LOTUS SEVEN REGISTER
the web site for the
~ The Lotus Seven
The beginnings. The Lotus Mk I, 750 Motor Club & The Lotus Mk II.
Seven made by Lotus between 1957 and 1973
Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman.
Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman was born on 19th. May 1928 in
Richmond, Surrey to Stanley and Mary who owned and ran “The Orange Tree
Public House”. Later the family moved to “The Railway Hotel” at Tottenham
Lane, Hornsey in North London where Colin went to the Stationers’ Company
School. With bombs falling on London, Colin was evacuated to Wisbech,
Norfolk for most of the duration of WW2.
In the Summer of 1945 Colin met Hazel Williams from Muswell Hill at a
dance held at the Railway Hotel. Colin often attended these local dances
as his father supplied the food and he could get in free!
October 1945 Colin attended University College of London University to
study engineering; he was 17. His first motor transport for commuting to
university was a Panther 350cc motorcycle which he wrote off soon after
acquiring it by driving it through the door of a taxi, much to the
surprise of the fare. For this reason he turned up at the “Freshers” ball
covered in plasters! Shortly after, to keep him away from two wheels, his
parents bought him a maroon 1937 Morris 8 Tourer for Christmas.
The Lotus Mark I.
University Colin befriended fellow student, Colin Dare and they became
interested in buying and selling second hand cars. With the war recently
over, new cars were in short supply as British manufacturers were
exporting all they could make. Anyway, as the new cars were only slightly
more modern than those built before the hostilities, it only took a little
clever ‘tarting up’ to turn second hand cars around for a profit. However,
this little industry was to be short lived as soon the basic petrol ration
was to be withdrawn and there were then no takers for cars at all! The
result was that the stock had to be sold at a loss and the Colins were to
come out loosing all the profit they had made from their previous
what was left over was a rather decrepit fabric bodied 1930 Austin Seven
saloon for which Colin was unable to find a home. The idea came to him to
modify it extensively as it had few prospects as it was. The thought of
competition had not occurred to him so the car was altered using some
ideas that he had formulated when planning to build his own ‘special’. One
of the main areas of improvement was chassis/body stiffness and for that
Colin employed the use of alloy-bonded ply panels for the sides along with
very shallow ‘door’ openings (a bit like a Seven!). It was completed in
early 1948 and re-registered ‘OX9292’ as the Lotus Mk 1 rather than the
generic term ‘Austin Seven Special’. With Hazel in the passenger seat,
they had a go at trialing which they both enjoyed and were successful at.
The Lotus Mark II today.
whilst at London University that Colin joined the University Air Squadron
where he completed the required 35 hours solo flying time and gained his
Private Pilot’s Licence. After university and in order to get more flying
in, he decided to take a short service commission in the RAF and was
stationed at RAF Tern Hill in Shropshire for the duration.
Mark I had not been specifically modified for competition, Colin decided
to build an improved second car. In order to do this he researched all
kinds of technical papers both in the motoring press and mechanical
engineering papers. Doing this it wasn’t too long before he found the 750
THE 750 MOTOR CLUB:
The 750 MC was founded in 1939 by Bill Boddy and Holland Birkett for
Austin Seven enthusiasts who wished to compete in low-cost owner/driver
designed cars under their 750 Formula. The ‘750’ refers to the cubic
capacity of Austin Seven engines. After the war a similar formula was
drafted for Ford 1172cc engined cars (1172 Formula). The list of people
who cut their teeth racing with the 750 MC reads like a Who’s Who of motor
racing – Colin Chapman of Lotus, the Broadley cousins of Lola, Mike Costin
and Keith Duckworth of Cosworth, Brian Hart of Hart engines, Jem Marsh and
Frank Costin of Marcos, hillclimb speciatist Mike Pilbeam, racer car
designers like Tony Southgate, Gordon Murray and Len Terry, the list goes
THE LOTUS MARK II:
The Ford powered Mark II had independent front suspension using a Ford
8/10 front axle cut in half. The rear axle in order to conform with the
750 Formula had to be Austin Seven. Colin didn’t think that the standard
axle ratio was high enough for his purposes considering the planned light
weight of the car and the extra power of the engine. Now there were two
types of crown wheel and pinion available for an Austin Seven, 42/8 tooth
giving 5.25:1 final drive and 44/9 giving a ratio of 4.9:1. Colin then
built up an axle with the 44 toothed crown wheel and the non-matching 8
toothed pinion. Then instead of oil he filled the diff housing with
“Bluebell” metal polish and ran the car like that for about 50 miles
whereupon the shot bearings were replaced and the casing was filled with
the correct oil. The result was an all-Austin Seven rear axle with a final
drive ratio of 4.66:1 and perfectly meshed crown wheel and pinion!
In September 1949 Colin qualified for his ‘Wings’ and was offered a
permanent commission in the R.A.F. This did not suit him and after a short
period with a family friend’s construction company, he joined The British
Aluminium Company in a technical sales role.
1950 saw the Mark II as one of the best in it’s class at Trials and quick
enough to have a try at circuit racing as well. Colin had never watched a
motor race when he took part in the Eight Clubs meeting at Silverstone on
the 3rd. June. Qualifying in one of the “Half Hour Speed Trial”
events he went on to win the “Five Lap Scratch” race beating Gahagan’s GP
Bugatti into second place! This event was to be just the start of racing
for Colin and next up on the drawing board was a car to compete in the
Club’s 750 Formula Championship.
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by courtesy of Ferret Fotographics
Sources and further better reading:
Lotus – The First Ten Years by Ian H. Smith (1958)
Lotus – The Story of the Marque by Ian H. Smith with additions by Michael
The Story of Lotus – Birth of a Legend by Ian H. Smith. (1970)
Colin Chapman – The Man and his Cars by Jabby Crombac. (1986)
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