Here’s One For The Brave: A Barn Find Costin Nathan Prototype Sports Racer
Photography Courtesy of H&H Auctioneers
Want to be a hero at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, or any vintage motoring celebration, for that matter? If you’ve got the patience, passion, and pennies needed to take on a full-blown restoration of a classic racecar, why not save this very niche but history-rich Costin Nathan GT prototype?
In 1965, Lotus aerodynamicist Frank Costin teamed up with veteran wheelman and savvy tuner Roger Nathan to build an all-new lightweight racecar aimed to compete in the Group 6 series. The monocoque chassis tub was constructed from tube framing and plywood, featuring independent front and rear tube subframes. With a high-strung 998-cc aluminum four-cylinder DOHC Hillman Imp engine mated to a Hewland Mk5 manual gearbox mounted amidships…pushing this racer that weighed just 700 pounds!
With such little weight packed under a slippery aero shell, things could get hairy, quick, especially with more than 100-horsepower-per liter on tap. So, four-wheel independent trick suspension and grabby disc brakes behind lightweight magnesium rollers were selected to help keep things under reign. The end result was an on-edge twitchy machine not to be taken lightly by inexperienced drivers—but it was damn fast.
This original Works Prototype was originally a spider model but was later converted to a fixed roof to meet GT racing regulations. In 1966, Roger Nathan test-and-tuned the car by extensively racing it throughout the season. Five class wins and one second-in-class finish were topped with Nathan’s greatest racing accomplishment: taking gold at the 1966 Coupes de Paris!
The 1966 success realigned the Costin Nathan program for the ultimate endurance—the Le Mans 24 Hours. A more powerful Lotus twin-cam heart was transplanted and the lidless body was completely reworked—this is when the car was converted to a hardtop. Unfortunately, lack of funds and a number of setbacks worked against the team’s efforts in 1967, earning only a single first place class win at Snetterton with Chris Meek at the helm.
Considering the team’s small outfit and rather short-lived competition involvement, they raced quite well. The later GT bodies were constructed of fiberglass while the early test mules and first racers, like this, were made from aluminum—I suppose that’ll be easier to revive than tired and warped resin.
Despite its struggles, the Costin Nathan GT fought the good fight admirably. Recently awoken from a near half-century hibernation, this tired but mostly complete and original race car is up for grabs. A restoration won’t be easy nor come inexpensively, but we want to believe it’ll all be worth it once behind the wheel. See you at Goodwood 2020!
– Estate sale “barn find” after sitting for 45+ years
– Early Works Prototype Costin Nathan
– Rich racing pedigree
Twin-cam Lotus engine, five-speed Hewland MK5 transmission, front and rear independent suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes.
Body Type: Original aluminum Spider converted to Coupe.