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Have you seen this car? Search launched to find first ever Lotus built by company’s founder

To mark its 70th anniversary, Lotus has launched a public search to find the elusive Mark I, hand-built by the company's founder Colin Chapman. Pictured is his wife Hazel in the Lotus Mark I. Picture: Colin Chapman Foundation

To mark its 70th anniversary, Lotus has launched a public search to find the elusive Mark I, hand-built by the company's founder Colin Chapman. Pictured is his wife Hazel in the Lotus Mark I. Picture: Colin Chapman Foundation

Colin Chapman Foundation

A Norfolk car maker has launched an international search for the first vehicle built under its name.

To mark its 70th anniversary, Lotus has launched a public search to find the elusive Mark I, hand-built by the company's founder Colin Chapman. Pictured is Mr Chapman competing in the Lotus Mark I. Picture: Colin Chapman FoundationTo mark its 70th anniversary, Lotus has launched a public search to find the elusive Mark I, hand-built by the company's founder Colin Chapman. Pictured is Mr Chapman competing in the Lotus Mark I. Picture: Colin Chapman Foundation

As its 70th anniversary celebrations continue, Group Lotus is attempting to find the “landmark” car with which the brand was born: the Mark I.

Hand-built by Lotus founder Colin Chapman in a London garage owned by his then-girlfriend’s parents, the Mark I was the beginning of the car maker’s innovative explorations of automotive engineering and has been named by Mr Chapman’s son as the company’s “holy grail”.

Mr Chapman entered a number of events with the Mark I in 1948, with immediate success – but the entrepreneur’s penchant for innovation meant he was soon hard at work on its successor, the Mark II.

The Mark I was sold in November 1950, and is believed to have gone to a buyer in the north of England, but from there the trail goes cold.

Despite research over the intervening decades and previous public appeals and private searches for the car, it has never been traced.

But Lotus hopes a renewed search – on a global scale – could finally unearth the lost gem.

Mr Chapman’s son Clive Chapman, director of Classic Team Lotus, is joining the search.

“The Mark I is the holy grail of Lotus’ history,” he said.

“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.”

The Mark I, a re-engineering of the Austin Seven, was designed as a competition car. It was finished in bare, unpolished alloy and painted white before being repainted red.

When Mr Chapman began working on the Mark II, using lessons he’d learned from his first build, he placed an advert in Motor Sport magazine describing an “Austin Seven Special four-seater sports-cum-trials car”.

He received £135 for Mark I upon its sale.

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