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Lotus wants you to find Colin Chapman’s first car

Colin Chapman’s hand-built Mark I has been missing for 68 years. Anyone seen it?

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Have you seen this car? If it happens to be lying about in your garage under some oily rags or covered in hay bales in one of your barns, would you mind awfully giving Lotus a call? They’re looking for it, you see. To Lotus, this is genesis. The original. Colin Chapman’s Mark I.

As Lotus is celebrating its 70th birthday this year, the Norfolk marque is kick-starting a mega-ambitious quest to find the whereabouts of the first car ever built by its founder, Colin Chapman. The Mark I was hand-fashioned by Chapman and his then-girlfriend, later wife, Hazel. They finished it in 1948, using Austin Seven donor parts and Chapman’s engineering nowse to optimise the weight distribution for better traction.

Built in his better half’s parents’ garage, the Mark I was then used for trials events – it won two class awards in its first two competitions, helmed by Colin with Hazel co-driving. To fund development of the Mark II, this car was then sold in November 1950, for the princely sum of £135 to a buyer in the north of England. It’s not been seen since.

Lotus has tried to track down the car before with no success, but it’s hoping that thru power of social media may be the key this time. Colin’s son Clive Chapman, boss of Classic Team Lotus, explains: “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.”

Over to you, world. Without this gawky classic, there may well have been no Esprit, no Elise, and no Exige special editions. The car was first finished in bare metal, and then painted white, then red. Sound familiar? If you’ve seen it, let us – and Lotus – know, would you. It’d be a heck of birthday present.

Images: Copyright the Colin Chapman Foundation.

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