Lotus Mark I
Lotus is enlisting the help of enthusiasts, collectors, and any car hunter willing to help find the first car that company founder Colin Chapman built.
The car is the Lotus Mark I, which Chapman built from a donor Austin Seven back in 1948, and it hasn't been seen for over 60 years.
Chapman built the car in a London garage, which at the time his girlfriend's parents owned. With help from friends, he completed the car and entered a series of races in 1948 with much success.
Chapman immediately began work on the Mark II. But sadly for the Mark I, the car went missing in 1950. The final records show the car was sold in November 1950. Even after decades of research, Lotus hasn't been able to locate it. The company only has a replica which was compiled by detailed documents of the original.
Now, Clive Chapman, Colin's son, has joined the search. Clive is director of Classic Team Lotus and his mission is to locate the car for this year's 70th anniversary. Lotus itself wasn't founded until 1952.
"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 U.K., and we’d love to know if it survives in another country," Clive said. He called the car a "holy grail" for Lotus' history and said it was the first time his father was able to apply theories and innovative approaches, namely performance through light weight, to building a car.
Chapman senior's practices came from his background as an engineer. He looked at the car's suspension configuration and layout, ground clearance, chassis reinforcement, and recognized lightweight body panels improved performance. Lotus has remained a name synonymous with lightweight, agile sports cars. Colin analyzed a typical Austin Seven model and applied this thinking, which included a rear-end extension to fit two spare wheels for better weight distribution and traction.
The Mark I was originally finished in unpolished alloy, but it was painted white and then finally red before Chapman sold the car for £135. All Lotus knows of the second owner is they were based in North England.
Lotus hopes calling on the global auto community will help locate not just a historic piece of the company, but it's founding ideals.