Bogus Lotus: 1952/1962 Miller-Crosley-Lotus

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I might have had a tough time figuring out what to call this car, but I’ll tell you what, I know I love it, whatever it is! Unusually for a vintage race car, it’s offered here on craigslist and is located in San Diego, California. The price is a relatively steep $17,600, but when you compare that with a “real” Lotus 11 or even some of the more recent replicas, it seems awfully inexpensive!

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There aren’t many cars more attractive to me than a Lotus 11, even a copy of one that’s been shortened and narrowed. I found some more details on this particular car’s history here. This car features a 1952 Don Miller chassis that was re-bodied by Gil Knudson and Preston Rush in Santa Ana, California in 1962. Knudson shortened and narrowed a new aftermarket fiberglass Lotus 11 body to replace the older Miller body and fabricated a new aluminum center section and doors. Knudson was a degreed engineer who developed products and held patents for Bendix Corp. He had his own dynamometer at Bendix and used Crosley engines as test beds for injection systems and magnetos–the car featured a Crosley engine even then.

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The car was apparently raced in California from its creation until Preston Rush got married. It then passed through a series of owners detailed on this site and was offered earlier in 2016 on eBay. I’m not clear whether it was sold at that time or not. There’s a video of the car being driven, albeit slowly, right here. I’m surprised this information isn’t in the craigslist ad. If the car hasn’t been repaired since then, there’s a small tear in the fiberglass at the right side front of the rear body, a broken spoke in the steering wheel (although the seller at that time recommended a smaller wheel for easier access) and some chips in the plastic headlight covers, but at that point a new set came with the car.

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The interior is quite plain, even for a racing car, although I suppose that is typical for the time. An owner in the late 1970’s modified the frame to drop the seat lower, but if you view the video you’ll see that it’s still a very tiny, very low automobile that you sit on rather than in. Those are only 12″ wheels, and the wheelbase is only 77-1/2″!

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The engine is a Crosley unit that has been built by a reputable engine builder and features a Weber carburetor. It certainly seems to run well in the video. I’m not sure how much power you’d get out of a modified Crosley, but I know many H-Production specials were successfully powered by them. I would dearly love to get this out on a track (once I replaced the tires and probably the lightened wheels) and think it would be delightful–if I would fit, which is questionable. How about you? Does the “Bogus Lotus” aspect turn you off, or do you view this as a very small chapter in the homebuilt sports car book and worth saving? I’m certainly in the latter group!

 

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Comments

  1. Ropey

    Wonderful little car, but this is one of those cars (along with some hot rods, AC Cobra reps etc) that looks amazing until you put a human in it … and then it looks faintly ridiculous. Especially with my ape-like proportions, it would look like a monkey trying to shag a football driving down the road.

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  2. Dave Wright

    I have been following this car for a while. It looks like a close copy of my old Lotus 11 even down to the same British Racing Green. These are (if it is like the Lotus) small cars that get the most out of small power plants. Mine was a De Dieon car (club car) came with 2 Coventry Climax engines. I tried running the Climax but traded it out for a Cosworth MK 13…….huge upgrade. One interesting thing was the body panel construction, it looked like a very thin cast aluminum, no sheet metal or fiberglass. This would be a lot of fun for the money……..for a little guy.

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  3. Bill

    Stand a big stick up in the back and go out on Halloween as a dodge-em car.

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  4. Alan Brase

    Who cares what it looks like with you in it? I care about the view from the driver’s seat, and even more, how you FEEL while driving it. I take pics of my cars, usually with their bits spilled over work benches and floors. I am not pictured in those pics. If anybody wants pics of me, they can come help me at my shop and bring their camera.
    Regarding the Crosley: did anyone catch that? OHC motor; DISC brakes, in a 1951 American car. Wow.
    Not quite a Colin Chapman type chassis, tho.
    But what a fun thing. It would be killer at local auto cross events.
    Al

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    • Jamie Jamie Staff

      Alan, I’m glad someone else likes this the way I do! Would you drive it on the road occasionally? I think it would be just the thing for early Saturday morning drives!

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  5. Alan Brase

    Hehe, hell yes drive it on the street. Paul Simon had a song once that said: “Still crazy after all these years.”
    Al

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