The 38 also features twin rearview mirrors. Most Indy Cars of the 60s only had one. This didn’t slow down the car at all: Clark lead 190 of the 200 laps, thanks in part to the lightning fast pitwork of the Wood Brothers team, as well as the spectacular 38. The 38 would become the first rear engine car to win the 500. AJ Foyt’s 1964 win would be the last ever for a front engine car. In fact by 1965, 27 of the starters were now driving rear engine cars. Clark’s win would also be the first race with an average speed over 150 MPH, the first win for a green car, and the first non Offenhauser powered winner since 1947.
Andy Granatelli, a huge fan of Indy and head promotor of STP oils, sponsored Lotus’ return in 1966. As such, both Lotus team cars ran with STP logos and in a fluorescent orange STP livery. With the success of 1965 (Clark lead 190 of the 200 laps and was never seriously threatened for his win), Chapman decided not to bring a new car to Indy, opting instead to bring back the 38 with a few minor updates.
By this time, Chapman was building Lotus 38s for customers as well. Other than the chrome on the suspension members, very little was changed in the rear of the car. The engines were still 4.2L Ford DOHC V8s running on methanol. Horsepower had been bumped to just over 500 by now.
The most noticeable change is the removal of the inside rear view mirrors. The rectifier had been moved to the body in 1965, most likely to incrementally reduce drag. The aerodynamic fairings over the rear suspension mounts were also added to the 38 in ’65.
This 1966 Lotus 38 nearly won Clark a second straight 500. He qualified 2nd once again, with Mario Andretti on pole. A first lap accident eliminated 11 cars right away. By the end of the race though, Graham Hill in his Lola had taken the checkered flag with Clark nearly a lap behind. Once again, there was some controversy. Al Unser Sr. was Clark’s teammate and crashed out on Lap 161. Clark passed by the accident and it is believed that USAC did not record this lap for Clark. Even Hill was surprised when he was announced the winner. Chapman and Grantelli decided not to protest when they were shown the timing and scoring sheets from USAC (remember these were the days before electronic timing: every lap was recorded by hand).
Was Clark robbed of yet another 500 win? We’ll never know. He returned in 1967 in another Lotus 38 and would be quick once more, but the normally reliable Ford V8 would fail on him. He would die in a Formula 2 crash in April of 1968. In this picture, we see Clark testing out the prototype 29 in 1963. You can see just how tiny the car is, barely fitting the driver. Clark was a rather small man, so this car really is tiny! AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, and Dan Gurney all held great respect for Clark. As an F1 driver it would have been easy for him to look down on the “uncivlized Americans” as beneath him, and the oval track to be easy. Instead, he treated both the speedway and his fellow drivers with respect, and they reciprocated. Ayrton Senna may be a better F1 driver, but Clark proved himself across multiple forrms of racing, cementing himself as one of the all-time greats. Source
These four cars represent quite a lot of history. The first successful rear engine cars to ever run at Indy. The first to record lap times of 160 MPH. The first foreign built cars to win Indianapolis since 1913. The end of the Offy roadster era. And of course, all four are part of the legend of one of the greatest drivers in racing history. As far as we know, this is the first time all four of these cars have been seen together at the same time. It was quite an honor to behold them in person. We hope that next time we see these cars it's on a track, where legendary racecars such as these belong.