A Lotus Eleven Odyssey

2005, A Lotus Eleven Odyssey

by Glenn Stephens

This was my first sight of a Lotus Eleven. The cars were stored at a race shop/warehouse near my friend Ron's house. He would drop by and help out occasionally and one day he took me there. At the time I didn't even know what a Lotus Eleven was but as a racer and a old-car fan, to be confronted with three in one place was overwhelming. I had my camera and took several pictures and I looked at them over and over. I couldn't stop talking about those cars.

Over the next year, Ron took it upon himself to locate the owner, Marshall Barrash (on left), and ask if he was interested in selling the car. As I was to find out later upon a visit to Monterey, 'the Barrash cars' had achieved a reputation just short of legendary but out of pure serendipity we reached Marshall at the right time.

I had researched the the marque by then and was aware of both the storied history of the Eleven and its value in the market. I met Marshall and we hit it off well. I made a well-researched offer based on my knowledge of old British cars and what would be involved in putting it into race-ready shape. Naturally, I assumed it would need just about everything. Marshall knew how well the car had been restored and prepped when he had raced it 20 years previously and didn't think it would take much to put it right. It turns out we were both correct. Every system had to be restored but we replaced only wear items and very few hard parts.

After much discussion, we couldn't agree on the current condition of the car and at this point I think I won over Marshall's trust. I told him that if he would hire his old race mechanic, I would volunteer free labor to get the car into running condition with no obligation on his part. At that point, perhaps we could agree on its condition and strike a deal. If not, I would just be happy to see the old car move under its own power and that would be good enough for me. Over the next eight months, Mike the mechanic and I completely disassembled the car and engine and put it all back together. This picture was taken after we started the car for the first time.

Click here to see a short movie showing the first time the car moved in 20 years.

Well as you can imagine, at this point I was pretty attached to the car. I raised my offer as high as I could go but it wasn't good enough and I resigned myself that perhaps it was not to be. I kept in touch with Marshall and sent him postcards from Monterey, Watkins Glen, and Road Atlanta of me with his Lotus Eleven pals from yesteryear.

At this point I had proved myself a true fan and a worthy caretaker and he really wanted me to have the car and finally he called with an offer that was a stretch for me but that I could not refuse. I was elated but the story got even better.

My grandparents lived in Sebring. As a young boy at the height of the space age, I was captivated by rocketships and the exotic racecars I would see when I would visit them around March. My father had antique American cars and I have a love and respect for them. But these European cars just spoke to me emotionally, and they still do. Later, I learned the stories of the cars and their drivers that had raced there and I wanted to be a part of that.

Back in 2000, I talked my wife into spending New Years Eve at the Sebring track driving laps. Now that is the best way to 'ring' out an old year! The bumpy airport track may not have the excitement of Road America or Laguna Seca but it has something else. When you look at your pictures and see that you are climbing into your car in the same pit lane as Briggs Cunningham or Colin Chapman, that is special. Despite all that history and opportunity, I had never raced at Sebring and had already decided that this would be the year.

When I heard about the Lotus Eleven reunion it was the culmination of a fairy-tale story. I would get to race this car in the place I remember as a child. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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