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‘I’m sure my father would be impressed’ – Clive Chapman on Lotus’s 70th anniversary celebrations

PUBLISHED: 17:44 27 September 2018 | UPDATED: 17:48 27 September 2018

Clive Chapman, managing director of Classic Team Lotus at Hethel. Picture: Sonya Duncan.

Clive Chapman, managing director of Classic Team Lotus at Hethel. Picture: Sonya Duncan.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2016

The son of Lotus founder Colin Chapman says his father would be proud to see the famous marque celebrating its 70th anniversary this weekend in such a strong position.

Classic cars being worked on in the workshops at Classic Team Lotus. Signwriter Paul Banham working on paintwork. Picture: Sonya Duncan.Classic cars being worked on in the workshops at Classic Team Lotus. Signwriter Paul Banham working on paintwork. Picture: Sonya Duncan.

More than 1500 guests, drivers and staff past and present are expected at the carmaker’s Hethel headquarters this Saturday to mark the milestone and enjoy classic car parades and behind-the scenes tours.

And Clive Chapman, son of legendary Lotus founder Colin, believes they will be seeing a company firmly on the up following a four-year turnaround and a takeover by Chinese manufacturer Geely.

Mr Chapman, who is managing director of Classic Team Lotus, said: “Lotus was always up and down, and even in my father’s day it was a rollercoaster ride.

“The workforce at Hethel have done an outstanding job to get to this anniversary in such good shape.”

Classic Team Lotus. Picture: Sonya Duncan.Classic Team Lotus. Picture: Sonya Duncan.

And Mr Chapman believes the cars being produced at Lotus’s Norfolk factory are worthy successors to those made under his father’s leadership.

“I’m currently driving an Evora and it’s an extraordinary piece of engineering which I’m sure my father would be impressed by,” he said. “Recently the 100,000th car was shown to my mother, and that certainly got the thumbs-up.”

Saturday’s celebrations would be a important day for the family, with Mr Chapman’s 91-year-old mother Hazel hoping to attend, along with five of her seven grandchildren.

Lotus started life in London in 1948 and moved around before settling in Hethel in 1966. Some of 56-year-old Mr Chapman’s earliest memories include playing in the factory at weekends while his father worked.

He said he believed Geely’s ownership would prove to be a positive move.

“I think it’s really important for Lotus and Norfolk that Geely has taken over. They’re looking to the future but seem genuinely enthusiastic about the past too.

“My father talked to Ford and Jaguar [about partnerships] during the 1960s but it didn’t happen.

“That was why it was a rollercoaster at times, because it was all self-funded and a significant partner would have made a difference.

“[Previous owner] Proton played a role but maybe Geely can take Lotus to the next level.”

A special day

Saturday’s festivities won’t only be a special day for the Chapman family, but also for the man who has probably driven more Lotus Formula 1 cars than anyone else in history.

Chris Dinnage joined Lotus in 1982 and worked as mechanic to Brazilian future champion Ayrton Senna and Britain’s Martin Donnelly during the team’s time in Formula 1.

He now works as team manager at Classic Team Lotus, having been there since the company’s foundation 25 years ago, and tests the historic cars the company keeps for its roster of period racers.

He will be behind the wheel again on Saturday as he takes a classic model out on to the Lotus track as part of a parade for fans.

“He’s driven more Lotus F1 cars than probably anyone else in the past and, I expect, more than anyone ever will,” said Mr Chapman.

“That will be a highlight for us.”

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