Sbarro Lola T-70 -1969

The Lola T-70 is an important model for Eric Broadley's brand. With much in common with the Ford GT40, it was bound to interest Franco Sbarro, who extrapolated homologated and registered road-going versions.

Sbarro type Lola T-70 HH with 300 hp Porsche 935 turbo engine. Top speed 310 km/h.

Lola T-70

In 1956, Eric Broadley founded Lola, a company specializing in the construction of sports cars. Success soon followed in categories as diverse as Formula Sport 1100, Junior, Formula 1... In 1963, Broadley turned to the GT constructors' world championship and presented the Lola Mk6. At the same time, Ford set itself the goal of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But with no competition department, the American firm was looking for a partner. After unsuccessful negotiations with Ferrari, Ford turned to Lola, with whom it signed a subcontract. Eric Broadley worked on the design of the Ford GT40, based on his own Lola. Following a series of disputes and a difficult working environment (Ford tended to treat him like an underling), Broadley left the team and returned to work on his own prototype. This prototype, the Lola spyder MkI T70, was largely based on the technical designs of the Ford GT40. The car we're interested in today, the Lola T70 MkIII, was presented at the 1967 Racing Car Show. Based on the chassis of the Mk1 and Mk2 spyders, it was distinguished by its closed body with gull-wing doors, designed by Peter Bohanna and Jim Clarke of "Specialised Mouldings". In the absence of support from a major manufacturer, only private teams entered it in races. As a result, despite its real potential, it could only play second fiddle. Despite this lacklustre record, it is still highly sought-after in collectors' circles, and competes in historic races with panache against its old rivals Ford, Ferrari and Porsche.

Two Lola T-70s in front of the Sbarro workshops.

Eric Broadley orders a Lola from Sbarro

And where does Sbarro fit into this picture? At the time, he was chief mechanic at the famous Filipinetti stable, which raced Ferrari P3s and... Ford GT40. The latter held no secrets for our man. In fact, he built top-quality replicas from original parts, identical to the original models. So it should come as no surprise that Eric Broadley himself asked Franco Sbarro to build a road-going Lola T70 MkIII for his own use. The fact that the T70's designer himself approached Sbarro is a clear indication of the latter's qualities, noted during his four years with Filipinetti. It took about a year for Sbarro to honour the order and deliver a "Green British Racing" coloured car to Broadley.

The Sbarro Lola T-70 HH wide open

Sbarro launches a small series of replicas

Meanwhile, ACA (Atelier de Construction Automobile), the company founded by Sbarro, received a dozen orders for a Lola T70 MkIII. Franco Sbarro had acquired ten original chassis, a monocoque to serve as a model for the bodywork, and a large stock of parts. In all, he built nine official replicas.

Some customers remain faithful to the original model, opting for the Chevrolet V8 engine fitted to the race car. Others have strayed from technical accuracy, preferring a Ferrari V12 engine, a Porsche 911 3.3-liter turbo (Sbarro Lola HH) or a Ford V8. Apart from the engine, all Sbarro Lola models share the same chassis and bodywork. This is not without its problems for road use, due to the cramped interior, poor rear and side visibility, and access reserved for flexible drivers who aren't too tall! Once launched, the Sbarro Lola is a difficult car to drive (or drive, I should say!): it remains first and foremost a competition car, even if Sbarro has wrapped the interior in leather and installed air conditioning and radio equipment on certain models. A clever trunk with drawers (as on a piece of furniture) provided space for some light luggage.

Demonstration of the drawer box designed by Franco Sbarro for the Lola T-70. Images taken from an RTS broadcast in 1969.

The Sbarro Lola T70 MkIII achieve such a high degree of fidelity that many an expert would be mistaken (except for models with Ferrari or Porsche engines, of course). Rated at over 300 km/h, performance is spectacular. I doubt, however, that the owners were able to exploit them to the full on the open road. But, as in the days of the gentlemen driver, they can enjoy the luxury of driving to the nearest racetrack, completing a few laps at full speed and then setting off again serenely by road. A luxury few cars can offer.

In brief
1- Eric Broadley, founder of Lola, is Sbarro's first customer for a... Lola!
2- Nine examples produced
2- Several engine options: Chevrolet, Ferrari or Porsche
3- At this level of craftsmanship, Sbarro's Lola T-70 is much more than a simple replica.
Main sources
1- book "Franco Sbarro. La mécanique dans le sang. Tome 1"
2- book "Francoby Sbarro / concept cars"  Fabian Sbarro
3- official brochure (2 double-sided pages) presenting the Sbarro type Lola 70
4- RTS video archive