The Grand Prix Lotus 18/21, Andrew Tart and the art of the engineer

The Grand Prix Lotus 18/21, Andrew Tart and the art of the engineer

It’s nearing Christmas so I thought I’d start this week’s blog on a festive note: a visit to Santa’s grotto, or something equivalent.

But while Santa’s workshop in Lapland has umpteen elves in pointy hats fussing over intricately crafted toy racing cars and wooden train sets, the one I visited has a team of engineering pedants in period overalls. They spend their waking days delving into the minutiae of engines – and this grotto only has historic racing cars.

Andrew Tart Motor Engineering

Inside currently you’ll find a treasure trove that includes two Lotus 15s, a Lotus 17, two Formula Junior Bonds, a C-Type Jaguar and a Grand Prix Lotus 18/21. I’m back at my mate Andrew Tart’s engineering workshop, but this time to shoot the parts that make the historic racing cars race. An interesting challenge for a photographer and writer: how to make car parts – which some may find dull – interesting.

The first thing to say about Andrew’s team is that these are people serious about engineering. I mean really serious! In their lunch breaks they build tracking cameras on motorised pulleys (“to see how they work”) and rebuild mountain bikes they pick up for a song on Ebay. Andrew even has a motorised scooter he bought specially from America to glide up and down the workshop – he even races it against the clock with his team!

Andrew’s is a high end engineering workshop. The team builds and rebuild engines, checking them before, during and after races. This man even races the cars for his clients!

Stripping the cars

At the end of the racing season every aspect of the car is stripped down. The suspension comes off, the engine and gear box is stripped. The team crack detect it, visually inspect it and measure everything to a thousandth of an inch. To put that level of detail into perspective, the hair on your head is about 3 thousandth of an inch thick and the team works in the tenth of thousandths.

Shooting in the workshop

To emphasise the quality of the engineering, I shot a range of images – engine parts and technical instruments – using available light. Using backlighting/rim lighting techniques to give shape and form. I then converted to black and white in post to emphasise the historical feel.





Andrew humbly calls himself a good jack of all trades; he does the complete job rather than focussing just on, say, crankshafts or pistons as other companies do.

Of course, I’m not remotely fooled by this amiable humility; Andrew is highly competitive. The challenge for him is to see if he can get more power out of an engine than other engine builders. Not content with just winning races, he even wants to triumph over other engineers.

It’s all to do with the high end quality of the job. If he knows an engine inside out, he can get the best out of it and he can win races. “You have to look at the whole picture,” he says. “Have a formula that goes through the whole engine and the whole car. There’s no point putting in a powerful engine that can’t cope and won’t work.”

That’s why Andrew and his team do it all themselves. It’s often not cost effective, but it’s about the quality of the engine and making sure the car is able to race again and again. And win.

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