By Rod Ward and Hans Nordström
All his life Colin Chapman was fascinated by speed, by cars and by ‘making things’. He was also a serial entrepreneur, from his teens to his fifties setting up new enterprises with friends and colleagues, always eager for new ventures. The story of Lotus is Colin’s story. Like so many great British engineers, his products were a combination of thorough theoretical grounding with extemporised solutions which often cut corners. He could be alternately charming or abrasive, both qualities necessary to push forward a single-minded vision. To understand his motivation we must remember that, unlike larger car makers who raced occasionally to publicise their road cars, Colin was a racing team owner who had to sell cars to pay the bills. He had no patience with anyone who didn’t immediately grasp a concept, and he had little interest in his customers, who were regarded as a necessary evil to finance his racing. Always needing to raise funds for the racing team, he also pioneered sponsored liveries on Formula 1 cars. He didn’t build his cars to last; Chapman’s ideal was that a racing car should be built just strongly enough to win a race. If it then collapsed in a pile of scrap, that was fine with him. Colin’s innovative engineering solutions often became standard practice in the industry, including ‘Chapman’ suspension struts, monocoque racing car bodies, structural use of engine blocks, ground effect design, and carbon composite construction. That is how he is remembered in the automotive industry and by enthusiasts. Lotus continued after Colin’s death in 1982 under a series of ownerships, the racing team becoming detached from the sports car company. In the usual context of an Auto Review book, our bias here is towards the road cars and some of the personalities involved in the company’s history. The racing cars are covered here, but space constraints made it impossible to include the full story of Team Lotus and all its achievements. Every Lotus Type number has the relevant car described in numerical order.