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In 1947, while still at university studying Civil Engineering, Colin Chapman decided to put his knowledge of structural engineering to use and build an Austin Seven special using a decrepit 1930 fabric-bodied Austin Seven saloon as a base. The car was intended to be a touring car using a body fabricated from flat panels of alloy-bonded plywood for strength and light weight.He had been working on the project for a year when he came across a car trial at Aldershot, he was fascinated and decided to finish the special as a trials car. It was finished in early 1948 and registered OX9292, he decided to call it a Lotus Mk.I .

Colin was very succesful in trials using Lotus Mk.I but turned his attention to the 750 Motor Club, he found the club members had a wealth of knowledge on car design and started the design of Lotus Mk.II, this was to be built to conform to the 750MC regulations using an Austin Seven chassis with a Ford Eight or Ten front axle cut in half. The car was finished by 1950 and not only became successful in trials but circuit racing as well. On the 3rd June he took part in the 'Eight Clubs' Meeting on the Club Circuit at Silverstone using Lotus Mk.II, in a five lap scratch race he finished ahead of Gahagan's GP Bugatti a result that had a deep influence on him. He became less interested in trials and more interested in circuit racing.

Colin decided to build a car to compete in the 750 Motor Club's 750 formula championship so the Lotus Mk.II was put up for sale. It was bought by Mike Lawson who promptly won the Wrotham Cup Trial in it! The Lotus Mk.I was also sold and Colin set about building Lotus Mk.III. a dedicated circuit racing car. It was hugely succesful and Colin received an order for a replica to be built, so on the 1st January 1952 the Lotus Engineering Co was formed, the plan being to build the replica Mk.III and Lotus Mk.IV, a Ford Ten engined trials special using an Austin Seven chassis for Mike Lawson. For its time it was very advanced with the engine 27 inches behind the front axle and a jerry can in the nose cone that could be filled with water to keep the front wheels on the ground when the car was driven on the road! A Ford 10 engine and gearbox was built onto an Austin 7 chassis and back axle but the front axle was split and included a central pivot that became known as the “jelly joint”. This allowed huge front axle articulation rather like a tractor. This car, registered LMU4 was restored by Martyn Halliday and now resides in an American Museum.

Here is Lotus Mk.IV in it's first trial.

The RAC introduced a new National Trials Formula in 1953 that specified a maximum distance from the front axle to the first spark plug hole so Lotus Mk.IV had to be modified.

Here is Lotus Mk.IV after modification to comply with the 1953 RAC rules.

While building Lotus Mk.IV Colin started designing an all new car using a multi-tubular fully stressed space frame chassis, this was to be the Mk.VI (Mk.V was to have been an ultimate 750MC formula car but was never built).One of the first Mark 6 cars built was a trials car designed to meet the newly introduced RAC Trials Car National Formula. The car was ordered by Horace Sinclair Sweeney but unlike most of the other Mark 6 kits, which had swing axle front suspension, this had a solid Ford beam axle but used coil spring over telescopic damper suspension. This car is now owned by Martyn Halliday and should be back in action on HSTA events all being well!!

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