1964 MRD/Lotus 23 Buick V8 Sports Racer

Racing history back to 1964. Great story with video. Hillsborough Concours.



If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the video below by Evan McGreevy must be worth 10,000 words. It covers the history of this extraordinary Lotus 23, which as it turns out, is not a Lotus 23 at all. One might even call it a Motor Racing Developments (“MRD”), or a Brabham. Then again, it could also be called a mid-engined, V8 powered sports racing special. 

Arguably all would be correct as the car was designed by MRD as a more robust Lotus 23 capable of handling American V8 power. The chassis was also built in the U.K. by well-known formula and sports racing car chassis builder Arch Motors. The complete chassis, less engine and wheels, was then shipped to its commissioning racing team, the California Racing Partnership, in Berkeley, California for final assembly. The Partnership would then take the car to the Oregon International Raceway, near Eugene, Oregon, for its Sports Car Club of America racing debut. Now it is time to roll the film.

California Racing Partnership Lotus 23/MRD Buick V8 Special

The written content from the film is repeated below.

Bill Webb and Irv Orth worked with Roy Pike (Lotus factory F2 driver at the time) to have Motor Racing Development (Brabham) design frame modifications and had the frame built in England by Arch Motors. More and heavier tubes (in comparison to a 23) were used. Body was built by Sepcialized Mouldings with 23C style fenders. Car arrived in San Francisco (via airfreight) on a pallet complete except wheels and engine. Hewland HD-5 transmission was mated to Olds 215 CI V-8.  American Racing Magnesium wheels, 7”wide in front an 10” in rear were used. Bill Webb designed a modified rear hub carrier using 23 hub carrier casting but with stronger axle bearings and half shafts.”

First outing was August 21, 1965 at the Oregon International Speedway just south of Eugene.  Car, with Webb Driving, ran off the track and hit a rock in the grass.  Rock damaged the underneath of the car and broke Webb’s tailbone.  Webb recuperated at Orth’s house.  Webb and Orth’s wife had an affair and later married.  Affair broke up marriage and racing partnership. Car was repaired by Chofre and Orth but Webb did not drive the car again.

Car was later used by Jon Woodner (car was still owned by Webb).  Woodner had the car painted “UPS” brown and worked the bugs out of the car.  Woodner owned the Weber manifold fabricated by Richard Corey. Ivan remembers teething issues with the engine’s bottom end.  Car was serviced at Griswolds in Berkeley.  Ivan last remembers seeing the car in 1968.  Car was only track tested by Woodner at Sears Point and it was not raced again with V-8.

Car was sold to in 1969 to Bill Williams and Gus Chofre without engine.  Gus contacted Elva about a bell housing to mate the Hewland HD-5 to a 2 liter BMW engine.  Elva sold the bellhousing for 10 pounds. Car was raced by both  Williams and Chofre  for about 10 races.  Car sold to Craig Brown. Chofre bought a Lotus 23 with a Saab engine.

Other notes regarding the car are as follows:

Races in Log Book:

 1.Laguna Seca Regional Enduro: 11/4/72, W.L. Williams.

 2.Sears Point Regional: 4/8/73, W.L. Williams

 3.Laguna Seca 5/4/73, W.L. Williams

 4.Laguna Seca Regional 5/20/73, W.L. Williams. Car rolled in turn 9. Damage to front steering and radiator, other damage was to body only.

5. Riverside School 4/5/74 Craig Brown


Ownership in Log Book:

W.L. Williams to Craig Brown on 2/1/74

Craig Brown to Jarome A. Bassler 12/5/76. Greenbrae, CA


Bill Webb  Drove car in first and only race with V8. Designed modified rear hub carriers with stronger axle and bearings.  Have original drawings of hub carrier by Webb dated December 1964.

Irv Orth  Partner of Webb.  Irv Orth Racing Enterprises. Had an auto shop in Fremont.  Ran a formula junior.

Richard Corey Involvement included fabricating headers and Weber intake.

Roy Pike: Friend of Webb’s.  F-2 driver for Lotus.   Contact in England who had frame built by Arch Motors

Davey Igems:  Santa Rosa Machine Shop, worked on car

Phil Reilly:  Knows about car. May have photos

Ivan Zaremba  (Phil’s Partner): Knows a lot about car.  Worked on car at Griswolds in Berkeley during 60’s with Reilly. Good friend of Jon Woodner. Remembered that Webb broke his back in first race and that car was rebuilt. 

All vehicle descriptions are accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing. Corrections, and supplemental information, are always welcome. Buyers are responsible for confirming vehicle histories, condition, and authenticity to their own satisfaction prior to purchase. Motorsports Market is not the owner of the vehicle and assumes no liability for errors and omissions.

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Aluminum block Buick 215 cubic inch race engine with twin Carter two barrel carburetors. Hewland HD5 five speed gearbox. Girling four wheel disc brakes.

More information to come.


More photos to come.


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