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by Jay Traugott
This is your chance to own one of Mario Andretti's race cars - for a price.
Beginning back in 1968, the Formula 5000 auto racing series was populated with famous names such as McLaren, Lola, Chevron, and Lotus. It was a class within the SCCA Formula A races. Like Formula 1, this series featured open wheel, single seater racing chariots that were usually powered by 5.0-liter engines. For the most part, they were fuel injected Chevrolet V8s with close to 500hp. The series was quite popular until the mid-70s, after which Lola dominated over the other teams.
Increasing costs also made other teams rethink their participation. While F1 and other motorsport events soon made the F5000 series die off, the latter still wasn't without its own heroes. Among its drivers were such famous names like Al and Bobby Unser, James Hunt, Jody Scheckter, and Mario Andretti. The stories of these men are very well known, but often times their cars become lost in some private collection or are even scrapped simply for parts. In the case of this 1969 Lotus 70 Formula 5000, it's not only been preserved, but it's been restored to better than new condition. What's more, it was the actual machine driven by Mario Andretti in 1969.
Currently up for sale on eBay Motors, this one-of-a-kind Lotus racer is the original Lotus number 1. According to the seller, it began its life as a Lotus 68 and later evolved into the Lotus 70, but the frame is marked as #001. All told, a total of just nine Lotus Formula 5000 cars were built. This one was originally sold to Koshland Competition specifically for Andretti to race at Sebring F1 on December 28, 1969, where he won the first pole position. It had four podium finishes in 1970 and was even test driven at one time by a young Emerson Fittipaldi, the Brazilian driver who won the Indianapolis 500 twice as well as a Formula 1 championship later in his career.
Since then, the Lotus been sold several times and was raced until around 1975. It's powered by a high-performance small-block Ford Boss 302 V8. Other components include a Hewland transmission and an aluminum monocoque chassis. It weighs a total of just 1300 lbs. and even includes a fire restraint system. Although it has its original steering wheel, the car has apparently been given the full treatment, so some parts are no longer original. It currently has a 'Buy It Now' price of $275,000, but it's also possible to make a smaller offer.
It may sound expensive, but for a rare race car driven by one of the all-time greats in the history of motorsport, this is a true collector's piece that will certainly increase in value over time. Pictures courtesy of raretoyzz.