The Lotus 77 was a Formula 1 car designed by Colin Chapman, Geoff Aldridge and Martin Ogilvie for the 1976 Formula 1 season. The car was a middle ground for an end to Lotus who was fighting back after failure of the Lotus 76 and the obsolescence of the Lotus 72 in 1975.
The Lotus 77 featured a thinner and lighter monocoque design over the 72 but was also equipped with the Cosworth DFV. It presented improved aerodynamics and repositioned the radiators to help a better cooling. The front brakes were initially inboard, in line with their predecessors, but were moved out in a more conventional mid-season design. The suspension was designed around a series of rockers instead of the usual set of wishbones. The idea behind the new system was to set the suspension for a specific track, taking into account the height of the course and the surface of the road, and the 77 was dubbed “The Adjustacar” as a result.
It worked in a way, but inexperience with such an infinitely adjustable car meant that the ideal settings were not reached. It was quickly considered that this suspension arrangement was not suitable and Len Terry was brought in early in the season to design a more orthodox system with rockers and external brakes. Later in the season, Lotus hired Tony Southgate of Shadow to serve as chief engineer. He moved the oil cooler to the nose to improve weight distribution and also added an adjustable rear stabilizer bar in the cockpit and a lighter compressed air intake. All the riders reported that the steering and the ride were occasionally vague and unresponsive and that the car did not have straight speed. Andretti did not call the car, claiming it was a “dog.” This motivated Lotus to accelerate the research and create the Lotus 78. Andretti skipped the Monaco Grand Prix to race in the Indianapolis 500.
After a slow start to the season, the 77 proved to be the best of the rest behind Ferrari, McLaren and Tyrrell. Andretti worked hard to develop the car and, from the middle of the season, the performance of the 77 improved. However, it was more suitable for tracks with long corners, such as Anderstorp, where Andretti led easily before the engine failure put him out. In the tracks of Zandvoort and Mosport Park he finished on the podium.
Colin Chapman vetoed Andretti’s request to race the Lotus 78 at Zandvoort, so Mario reluctantly competed with the 77 until the end of the season. The final race was held under monsoon conditions at Fuji Speedway in Japan. Andretti’s car was very well set up for the track, with the car at its narrowest width and virtually flat rear wing; Andretti led a clever tactical race to win around Patrick Depailler and new world champion James Hunt. Andretti was happy to leave the 77th to focus on the development of the 78 for the 1977 Formula One season.
Three chassis were built and, as of 2018, all still exist.