Where is this 1948 Lotus Mark I? Hunt on for Colin Chapman's first creation
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Lotus have launched a global campaign to track down the car that started it all for the British sports car maker.
'Calling on enthusiasts, collectors and car hunters worldwide, Lotus needs your help in tracking down the long-lost Lotus Mark I,' said Lotus, who aim to track down the car as part of the company's 70th anniversary celebrations.
While the Mark I is well documented, the whereabouts of the Lotus' first car has been a mystery for over half a century. The Mark I pre-dates Lotus Car's official formation in 1952, but it's widely accepted by classic car historians that it was indeed the beginning of Lotus.
In 1948, company founder Colin Chapman completed the Mark I while studying at the University College London. Built using an Austin 7 chassis and running gear, Chapman designed and built his own body out of aluminium and plywood, and designed his own suspension and engine modifications for better performance.
The car was built in a lock-up borrowed from Champan's then-girlfriend (later his wife) parents. Built by hand, he completed the car in the spring of 1948 and immediately entered it in competitive English Trials - an early form of hill climbs over rough terrain. On its debut, the Mark I picked up two class awards.
Originally finished in bare, unpolished alloy, the car was then painted white, before repainted in red. But Chapman was soon working on the next car, the Mark II, designed using the lessons learned from his first and the model.
As a result, an advert placed in a motorsport magazine describing an 'Austin Seven Special four-seater sports-cum-trials car' saw the Mark I sold in 1950. Chapman received £135 (approximately NZ$9000) for the car, but the only thing now known about the buyer was that they were based in the north of England.
Colin Chapman competing in the Lotus Mark I. Photo / Colin Chapman Foundation
Lotus says that over the years many enthusiasts have looked for the car without success. Lotus has also previously called in experts to help locate the lost vehicle with the same result.
Joining Lotus in the hunt for the Mark I is son of the company’s founder and director of Classic Team Lotus, Clive Chapman.
“The Mark I is the holy grail of Lotus’ history,” said Clive. “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.”
Time to check the shed.