How to help Lotus find the Mark I

Lotus wishes us Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year or, well, Merry Driftmas and a Hethel New Year. So, I would like to say “thank you” and give them a little present in return.

At the end of September 2018 the Hethel company announced that they are asking for help in tracking down the first car created by Colin Chapman i.e. the Lotus Mark One (https://www.lotuscars.com/news/corporate/finding-very-first-help-locate-lotus-mark-i). As the company has been celebrating its 70th anniversary, it would be really nice to find the car or at least learn what has happened with it.

There are, of course, a lot of people who would love to help, but the problem lies in how we imagine such research. I have once written about the need for an automotive Larra Croft or Indiana Jones but it’s a very simplified vision of the topic. Indiana Jones is a character inspired by archaeologists like Heinrich Schlieman and Howard Carter. And the search for lost cars may be a task for people who are ready to think like Jean-François Champollion (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Francois-Champollion), the man who deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Here are the things that should be taken into account:

  1. Searching for lost cars, if done well, is mostly about reading, writing emails and making phone calls. Walking from barn to barn hasn’t got us the lost Bugatti Aéro Coupé (so-called “Black Atlantic”) and it won’t get us the Lotus. In the case of the Bugatti, it’s possible that people have been looking in barns in the wrong region (http://motofiction.eu/the-reasons-why-its-worth-to-search-for-la-voiture-noire-near-brussels/).
    If working with documents and writing requests for information doesn’t seem much of an adventure, we should realise that adventures rarely happen to those who just move around. They happen to those who do something unique. And a systematic research is less popular than the belief in accidental barn finds.
  2. We are looking for an Austin Seven
    Can we be convinced that any person who bought the Lotus Mark I ever started to consider his or her car “a Lotus”? If not, there may be a lot of documents in which the car is mentioned as an Austin Seven. We know that it has been described as “an Austin Seven Special four-seater sports-cum-trials” in the advert published in Motor Sport magazine.
  3. Learning the story of the British registration plate system can be the key.
    It’s known that the car carried two registration plates: PK 3493 and OX 9292. Although there are some articles that tell the story of the British registration plates (http://www.cvpg.co.uk/REG.pdf, https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-news/96260/uk-car-number-plates-explained-rules-history-and-what-they-mean, https://www.platehunter.com/news/a-guide-into-the-history-of-uk-number-plates/292), what we really need to know is:

    1. the real reason for the change from PK 3493 to OX 9292 and
    2. an answer to the question “was the subsequent owner obliged to change the car’s registration plate?”.
      I think that this book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/History-Vehicle-Registration-United-Kingdom/dp/187268632X might be the way to go.
  4. If books and articles won’t help us, we may just ask these questions to DVLA (https://www.gov.uk/get-vehicle-information-from-dvla).
  5. …or to Mrs. Hazel Chapman…
    …who may also remember some details about the car buyers’ look…
    …or some details of the car, that haven’t been yet described in books or articles published in magazines.
  6. We can assume that the Mark I was raced. Because race car.
    Therefore, a good thing to begin with is creating a database of trial events that were organized in the north of England in early 1950s.
  7. The automotive clubs are precious sources.
    In my research concerning the legend of a LHD Jensen FF (https://www.joc.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=13929), I contacted the British Racing Drivers’ Club. And my request was received by some very helpful people to whom I’m very grateful.

Andrzej Szczodrak

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