Hunt for Lotus founder's first car begins
Colin Chapman's first creation was a modified Austin 7 that he used in competition. In 2018 Lotus is celebrating its 70th anniversary, but needs your help to track down the Mark I
It’s important to know where you come from, especially if you’re a brand with an extraordinary history such as Lotus. The Hethel-based marque is celebrating its 70th birthday in 2018 and wants to track down the car that started it all, but Lotus needs your help to find Colin Chapman’s long-lost creation.
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The Lotus Mark I was based upon an Austin 7, as so many competition cars were back in the 1940s, but the innovative Colin Chapman extensively modified the car for competition. Applying his training as an engineer, he got to work strengthening the chassis and creating lightweight bodywork for his car. Hand-built in a small London garage owned by his future wife’s parents with her help, the Mark I served as a proof of concept for Chapman’s engineering ideas.
Continually modified, the Mark I also sported several different colours, going from bare metal to white, then red. Chapman soon started work on a Mark II car using lessons learned from the original.
While there’s plenty of documentation and pictures of the car in action, all we know is that Colin sold it in November 1950 for £135 to someone in the north of England. Despite Lotus’ best efforts, it hasn’t been able to track this pivotal piece of history down, but that’s where you come in. The hope is that a public search for the car might find it in the corner of an old garage or tucked away with the current owner not fully knowing of the car’s history.
Colin Chapman’s son, and director of Classic Team Lotus, Clive Chapman is joining the search.
“It’s the first time that my father was able to put his theories for improved performance into practice when designing and building a car. To locate this landmark Lotus, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary, would be a monumental achievement," he said.
"We want fans to take this opportunity to look in every garage, shed, barn and lock up they’re allowed to. It’s even possible that the Mark I was shipped from the UK, and we’d love to know if it survives in another country.”
It would be a fairytale if fans of Lotus were responsible for finding the founder’s car in the brand’s 70th year, so get searching! And if you do find it, get in touch with Lotus here.