The Life of Colin Chapman and His Motor Racing Business

On this day, May 19 in the year 1928, the legendary founder of Lotus Cars was born in Surrey, United Kingdom. His name was Colin Chapman. He is famous in the car racing world for his ingenious production of off-the-shelf racing cars and for the world-beating championships of Lotus team.

Colin Chapman
Colin Chapman (Credit: Youtube)

Chapman’s father was a hotel manager. Colin Chapman himself studied civil engineering at University College London and later, aeronautics at the University of London Air Squadron. He joined the Royal Air Force and also worked briefly at an aluminum company. In 1944, he married Hazel Williams whom he met at a dance. They have two daughters and a son, Clive Chapman who is now the manager of the company his father left behind.

With a £25 loan from his future wife, Chapman started building sports car from the garage near the hotel where his father was working. His initial workers were volunteers. He became a household name in the motor racing industry when he produced a monocoque car called Lotus 25 which was made mostly of carbon fiber instead of metals. Many other innovations were soon introduced such as the use of “Chapman’s strut” as a rear suspension device.

From 1960 to 1982, the Lotus team garnered 72 grand prix wins, seven world titles and five different drivers became world champions riding in cars designed by Chapman. Yet, in a biography written by Mike Lawrence, Chapman was portrayed as a drug abuser and a cheat due to his involvement in a money scandal. He died of heart attack in 1982 at the age 54. Some people now consider him as the “Father of Modern F1.”

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