Colin Chapmin Lotus Engineering, by Hugh Haskell. Osprey Automotive £25
This is so much more than a company or personal history. Haskell is an engineer who worked at Lotus in the ’60s, and he has the ability to explain in simple terms just why Chapman’s design skills were special, and how elegant the resulting solutions could be. Of course, there were talented engineers there who brought these ideas to reality, but we learn that Chapman’s strength was not purely innovation, but the ability to appraise the whole picture and instantly alter priorities for the best outcome.
It was more than just being clever; he also knew when not to be. Haskell cites the example of BRM beautifully fabricating tapered radius arms to save a few grammes, whereas Chapman specified a slightly heavier plain tube which was cheap and could be repaired at the track. The heavier part was more efficient because repairs are part of racing. Yet he often expected his drivers to skate on structural thin ice in the quest for lightness.
Haskell writes well for both layman and expert, explaining structural principles on the race and the road cars as well as the boats, aeroplanes and even furniture Chapman tackled, and interviewing the likes of Peter Wright, John Cooper and Gordon Murray for inside and outside views. I found this book illuminating and engrossing.