Lola T90 and T92 car-by-car histories
The 1966 Lola T90 Indy car was an immediate success, with Jackie Stewart leading the 1966 Indy 500 for much of its distance and Graham Hill winning after the Scot retired. A further development followed in 1967, called the T92 in Lola's numbering system but called the Lola T90 Mk II to satisfy USAC.
After the disappointment of the 1965 Lola T80, Eric Broadley improved the suspension geometry on the new T90 but in most regards the car followed the newly-emerging orthodoxy of an aluminium monocoque reinforced by fabricated steel bulkheads. The suspension was inboard at the front, using rocker arms to actuate inboard coil spring/damper units. Wide-spaced lower wishbones were used front and rear, with a single top link and single top radius rod at the rear. The fuel tanks were located within pontoons reaching the full length of the monocoque, which left no suitable mounting point for a lower radius rod.
Lola's customer for the Lola T90 in 1966 and 1967 was John W. Mecom Jr, a wealthy 26-year-old from Houston, Texas, whose family owned extensive oil rights in Louisiana. After the success of his Mecom Racing sports car team, in mid-1965 Mecom had recruited two-time Indy 500 winner Rodger Ward, reigning World Drivers Champion John Surtees and AJ Foyt's chief mechanic George Bignotti to form a new "all-star" team to attack the Indy 500. Mecom, Ward and Bignotti acquired a Lola T80 from J.C. Agajanian to use for the rest of 1965 while ordering three new T90s from Lola for 1966. Surtees was injured in a Can-Am race late in 1965, so Mecom recruited two 'rookies' to replace him, 1962 World Champion Graham Hill and his young BRM teammate Jackie Stewart. Ward, Stewart and Hill all qualified their T90s in the middle of the grid at the 1966 Indy 500, and Stewart led the race by over a lap until a fuel pump failed late in the race. Teammate Hill was perfectly positioned to win the race, although Lotus maintained Jim Clark was actually ahead. Hill's was the first rookie winner since George Souders in 1927, while the the unfortunate Stewart had the consolation of the "Rookie of the Year" title.
Mecom ordered three more cars for 1967, officially Lola T92s in factory records but called T90 Mk IIs at the Speedway as USAC felt they were insufficiently different to the T90s. As Ward had retired, Mecom ran a two-car team for Stewart and Al Unser. Although Unser finished second in the Indy 500, Mecom fell out with Bignotti and withdrew his Indy team, choosing to focus his attention on his new NFL franchise, the New Orleans Saints. Bignotti took over two of the T92s and joined forces with Unser's sponsor Al Retzloff to run the rest of the 1967 season. Bignotti and Retzloff then bought Lola T150s for 1968.
If you can add to our understanding of these cars, or have photographs that we can use, please email Allen at email@example.com.
New to John Mecom's team, fitted with a supercharged Offy engine and driven by Rodger Ward in early 1966 as the #24 American Red Ball, and then as Mecom's #26 Bryant entry at the 1966 Indy 500. After the Indy 500, SL90/1 was raced by Al Unser at Milwaukee in June with a Ford engine. It was then sold to Joe Lucey for Art Knepper to race at Atlanta three weeks later but was crashed heavily in practice and said to be "beyond salvage". It was repaired in time to be raced by Al Unser at Fuji in October, and then by Peter Revson at Phoenix in November. Revson then raced it for new owner George Walther in early 1967 as his #33 Dayton Disk Brake entry, still with its supercharged Offy engine. Rick Muther took over the entry in July and August 1967, and then Sonny Ates drove it at Trenton in September, only to wreck it in practice. The heavily dented tub was in the George Walther Estate auction in 2002. It was acquired by John Darlington (Carmel, Indiana) and he had it restored to Ward's blue-and-white #26 Bryant livery, after which it appeared regularly at historic events in the US and at Goodwood in the UK. Sold in 2016 to David and Sally Bany, and placed on display at their World of Speed Museum (Wilsonville, OR). David Bany died in 2018, and the museum closed in May 2020.
Driven by: Rodger Ward, Al Unser, Arnie Knepper, Peter Revson, Rick Muther and Sonny Ates. First race: Phoenix International Raceway (R1), 20 Mar 1966. Total of 11 recorded races.
New to John Mecom's team, fitted with a Ford engine and driven by Jackie Stewart as Mecom's #43 Bowes Seal Fast entry at the 1966 Indy 500. After the Indy 500, it was raced by George Snider at Milwaukee in August and by Stewart again at Fuji in October, where he won. Raced by Al Unser at Phoenix and Trenton in early 1967 in American Red Ball livery. Mecom bought two (or three) new Lola T92s for the 1967 Indy 500, and his team did not use a T90 thereafter. The history of SL90/2 is then unknown until approximately 1973, when it was bought from Red LeGrand (Sylmar, Los Angeles, CA) by Phil Henny (Van Nuys, CA). LeGrand told Henny that it had been a Formula A project, but Henny was then visited by Bif Caruso, mechanic on the Chuck Hulse car, who convinced Henny he had the ex-Hill car. Restored by Henny in Hill's livery, and it then passed via Ron Cameron and Leo Gephardt to Dave Uihlein, who sold it to Pat Ryan in 1995. Ryan spoke to Caruso in 1995, who again stated that it was the ex-Hill car that he had retained after Hulse's accident. After further reseach, aided by Walter Goodwin, Ryan correctly concluded that his car was actually the ex-Stewart car, and had it restored by Goodwin in 2017 in Stewart's #43 livery. It was auctioned in this condition in August 2021, and bought by Gary Runyon.
Driven by: Jackie Stewart, George Snider and Al Unser. First race: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (R3), 30 May 1966. Total of 5 recorded races.
New to John Mecom's team, fitted with a Ford engine and driven to victory by Graham Hill as Mecom's #24 American Red Ball entry at the 1966 Indy 500. After the Indy 500, it was raced by Larry Dickson at Milwaukee in June and then by Al Unser for most of the rest of the season. Hill drove the car again at Fuji in October. On 15 April 1967 it was bought from Mecom by A.L. Castle (Orange, CA) of Interstate Racer Team for Chuck Hulse to drive at the 1967 Indy 500. On 14 May, the team ran into financial problems and the car was bought by Lindsey Hopkins, with the veteran Hulse still expected to drive. It was wrecked in Hulse's accident on the last lap of the race. For some years the ex-Stewart sister car was thought to be this car, but it is now clear that SL90/3 was scrapped after the accident.
Driven by: Graham Hill, Larry Dickson, Al Unser and Chuck Hulse. First race: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (R3), 30 May 1966. Total of 11 recorded races.
New to John Mecom's team, fitted with a Ford engine and entered for Al Unser as Mecom's #5 Retzloff Chemical entry at the 1967 Indy 500, where Unser finished second. Mecom closed his team immediately after the Indy 500 but sold this car to Unser's sponsor Albert F. Retzloff through his Retzloff Chemical company. George Bignotti continued to run the car for Unser with Retzloff as owner. Unser then damaged this car in an accident at Milwaukee in early June, and Bignotti borrowed the ex-Jackie Stewart #24 Lola from Mecom for Unser to race at Langhorne. Exactly which of the three T92s Unser drove in the remaining races of 1967 is still to be resolved, but chassis SL92/4 is believed to have been his main car. It was retained by Retzloff, Bignotti and Unser for the start of the 1968 season, and was raced by Unser for the first four races before the new Lola T150s were ready. Unser also drove it at Milwaukee, Mosport, Langhorne and Continental Divide, winning the two Langhorne races in August. The T92 was then raced as the team's #24 entry by Art Pollard, Carl Williams, Arnie Knepper, and Skip Scott later in the 1968 season. Advertised by Bignotti in March 1969. Subsequent history unknown. In February 1991, a Lola T90 Mk 2 chassis "92/4" was advertised from a San Francisco Bay number, stating that it was the car in which Unser finished second at Indy in 1967. Unknown until acquired from Jim Jaeger (Cincinnati, OH) by John Darlington. Restored for him by Walter Goodwin during 2014 and on display at the Amelia Island Concours in March 2016. Sold later in 2016 to David and Sally Bany, and placed on display at their World of Speed Museum (Wilsonville, OR). David Bany died in 2018, and the museum closed in May 2020.
Driven by: Al Unser, Art Pollard, Carl Williams, Arnie Knepper and Skip Scott. First race: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (R3), 31 May 1967. Total of 31 recorded races.
New to John Mecom's team, fitted with a Ford engine and entered for Jackie Stewart as Mecom's #43 Bowes Seal Fast entry at the 1967 Indy 500, with the same entry number and sponsor Stewart used in 1966. Stewart qualified on the first weekend but his time was slow, so another car was built up for him to use on the second qualifying weekend. His #43 car was indeed bumped, and Stewart qualified and raced the newer car. After Mecom closed his team and George Bignotti continued with Al Unser as a Retzloff entry, it is unclear how the three T92s were used, but photographs suggest that the #43 car was John Surtees' #24 Bowes Seal Fast at Riverside in November. Press reports then suggest that this was the car bought from Bignotti in April 1968 by Memphis and Mississippi aircraft dealer Jack Adams as a backup to his main turbine car at the 1968 Indy 500, an identification which is supported by photographs. Howard Millican was Adams' chief mechanic on the Lola. Bob Hurt initially drove it as the #36 Jack Adams Aircraft entry but Larry Dickson took over the drive before qualifying. Dickson qualified but was bumped. Dickson was replaced by Jim McElreath later in 1968. For 1969, the car's Ford engine was replaced with a turbo Offy, and it was driven by Bobby Grim, Jim Malloy and Rick Muther. By the end of 1969, reports said that it had been updated with "Eagle-copy front and Brabham-copy rear suspensions" but when it appeared at the 1970 Indy 500 its front suspension appeared normal. This car's last appearance was at that 1970 Indy 500, when it was entered by 'Two Jacks' as the #72 Hustlin' Hoosier for Jigger Sirois. Sirois hit the wall on 23 May and caused minor damage to the car, leaving no time for repairs before final qualifying the next day. The Adams team continued the season with the other two cars in its stable and the Lola was not seen again. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, Bob Hurt, Larry Dickson, Art Pollard, Jim McElreath, Bobby Grim, Jim Malloy, Rick Muther and Jigger Sirois. First race: Riverside (R21), 26 Nov 1967. Total of 19 recorded races.
Although Lola records only show two Lola T92s having been built for customer John Mecom, it is clear from the events of the 1967 Indy 500 that Mecom's team had a third T92, built up rapidly before the second qualifying weekend when it was clear that Jackie Stewart's qualifying time in Mecom's #43 Bowes Fast Seal entry would not stand up. After the #43 car was bumped, Stewart qualified this new car as the #24 entry. Stewart retired from the race with a blown engine. Mecom then closed his team, but this Lola was loaned to chief mechanic George Bignotti to run for Al Unser as a Retzloff entry at Langhorne in June after Unser had damaged his regular car at Milwaukee. This car was next seen when Ron Cameron (San Diego, CA) mentioned to David Uihlein in March 1984 that he had the ex-Stewart 1967 Lola for sale. Cameron then restored the car to Stewart's #24 livery and had it on display in March 1991. According to Jim Dilamarter in 2001, the car advertised by Cameron had gone to John Mecom by that time. Later that decade, Mecom sold the car to Martin Birrane, who had bought Lola Cars in 1998. Birrane first ran it at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in June 2007 and then at a number of other events until his death in 2018. The car has been on display at Birrane's museum at Mondello Park since March 2012. Still in the Mondello museum in September 2022.
Driven by: Jackie Stewart and Al Unser. First race: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (R3), 31 May 1967. Total of 2 recorded races.
The fates of the 1966 Lola T90s
In mid-April 1967, A.L. Castle bought a Lola T90 directly from Mecom which was widely reported in the press to be Graham Hill's 1966 Indy 500 winner. It was entered by Castle's Interstate Racing for veteran Chuck Hulse to drive in the 1967 Indy 500. The team's chief mechanic was Louis 'Bif' Caruso, a veteran who had first come to the Speedway with Mel Hansen in 1946, and had been a member of the STP Novi team in 1965. Castle's operation ran into money problems during the month of practice and qualifying, so Lindsey Hopkins stepped in to buy the car, retaining Hulse as driver and Caruso as mechanic. Hulse qualified but the car was wrecked when he crashed on the final lap. According to restorer Walter Goodwin, Jim Dilamarter, who had crewed on the car when it won in 1966, went down to ask Caruso what he was going to do with the heavily damaged car. Caruso said he planned to crush it, so Dilamarter requested the chassis tag, which Dilamarter retained until the Parnelli Collection was sold to the Indianapolis Museum many decades later. The tag read '90/3. It would be Caruso's last time at the Speedway but his links with the racing community were maintained when he opened a very popular Italian restaurant in San Pedro, California. He died on 29 December 2011.
So that should have been the end of the story of SL90/3 but in the early 1970s Caruso visited Phil Henny and convinced him that the ex-Stewart SL90/2 that he had just bought from Red LeGrand was actually the ex-Hill Indy 500 winner. During the restoration, Henny found Red Ball livery, which appeared to confirm Caruso's story. After fruitless correspondence with Bignotti (then at Patrick Racing Team), Indy 500 historian Donald Davidson, Lola Cars Ltd, and even Jackie Stewart in 1975 and 1976 trying to identify the winning car's chassis number, Henny restored his car to Hill's livery. It was not until 2017 that a more detailed examination of the car convinced its later owner that it was the ex-Stewart car. The rivet patterns on the engine bay sidepods can be seen clearly in pictures from 1966 and 1967 and comparison with the car today clearly prove its identity.
The unexplained Lola T90/T92s
After John Mecom closed his team following the 1967 Indy 500, George Bignotti independently ran the pale blue #5 Retzloff Chemical Lola T92 for Al Unser at Milwaukee in June and then borrowed the red #24 Bowes Seal Lola T92 for Unser to drive while the #5 car was being repaired. Bignotti then ran a #24 T92 for John Surtees at Riverside in November but photographs suggest that car was the former #43, the car in which Stewart had been bumped. Bignotti's was running a very impressive operation in Can-Am as well as USAC, his crew at this time consisting of two British mechanics who had come to Indy with BRP, Jim Chapman and George Woodward, engine builder Charlie Tabucchi, future Parnelli team manager Jim Dilamarter and experienced mechanic Norm "Hokie" Holtkamp. Bignotti retained the blue #5 as a backup car in 1968, but also sold a T92 to Jack Adams in April 1968. Press reports at the time described it as a car used by Stewart at Indy but not raced and then used at Riverside, which is entirely consistent with it being Stewart's #43 car raced by Surtees at Riverside. The Adams team used this car in 1968 and 1969, and it was last seen when crashed during practice at the Speedway in May 1970.
After running his remaining T92 regularly during 1968 as his #24 entry, Bignotti advertised a T92 in March 1969 which he said was "driven by Al Unser, second place in Indianapolis 1967" and "recently finished 4th place Riverside". This advert firmly established that it was the original blue #5 Retzloff Chemical Lola T92 that Bignotti had retained to early 1969. It seems very likely that this is the car that was sold to the Fejer brothers and entered for Ruys de Perez in 1969.
George Fejer (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) acquired an ex-Mecom Indy Lola T90 or T92 and entered it at the Phoenix USAC race in March 1969 as a Chinook. After that race, it was converted to Formula A specification for Alfred Ruys de Perez to run - with a remarkable lack of success - in SCCA and Canadian Formula A races later that season. Ed Butt, who worked for the Fejers at this time, recalls this car as "the Lola T90 that Jackie Stewart drove in the 1966 Indy 500". However, the shape of the fuel fillers suggests it was a T92, not a T90, so there is a greater similarity to the T92 that Stewart drove in the 1967 Indy 500. Subsequent history unknown.
Driven by: George Fejer and Alfred Ruys de Perez. First race: Phoenix International Raceway (R1), 30 Mar 1969. Total of 6 recorded races.
Built as a recreation of the Graham Hill Indy 500-winning T90 by ex-Lola fabricator Billy Wooldridge in Mark Scott's workshop in Florida in 2007 for customer Martin Birrane. The car was shipped to the UK in late 2007 or early 2008, and was painted in Graham Hill's 1966 American Red Ball livery. It first appeared in 2008, in time for Lola's 50th anniversary, and was driven by Graham Hill's son Damon Hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2008, and by Graham's grandson Josh Hill at the Festival of Speed in 2011. After Birrane died in June 2018, the car was on display in the Hop Exchange in London in May 2019.
When Martin Birrane acquired the ex-Jackie Stewart Lola T92 from John Mecom in 2007, he also acquired from him a significantly modified Lola T92 monocoque which was missing its front bulkhead and also missing the engine bay pontoons. The origins of the tub are not yet known, but Mecom had kept it at his pool house and filled it with ice to act as an ice bucket at social functions. Birrane commissioned ex-Lola fabricator Billy Wooldridge to repair this monocoque alongside the new T90 monocoque that he was building for Birrane at Mark Scott's workshop in Florida and to build it up as a complete car. The car was shipped to the UK in late 2007 or early 2008 but has remained in plain white livery at the Mondello Museum. The car was on still display in the Mondello Museum in September 2022.
Pat Ryan documented his research into his ex-Phil Henny car in some detail, and I am grateful to him for making all those details available. Thanks also to Billy Wooldridge for details of his restorations, and to Simmo Iskül, 'gbl', Michael Ferner, Luis Mateus, Simon Hadfield, Ed Butt, Michael Oliver and Gary Runyon for their help compiling these histories.
If you can add to our understanding of these cars, or have photographs that we can use, please email Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These histories last updated on .