The Lotus Mark 1 has been missing for over 60 years.
As celebrations for the company’s 70th anniversary kick off this month, Lotus is on a mission to track down the first car its founder ever built. Billed as “the most elusive Lotus ever,” the Lotus Mark 1 was hand-built by company founder Colin Chapman in a small London garage that belonged to his girlfriend’s parents back in in 1948.
Based on an Austin Seven, the lightweight competition car featured a reinforced chassis and lightweight body panels, which made it successful in competition events. Originally finished in bare, unpolished alloy, the car was then painted white, before being repainted in red.
The Lotus Mark 1 was ultimately short-lived, however, as Champman soon started work on his next car, the Mark II, using experience gained from building the Mark 1 and entering competition events to make it even more competitive. As a result, Chapman placed an advert for the Mark I in Motor Sport magazine, where it was described as an Austin Seven Special four-seater sports-cum-trials car.
The car was sold in November 1950 for £135 to a new owner based in the north of England, but nothing else is known about them. Despite the efforts of enthusiasts and experts to track it down, the location of the car has remained a mystery ever since. Let’s hope Lotus can finally locate the landmark car, as the automaker’s 70th birthday celebration wouldn’t be complete without the car that started it all.
Clive Chapman, the director of Classic Team Lotus and son of the company’s founder, is also helping Lotus hunt down the elusive Mark 1. “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.”