Lotus needs your help.
It’s looking for the very first car built by founder Colin Chapman. Tracking it down sounds more difficult than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack, but the company hopes the car — which it refers to as the Mark I — has spent the past seven decades safely stashed away in a barn somewhere.
Lotus’ archives department remembers Chapman built the Mark I by hand in 1948 in a London garage owned by his then-girlfriend’s parents. Starting with a fairly standard Austin Seven, he upgraded the suspension, reinforced the chassis, fitted a custom-made body with lighter panels, and made the car easier to repair on the side of the road. He went as far as extending the back part of the car and mounting a second spare wheel on the rear end in order to improve weight distribution.
Chapman and Hazel — who later became his wife — raced the Mark I and won two class awards in the first event they entered. The pair sold the car for 135 British pounds in November of 1950 in order to help fund the development of a new one. No one has seen it since.
Clues are few and far between. Period photos reveal the Mark I was originally finished in bare, unpolished alloy. It was then painted white and it later received a coat of red paint. Lotus knows nearly nothing about the person who bought it in 1950. All it remembers is that he lived somewhere in the north of England. The car might still be in his barn, or it might have gone through a dozen owners over the past 68 years. Of course, there’s also a good chance it didn’t see the end of the 1950s.
“The Mark I is the holy grail of Lotus’ history. 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. 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,” said Clive Chapman, the son of Lotus’ founder.