Thousands turn out to Hethel in Norfolk to celebrate 70th anniversary of Lotus
PUBLISHED: 16:22 29 September 2018 | UPDATED: 09:00 30 September 2018
Copyright: Archant 2018
One of Norfolk’s most iconic brands celebrated its 70th birthday in style.
Around 8,000 people packed into the home of Lotus at Hethel, near Wymondham, as the legendary carmaker marked seven decades of producing race and road cars.
It came as the firm’s parent company, Geely, revealed plans for a multi-million pound investment in the site.
Marcus Blake, Lotus’s commercial director, said: “We’re delighted. The weather’s come out to play and so have 8,000 owners, fans and employees, who have come to celebrate an iconic brand.”
He added the engineering brilliance of the firm’s founder, Colin Chapman, was in the DNA of every car Lotus had produced since production began.
Fans lined the test track for a parade featuring every model, which was one of the highlights of the show.
Owners brought along their cars along to show, with Cortinas, Esprits and Elans rubbing shoulders with more recent models.
Management consultant Mark Rigby made the eight hour drive south from his home in Fife, Scotland, in his 17-year-old black Esprit.
Mr Rigby said he had dreamed of owning a Lotus since he was a boy.
“It’s all about Colin Chapman, add lightness, add speed,” he said. “It’s a rebellion against the major manufacturers. It’s a classic shape.”
Geely, which took over Lotus in the summer of 2017, has ambitions of seeing it become a major manufacturer, investing £1.5bn into the firm.
Some 300 extra engineers gave been recruited, joining the 750 who were already working on site, to help design and build two new models.
Formula One cars from 1960s, 70s and 80s were lined up in one marquee, celebrating an era when the Norfolk team was one of motorsport’s elite.
Among its most famous drivers was Jim Clark, who won two world championships and 25 Grand Prix before he died in a crash in 1968 at the age of 32. Campaigners hoping to raise £1.3m to extend a museum in his memory in his native Scotland brought a display to the event.
“I can’t believe how popular he is,” said volunteer David Palmer. “He was such an iconic driver.” Motorsport artist Alasdair Banks was painting classic Lotus models.
“They very dynamic, they’re very streamlined,” he said. “They’re attractive in terms of heritage, the various styles going back to when they started.”