Iota Sports

I very nearly lead by saying there's not one iota of information on this car.

That would be untrue, of course, but sometimes I realize that I don't make things all that easy on myself when picking vehicles. That said, it was probably even more difficult for Jeff Lane and the Lane Motor Museum to find the sole surviving Iota Sports 350cc…not to mention locate parts.

Post-Second World War, not everyone had the cash to buy a big sports car, so improvisation was in order. Across Europe, but especially in the UK, racing series were quickly started for small displacement race cars. The motors used typically came from motorcycles, with the rest of the vehicle made of parts from here…and there…

Interestingly, the 500cc Club newsletter was called IOTA—as they said in period, "The name IOTA has caused a considerable amount of bother and mystification to quite a number of our readers […] The 500cc Class is known as the International Class I and the 500 Club evolved what was termed the National Class I within the International Class I rules. Obviously, therefore, the 500 Club and Class I had in some way to be connected."

Obviously.

Tucked away on a web page about these 500cc cars—the class actually morphed into what we now know as Formula 3, the stepping stone for most every professional racing car driver—I found this passage (emphasis mine):

"Dick Caesar. A prominent motorsport figure in the Bristol area from the 1930s to the 1950s, Dick Caesar was one of the founders of CAPA, and in 1945-46 was the driving force behind the creation of the new 500cc racing car formula which later became Formula 3. He built many specials, including the 2-litre roadgoing sports “Caesar Special”, which he later rebuilt into a single-seater […] and several CAPA specials, the most well-known being the 2-litre AC-engined “Alfi-CAPA”, campaigned post-WW2 for many years as the “Caesar Special” by Tony Taylor. In the late 1940s he designed the Gordano sports car and the Iota chassis for 500cc-racing, and in 1951 the 350cc monococque-chassied Iota sports car."

That's right: monocoque chassis. And it was in aluminum, too—sources say that the Bristol Aircraft Motor Club in Bristol helped to build the car, so who better to assemble a groundbreaking car than ex-aircraft workers?

As it turns out, groundbreaking is downplaying things a bit. The car was built 10 years before Colin Chapman switched his Lotus Formula 1 to a similar construction. The first production all-aluminum car, the Honda NSX, hit the market only 40 years after the Iota.

The Iota Sports had a 360cc engine from Douglas, a Bristol motorcycle manufacturer. Douglas is said to have fitted the very first flat-twin engine in a motorcycle. (Apparently, BMW reverse-engineered theirs from a Douglas engine.)

The wartime connections don't end there: Douglas' earlier version of the motor was originally designed as a generator—and powered Winston Churchill's wartime summit meeting held next to the Sphinx in Egypt.

Douglas motorcycles with the same engine could hit 60 mph (100 km/h), so I can't imagine a lightweight car like the Iota would have been far behind. 

The sole surviving example was a part of the Lane Motor Museum collection as of 2008, but when browsing the site I can't see mention of it. If it's no longer a part of the museum's collection, I'm sure the only Iota left is kept happy and healthy and in the care of a real enthusiast. 

Isn't the Iota just such a pretty little thing?

 


Sources