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Ride of the Week: John Holodnik’s 1957 Lotus 11 is all Speed Racer

John Holodnik leans against his 1957 Lotus Eleven. Fireball Tim Lawrence/22nd Century Media.
Fireball Tim Lawrence
2:37 pm PDT June 16, 2014

When I first saw John’s apple green ‘57 Lotus Eleven at a car show, I was instantly transported back to the 60’s. Visions of what was on Channel 52 here in Los Angeles flooded my pea-brain in waves of delicious green apple pie. Make sense? No? Well, who cares; this car is awesome.

I met John in the parking lot of the Cross Creek shopping center where we scooted at 6 inches above the ground out towards Pepperdine. I thought we’d take a quick run, but soon forgot about shooting photos altogether and just had to figure out how to wipe the silly grin off my face. We were in the Mach 5, only much cooler. In fact, I’m pretty sure this car was racing against the Mach 5 in every episode with Speed Racer and was always around when Speed crashed somewhere. 

I searched intently for the Oil Slick or Ejector Seat buttons. I wanted to scrape the paint to see if it was made of gold. I wanted to find a hidden panel with a GPS drone inside. But no luck. 

All I found was that this car was full race spec, 5.5 inches wider and 4 inches longer than the original Eleven and less than 40 inches high. It weighed 1800 pounds with a near 50/50 weight ratio. Dyno tested at 120-horsepower at the rear wheels and 180 feet per pound of torque. And the only one ever built in this configuration. It’s got too many mods to list, so let’s just say “Woo Hoo” instead.

John found this little beast in Portland Oregon in 2011.

“Many years back, I came across a picture of a Lotus Eleven and immediately fell in love with the aerodynamic shape,” John said. “After doing some research, I learned how rare and expensive these cars were. They are almost exclusively raced, owing at least partially to their very light but fragile frames. Several years later I came across a Westfield — a British company which makes a replica using an MG Midget or Austin Healey Sprite as a donor car — but ended up not buying it as the price was too high.” 

Jump forward a few more years and an disassembled kit showed up on Ebay. 

“I was outbid. It seemed like it wasn’t meant to be. I subsequently owned several classic cars including a 1972 Austin Mini, a 1962 MGA coupe, a 1950 Cadillac, and a 1931 Ford Model A coupe. I still periodically looked for a Westfield Eleven but they were rarely for sale.” 

Then it happened.

“One day in 2011, a Lotus Eleven tribute popped up on Ebay in Portland, Oregon that was not a Westfield kit. This unique car was listed less than 24 hours earlier, and I immediately emailed the seller who quickly replied back. He wasn’t sure of the history of the car but had put in an incredible amount of time and money to make it a very fast, high-performance car.  It still needed finishing and quite a bit of work but the price was right.”

Here’s where it gets good. 

“During the purchase of the car, I flew up to Oregon to inspect it in person. The seller offered to pick me up at the airport, I assumed in his ‘daily driver.’ But as I exited out of the terminal, there was the brightest green car I’d ever seen, along with a man leaning casually on the hood and dressed in full period racing gear. The car was also surrounded by a boatload of camera-clicking gawkers. I hopped into the car, only to feel the passenger seat wobbling beneath me; it was perched precariously on a wood block. He started up the engine, which was so loud the kids surrounding us jumped and squealed. He proceeded to tear down the highway and then up mountainous roads, all the while tipping his head back wildly and laughing wholeheartedly as I reached for anything to hold on to — no seatbelts and the seat was now shifting back and forth with each curve. When ‘Tony Stewart’ finally parked the car at his house, I was sold.” 

The rest is history.

What does John love about Malibu? The scenic coastline, beautiful weather and of course the great driving roads. And there couldn’t possibly be a better car to experience them in.

Part of the joy of writing these pieces is getting to experience someone else’s joy. Sure I’d rather be driving, but the next best thing in a car like this as a passenger is watching the bugs hit my teeth and glasses. Deee...lish! And since John didn’t seem to have a name for this little rocket, I’m officially dubbing it “The Green Meany.”

And congratulations, John! You’re this week’s Ride of the Week!

Want to be featured as one of Fireball’s Rides of the Week? Let him know what you’ve got and he may even bring you chocolate! askfireball@fireballtim.com And be sure to watch his show “5MINUTE DRIVE” on Youtube. The coolest Talk Show on the Go! http://www.youtube.com/fireballtim.