The History of Lotus Cars
Updated September 2, 2018
In 1952, a graduate of the University College London by the name of Colin Chapman would found Lotus Engineering Ltd. The Lotus Group will be formed in 1959 and include Lotus Cars Limited and Lotus Components Limited which would later become Lotus Racing Limited. The company would first have its factory located in Hornsey but would finally find a fitting facility for the company at the former RAF Hethel base.
Colin Chapman would get his start building a vehicle with a 1930 Austin 7 which would become the Lotus MK I. Chapman would build the vehicle with rigidity and light weight being a top part of his design philosophy which would carry through the vehicles designed by his company. The Mark I would be built during Chapman’s leave from the RAF and upon his exit of the RAF he would focus a vast amount of his time on his passion. Chapman would begin work on his Mark II in 1948 and would receive that 1172 cc Ford 10 engine that would make the vehicle a top competitor on the race track. The Mark II would have several successful races at the hands of Chapman and Mike Lawson who would purchase the vehicle and continue racing it. 1951 would become a key point for Chapman as he would build his next car for a new 750cc division. With the power of the engine being less than that of the Ford 10 engine he was using in the Mark II, Chapman would have to build this vehicle for road racing instead of trials and needed it to be light in weight and have a heavily modified engine. The Mark III was based on an Austin 7 and with the rules that was established for the league Chapman and two colleagues; they would build a vehicle that was so much faster than the competition that they would soon be taking orders from other racers to have a Mark III clone manufactured.
In 1952 Lotus Cars Limited would be formed and would start on its first production vehicle being the Mark VI. The focus for the Mark VI was the aircraft grade chassis that was incredibly lightweight and rigid. Lotus would sell the vehicle as a kit therefore allowing the customers to choose their own engine and transmission. By selling the kits they would receive more orders as these cars could be outfitted with adhere to specific racing rules. In 1954 Team Lotus would be founded which would be the sister company to Lotus Cars. Team Lotus would enter into motorsports and become one of the most successful racing teams in history.
Over the years Lotus would make a name for itself as its racing team was nearly untouchable as it would dominate the Formula One series and its company’s vehicles were popular among enthusiasts. Over the years the racing stayed positive but the company’s finances did not and would lead to financial despair. In 1982 an investment banker by the name of Joe Bianco would help out the company by capitalizing on the immense American automotive market. The plan was to start a new Lotus sales company that offered a tax incentive of a personalized Lotus Turbo Esprit for each investor. This would bring in the capital to help the company regained momentum but in the same year time a dark cloud would roll over the company. At the age of 54, Colin Chapman would suffer a fatal heart attack after having created an icon for performance cars and racing.
After the death of the founder, Lotus would go on throughout the 80s and 90s diversifying its companies roll and taking on new endeavors. Lotus would begin providing engineering development and consulting for suspension engine designs for General Motors. The company would also play a hand in the role of the Corvette ZR-1. The company would continue on producing vehicle designs that were unlike any other. Lotus company was starting to utilize more and more lightweight components through its design of racing cars as well as production vehicles. The designs of some were quite radical and with the company’s philosophy for basic and light perform they were also starting to produce world-class road bike for use in such races of the Tour de France in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
Lotus Cars would go through the ownership of General Motors and Bugatti until 1996 whenever from Proton purchased the company and is the current owner. Today Lotus Cars is working to drastically improve their image as a world-class sports car manufacturer. The company is looking to release five new models in five years and currently offers the Lotus Elise and Lotus Evora the come in several different trims. Currently Lotus cars have been put in a short term development freeze by parent company Proton which causes concern as to the future of the company as it is lacking the necessary funding.
Categories: Production Cars