This year marks 70 years of the incredible Lotus brand with a notable history. 70 years old and still at the forefront of lightweight engineering.
Arguably the most innovative team in Formula One history, Lotus established itself in the 1950s by building simple, lightweight sportscars with sublime handling. They stuck with that same philosophy as they became the dominant force in grand prix racing in the 1960s and 70s, and had many of racing’s greatest champions pilot their machines.
“He was the computer. If the car wasn’t handling well on the Friday, he would go back to the garage and call the mechanics. By Saturday morning the car would be fantastic. Only Colin Chapman could do that. He was a genius.”
– Emerson Fittipaldi
Team founder Colin Chapman was an ingenious engineer who experimented with lightweight materials and relied heavily on his knowledge of aeronautical engineering, which he had gained while in the Royal Air Force.
Lotus entered its first F1 race at Monaco in 1958, with Graham Hill and Cliff Allison driving. A victory of sorts came the following year with Stirling Moss in a customer Lotus, but the works Lotus team waited until 1961 when Innes Ireland earned the Norfolk-based gang their first win.
The team recruited ace Scottish driver Jim Clark, and he took them to a remarkable seven wins in 1963, earning the team’s first title. It was to be the first of seven constructors’ titles.
Few champions are remembered as fondly as Jim Clark – Lotus’ most successful driver. He was a reluctant racer – shy of the attention his success brought him – but he was one of the most naturally gifted drivers the sport has ever seen. When he was taken at the age of 32, motor racing was rocked to its core. If it could happen to Jimmy, they said, it could happen to anyone.
Clark was the only driver to win two Drivers’ titles in a Lotus. Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti took one title each.
The creator of the famous Lotus road cars and race cars, Colin Chapman, studied structural engineering and learned to fly while still a student. In 1948 the young engineer built the Mk1, a modified Austin 7 car which he entered privately into local racing events, notably trials.
Chapman built his first single-seater racing car in 1956. The Formula 2 — the Lotus 12 — enjoyed some success in 1957. He then decided to enter Grand Prix racing, running a pair of Lotus 12s at Monaco in 1958 for Graham Hill and Cliff Allison.
Chapman was obsessed with getting his race cars as light as possible. His Lotuses were small, lightweight, mid-engine cars that gave away much in terms of power, but their superior road handling meant they often beat the all-conquering front-engined Ferraris and Maseratis.
The Lotus Esprit S1 (or Series 1) is a sports car that was built by Lotus in the United Kingdom between 1976 and 1978. The S1 was launched in October 1975 at the Paris Auto Show, and went into production in June 1976, replacing the Europa in the Lotus model lineup. The car gained fame through its appearance in the 1977 film The Spy Who Loved Me where it was featured in a long chase sequence on the Italian island of Sardinia. It is best known for its unique feature of converting into a submarine.