A Lotus Blossoms

The word “historic” is bandied about pretty freely by the used car trade and the world of auctioneering, and is usually attributed to anything that is obsolete. It can be one year obsolete or 100 years obsolete, the whole question depending on the person trying to get rid of something and the person attracted into acquiring something.

At the recent Motorfair (a very appropriate name for the “goings on” at Earls Court) there was something of a stir in the ranks of Historic (!) Lotus owners over a sports/racer Lotus which was auctioned by Christies, and which someone bought for £27,000. It started with an article in the Daily Express by David Benson, in which this Lotus sports/racer was said to have been “completely restored to its original condition“.

Now, the “historic” aspect of this car was that it was not delivered to the man who ordered it, for the simple reason that he was killed before this Lotus arrived! Even if he had not been killed he would only have recieved a partly-completed Lotus; he intended to have an American engine fitted, so had ordered it without an engine.

Come the auction at Motorfair the catalogue “blurb” written by Christies to attract likely bidders was a riot of fun. It spent a lot of time telling you about this American man who never took delivery of this incomplete Lotus, and about the people who completed it and those who raced it in America.

The important aspect seemed to be its “historic” connections with the original man who never took delivery, or even set eyes on the car. He was a film star by the name of James Dean (and one of my older friends asked: “Who’s James Dean?”).

The “blurb” then got its knickers in a twist and kept on about a Lotus XIII when it meant Lotus VIII and then got muddled up between Lotus VIII and IX. Had Colin Chapman stuck to English numbers life would have been a lot easier. What Christies said was that the car was a Mark 13 when it meant a Mark 8, and then got muddled between Mark 8 and Mark 9 Lotus cars.

The derelict remains which returned from the USA to re-appear as a sparkling and pristine car at Motorfair were described as arriving in “tired but restorable condition”. The chassis frame was too “tired” to restore, as was the bodywork, so they were both replaced by new components — not unused stock from the Lotus factory, mark you.

Some of the bits and pieces from the derelict remains were transferred to the new chassis, but the thing that has upset the Historic Lotus people is that the end result is a Mark 9 chassis, whereas the original was a Mark 8, and the car that was auctioned bore little resemblance to the car that left the Lotus factory in 1955, and even that original car was a bit dubious.

They were early Lotus days before design and production really got into step, so the incomplete car that was sent to America in 1955 was something of a mish-mash. The chassis frame was Mark 8, the suspension and running gear was Mark 9, and the bodywork was Mark 10. “Experimental days” Colin Chapman would have called these.

What has been created today, by people totally unconnected with the Lotus factory, is a very nice copy of a Mark 9 Lotus sports/racer and what someone has bought is a brand new period-piece, of little or no significance; a nice toy nonetheless, but “historic”? Hmm!

For many years now Historics have been Hysterical, and now Colin Chapman’s homemade specials have joined the ranks. I really must dig out that old Formula One car that I have in the shed; it must be “historic” because it was never entered for the 1950 British Grand Prix, though it could have been. Eh! DSJ