Tamiya 1/20 Lotus 25 Coventry Climax

KIT #: 20044
PRICE: 2400 yen SRP$11.98 on sale
DECALS: Several options
REVIEWER: Scott Van Aken
NOTES: 1997 release


In 1961 the engine capacity for Formula 1 was reduced to 1.5 liters. Engines also need to run on 101.5 octane fuel instead of the 130 octane Avgas. The first year of the new regulations found all of the British teams down on power compared to Ferrari with the expected results. For 1962 Lotus would answer with the Lotus 25. Mid-engined cars were now standard and the Lotus 25 was not the first racing car with a monocoque chassis but its artistic simplicity and immense success in the hands of Jimmy Clark revolutionized Grand Prix racing car design. Monocoque construction had been used in aeronautical engineering for over 50 years. In 1915 Harry Blood campaigned a metal-fuselaged Carnelian at Indianapolis. Gabriel Voisin used a monocoque chassis for his car that he raced in the 1923 French GP and in 1955 BRM incorporated a semi-monocoque chassis in their Grand Prix cars.

Colin Chapman had experimented with a backbone chassis for the Lotus Elan sports car. He decided to apply the same techniques to a single-seater racing car. By using box-sections he created a tub just wide enough for a driver and within the box-section would go rubber bags to hold the fuel. While this was going on there was also a Type 24 being developed using a spaceframe just in case. As part of the design, the driver would now sit in an almost reclining position that took some use to, and it took a brave man indeed to drive one of these cars at full speed. The main benefits of this design were increased torsional rigidity for less weight and with a smaller frontal area. The resulting stiffness allowed Lotus to use more supple suspension which offered great advantages in slower, tighter, turns. Colin Chapman was known as an instinctive seat of the pants designer. In fact when the first prototype was being built he took the opportunity of sitting in the car. To his surprise he found that he could fit quite comfortably and announced forthright that: "This cockpit's too wide ... take another inch and a half out out of it!" Dick Scammell, one of the mechanics that built the first car would later remark that: "None of us really knew what we were doing, but it all took shape very nicely and it certainly looked right."

Power was again provided by Coventry-Climax, the British forklift, fire pump, racing, and other specialty engine manufacturer. At 3000 per motor they hoped that Ferrari's engine advantage would be bridged. The car was fast straight out of the box and with Clark driving, when it finished it usually won. In 1963, Engineer Len Terry was coaxed in to returning to the team that had fired him in 1959. One of his duties was to improve the car's reliability. His work bore fruit when Scotsman Jim Clark after finishing 8th in Monaco won the next four races in a row. Clark would go on to win a then record seven out of ten races and his first World Championship. Graham Hill and Richie Ginther finished 2nd and 3rd respectivly.


 For a short time, Tamiya dabbled in 60's Formula One cars instead of doing the more modern cars. One of the cars they kitted was the 1963 Lotus 25, Jim Clark's most successful ride. Since you can see a lot of the car as it sits, Tamiya added a goodly amount of detail.

The engine is probably the most complex part of the build, but Tamiya has done a super job of it. The rather complex exhaust has been superbly represented by having the front four cylinders molded in one piece, making much easier to add the other four pipes into the collector. There is plenty of room for those who like to wire engines to do so.

The front and rear suspensions are also carefully thought out and one can have steerable front wheels if one wants. In fact, when installing the driver (if you want) you can pose his arms as if he is steering the car around a tight corner. All of the wheels are held in place by polycaps and you have nicely done vinyl tires.

The cockpit is also well done and Tamiya provides separate decals for each of the main instruments. If you don't want to use the driver, finding a set of aftermarket belts is recommended as this kit was designed prior to them including those as decals. Tamiya has also provided a fairly large chrome sprue. Well, very little if anything is chrome on an F.1 car and so you'll really need to strip this sprue of its chrome so you can paint the parts a more appropriate shade.

Kit instructions are very well done and provide Tamiya paint references. One thing about Tamiya F.1 kits is that you can get the appropriate colors from the Tamiya line. They will produce rattle can paints for even some of the more exotic paint colors just for a kit. Decals are well printed, but unless you use hot water, they will take an age to come free of the backing. Several different number options are provided and there is a chart in the instructions to help you choose which number to use. Some of the numbers will need to be cut to provide the one you want.


It has been many years since I built a Tamiya F.1 car. What has generally stopped me from building more is that these kits are really quite paint intensive. Unlike an aircraft or tank, you pretty well need to paint each bit or subassembly prior to adding it to the kit. There is also masking to be considered as many of the parts will take multiple shades. For example, the front spindle/brake assembly is three colors. This tends to extend the construction time.

I bought this kit started and so at a reduced price. However, the seller ripped me off in shipping so it was pretty much the same as buying one from a shop. The previous owner had started assembly on the engine block and had glued the lower front nose piece to the upper bodywork. Both were done well so no issues on sloppy construction.

The first thing I did was to paint parts on the sprue. In this case I did all the bodywork pieces in Tamiya rattle can green and a lot of aluminum parts in Alclad II. I also stripped the chrome pieces using oven cleaner. This does a fairly good job, but only takes off the chrome plating and not the gloss clear under it. 

The lower body was masked and large areas of it were painted aluminum as directed in the instructions. I followed the instructions pretty much to the letter when it came to paints. In one area, they tell you to mix gold and silver for the brake calipers, but that isn't necessary as since then Tamiya has produced a Titanium Gold that works well. I worked on both the engine and the body at the same time and slowly things started to come together. There are areas that need to be painted red and I think my red may well be too dark, but there it is.

Instructions have you build up the tub to a point, and that includes the front suspension. When it came to the rear suspension, I had some issues, both of them dealing with the upright piece. One is that it broke when removing it from the sprue. The other is that the lower attachment point on one side was short shot. Super glue fixed both issues, but it isn't contest quality.  You then build up the engine with most of the exhaust. The time consumer here, as with much of the build, is the constant painting one has to do after cleaning up the parts. When that was done, the engine was installed in the waiting chassis.  

With the engine in place you can go on to the final bits which include a few more rear suspension pieces as well as attaching the windscreen (I used the clear glue Cementine on this), and the mirrors. The body pieces are meant to be removable and simply click into place. Finally, the wheels were pushed on.


As mentioned earlier, building these cars requires one to be constantly painting during the build process. Generally, I followed Tamiya's painting guide for the various shades, though I did use a considerable number of Alclad II paints for this. When Tamiya does a car kit, they generally produce the paint that is needed for the overall color. Such is the case with this one. There is some mixing required if you want to do so, but there are other sources for some of the more interesting metallic shades. All this painting does tend to slow down the build to some small extent, but the end result is well worth it.

The kit decals are very nice, but do take an age to come free of the backing when using cold water. I used some setting solution on a decal and regretted it. One thing to keep in mind is that the numbers on the side have to be cut. The roundels are precut, so that is an issue. I also had the devils time getting the front and rear bodywork to fit with the rear section needing some trimming to where the suspension would allow it to fit properly. To get the intake stacks to fit they had to be slightly squeezed. The front body piece will not fit flush with the lower on the left and I think that is because of the coolant line. I recommend that when you glue that part in place, fit the forward body piece before it dries to ensure a flush fit. I used Cementine to attach the windscreen and the mirrors. The final items to add were the wheels which had to be carefully squeezed in place using flat pliers.


As often happens, the final result belies the work that goes into the model. The fit is generally quite good, though not in the snap-kit category. Hindsight shows some areas where I could have improved things, but overall, I'm pleased with the result. It makes an interesting comparison to the Lotus 29 Indy car I built ten years back. I'd like to think it won't be nine years before I do another F.1 kit.



21 February 2020

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