return for a donation to the
So, there was plenty to keep the 272 guests entertained, whether they took
part in the track day, enjoyed a fast ride or simply basked in the warm
sunshine and enjoyed the barbecue lunch put on by Essex dealers Castle-
Lotus. Amongst the guests was World Land Speed Record holder Andy
Green, who had just stepped off a ‘plane from South Africa, where he had
been inspecting a possible venue for the Bloodhound SSC 1,000mph record
attempt. Another guest of note was Hazel Chapman, arriving in the 1965 Ford
Galaxie Indianapolis Pace Car, driven by son Clive, the car having been in the
family for many years.
There was an auction too, star lot turning out to be the Lotus 72 ‘anvil’ airbox
in JPS livery that auctioneer Clive Chapman knocked-down for £750. ‘Mm, -
perhaps we should make a few more of those! he was heard to say. The
auction raised £5,250 towards the days’ total of something over £13,000, a
figure that pleased Michael Hipperson as it took the grand total raised for the
Hospice since 2004 past £100,000.
Quite an amazing achievement.