Eric Broadley MBE (born 22 September 1928) is a British entrepreneur, engineer, and founder and former chief designer of Lola Cars, the motor racing manufacturer and engineering company. He is arguably one of the most influential automobile designers of the post-war period, and over the years Lola has had a hand in many high-profile projects in Formula One, IndyCar, and sports car racing. Broadley sold Lola to Martin Birrane in 1999.
Eric Broadley trained as an architect in the late 1940s, and after completing his studies took a job as a quantity surveyor. In his spare time Broadley was heavily involved in motor racing with the 750 Motor Club. In common with the majority of other competitors – including Colin Chapman, Frank Costin and Brian Hart – he built his own cars around Austin 7 chassis, using home-made and proprietary parts. His first car, the Broadley Special) was built in 1956 to comply with rules governing the "Ford Ten Special" (or "1172 Special") class, using an 1172cc (72ci) side valve engine, originally introduced for the pre-war Ford Model C.
The Broadley Special was an instant success, winning a number of local and national events in the UK. On the back of this record Broadley, at the request of a number of drivers seeking something besides a Lotus XI, immediately began to design a chassis to accept a more powerful 1098cc (67ci) Coventry Climax engine and BMC A-series gearbox. This car, with its up-to-the-minute space frame chassis, was to become the Lola Mk1, named for the lyrics of a song from the contemporary musical Damn Yankees: "whatever Lola wants, Lola gets". Although, as Broadley freely admits, the Mk1 was too powerful for his level of driving skill , in 1958 he became the first man ever to lap the Brands Hatch Indy circuit in under one minute. Once she was sorted, she beat the XIs "with monotonous regularity" (notably in the hands of Peter Ashdown, who racked up at least a score of wins, including a class win and sixth overall at the 1959 Tourist Trophy. Her success soon attracted the interest of other privateers, so Broadley and his cousin were prevailed upon in 1958 to build three further copies. Lola Cars Ltd. was born.
Staying largely at Bromley, Broadley set up shop in West Byfleet, Surrey, using £2000 of his own savings, producing thirty-five more Mk1s through 1962, all with the Coventry-Climax. with ever improving results on the track. Despite its limited experience, in 1960 Lola produced its first single-seat open-wheeled model: the Mark 2, for Formula Junior. Performance was promising rather than electric, and its front engine was a mistake, in a formula dominated by rear-engined cars, but despite this, and only one win in the 1960 season, forty-two were sold, nevertheless. Redesigned for 1961, the mid-engined Mk3 consistently finished behind contemporary Lotuses and Coopers.
Formula One and international fame
On the back of his initial success, and despite his inexperience (and the failure of the Mark 2), in 1961 Broadley was approached by Reg Parnell to design and build a Formula One chassis for his Bowmaker-Yeoman Racing Team. The Lola Mk4 featured the usual tubular spaceframe, with an innovative front suspension using lower wishbones and upper transverse links with radius arms, while the rear had upper and lower transverse links and radius arm; Broadley's idea continued to be used into the 1970s. The Mark 4 originally used the common Coventry-Climax four, while a 1.5-litre (91ci) V8 later became available. Though John Surtees and Roy Salvadori proved quick in them, and a one was put on the pole in its first ever race, the 1962 Dutch Grand Prix, by Surtees, the car failed to finish. Surtees went on to win the 2000 Guineas at Mallory Park, and placed second at the British and German Grands Prix.
Bowmaker-Yeoman got out of Grand Prix at the end of 1962, selling their Mark 4s to the Tasman Racing Series; here, Surtees and teammate Tony Maggs did quite well, with Surtees winning the New Zealand Grand Prix (not a World Championship event). For 1963, Parnell sold one to Bob Anderson and ran another for Chris Amon, who was rarely successful, though he ran seventh in the British Grand Prix; Anderson did better, winning the (non-championship) Rome Grand Prix as a privateer.
The 1963 Racing Car Show debuted the sensational Mark 6 (Lola GT), a trendsetter into the '70s. It featured a Ford 4.2-litre (255ci) V8 and Colotti four-speed box under a sleek fiberglass body, showing good handling and "a remarkable turn of speed" for only 250 hp (186 kW), enough to put it in the running for the 1963 Vingt-Quatre Heurs du Mans until the gearbox balked and David Hobbs crashed.
This performance attracted the attention of Ford, who were looking for a way to win LeMans, and offered Broadley a one-year deal to redesign the GT, with aid from Ford at Ford Advanced Vehicles, Slough; it produced the GT-40, different from the Mark 6 only in detail.
Broadley, used to being his own boss, quit after 18 months, but later took over another plant near Ford Slough to develop Lolas. The first from here were the new Mark 5As for Midland Racing Partnership (as used by Atwood), now redesignated Mark 53. The derivative Mark 54 Formula Two single-seater, also used by Midlands, gave Atwood seconds at Pau, Albi, and the Nürburgring, while Maggs came second at Aintree. A monocoque single-seater for F2 and F3, the T60, was introduced in 1965; five were built, but were not a success, and the development models, T61 and T62, bought by Midlands and six other customers, were no better. The other 1965 debut, the T70, was just the opposite, "destined to become one of the most successful and long lived of sports cars". Offered with 5.4 or 6.2-litre (327ci or 377ci) Chevrolet and Hewland four-speed or ZF five-speed, and patterned on the Mark 6 and GT-40, it was nevertheless fresh, and was almost as big a revelation as its older sibling. FIA created Group 9 (later Group 7) just for the T70, while Surtees drove one in British races, including a Guards Trophy victory at Brands Hatch in a works car. Fifteen were sold in 1965, as well as thirty-two of the improved Mk2, introduced in 1966.
In his first venture at Indianapolis, Broadley's Type 80, with the 4.2-litre Ford, were unsuccessful. For 1966, team owner John Mecom ordered three improved T90s for Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill, and Rodger Ward; Stewart's fell out in the lead on Lap 190, giving Hill the win. A heavily modified T90 would put Al Unser in second in 1967.
Improving the T70 in 1967, Broadley came up against the McLaren juggernaut in Can-Am and scored only one win, Surtees' at Las Vegas. To qualify for European prototype racing, Broadley designed a coupé body for the heavy, unreliable Aston Martin twin cam engine. This led to retirements at the Ring and LeMans, so Surtees switched to the reliable 5.7-litre (350ci) Chevrolet, revealing fragility in the suspension. Even so, Hawkins/Epstein took the Spa 1000km and Hawkins/Love second at the Kyalami Nine Hours in privateers. Finally homologated as a Group 4 coupé with Chevy engine in 1968, and despite poor performance in the World Championship due to lack of works support, it sold over one hundred copies to privateers. Prime among them was Denny Hulme, winning the Tourist Trophy that year, for starters. Developed as the Mk3B (officially T76) in 1969, with new bodywork and lighter weight, it went to private buyers such as Frank Gardner, Trevor Taylor, Paul Hawkins, and Mike de Udy, who picked up wins in SCCA events during 1969–70, as well as its first World Championship sports car race, in the hands of Mark Donohue and Chuck Parsons at the 24 Hours of Daytona (a one-two Lola finish), plus second by Jo Bonnier and Herbert Muller at the Austrian 1000km, giving Lola third in the championship.
Nor did Broadley neglect single-seaters. In 1967, he created an all-new monocoque, the F2 T100, only to waste considerable effort and money on the problematic BMW radial-valve engine; after a switch to the Cosworth FVA, it was a competitor, giving Surtees wins at Zolder and Mallory Park and second at Reims. It would later be revised as the T102 and supplied to BMW. The same year, Broadley's new Formula One T110, jointly with Surtees, was abandoned. The chassis for Honda's F1 car, also in 1967, came out a touch overweight, but light enough to win the Italian Grand Prix. Making use of the American 5-litre stock blocks and T70 suspension for Formula A, Broadley built the spaceframe T140 once-seater; it became T142 for the British equivalent, Formula 5000.
In 1968, Broadley returned to Indianapolis with the T150, suitable for either two- or four-wheel-drive; four-wheel-drive proved preferable, but even the greater traction could not prevent Unser from crashing. He also prepared the T160, to replace the outclassed T70, for Can-Am, providing several to American privateers, while Surtees, who planned to run a Chevy-powered Weslake-prepared car, broke with Lola and was uncompetitive.
For 1969, Broadley's T162 Can-Am car was run over by the dominant McLarens, and only seven were built. The subsequent T163 was little better, though Parsons earned one second and two-thirds. Additionally, the new T190 FA/F5000 car had a monocoque, more advanced than the T142, but a handful to drive. Partly in response, Frank Gardner was brought on board, perfecting the T190 so it was competitive, scoring wins at Thruxton and Silverstone, and getting Broadley's attention. Broadley stretched it further, into the T192, and asked Gardner to oversee development testing from then on.
Offerings in Formula Two, Formula Three, Formula Ford, Formula Vee, Formula Super Vee, Formula Atlantic, and Can-Am kept Broadley very busy in the '70s. By 1972, Lola were virtually alone in providing customer cars. They were as quick as ever, as the T280 (built by request of Jo Bonnier) demonstrated, but they were still hampered by the absence of a dedicated development team, despite Gardner's presence. For all that, and for all the "bewildering variety", few Lolas were real failures.
- Twite, Mike, "Lola: A prolific racing builder", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 11, p.1213, calls her Lola Special.
- Twite, p.1213.
- Twite, p.1214.
- Twite, p.1217 caption.
- Twite, p.1215.
- Twite, p.1216.
- Twite, p.1217.
- Twite, p.1218.