Reading Gordon Cruickshank’s piece on Colin Chapman’s driving prowess, the writer’s enthusiasm for the Lotus founder is apparent. This may be why he has perpetuated a few Lotus myths.
It is true that Chapman, driving his Ford special, beat Dudley Gahagan’s Bugatti at Silverstone. However, the way the late Mr Gahagan recalled it, they raced each other three times that day, and twice the Bugatti finished first. But that account is not as flattering to the Lotus man or his marque.
The Lotus VI did not boast a space-frame chassis, but twin box-section tubes supplemented by a partially triangulated superstructure, a concept first seen on the Lotus III. Closer to spaceframes, although still not, were Derek Buckler’s tubular frames for Ford specials which pre-dated the VI; Chapman would have been well aware of them.
According to Frank Costin’s biography, Tony Vandervell called in the aerodynamicist first on the recommendation of employee Derek Wootton, and it was Costin who then recommended Chapman, not the other way round. The two men then collaborated on the Vanwall chassis before Costin went on to design the body.
Regarding Chapman’s retirement from racing, I recall a 1970s interview with the man in which he blamed insurance problems for his departure from the track. Apparently, his brokers could only cover him to fly or race — not both. As flying was more useful, he had to forego the racing. Whether it was that simple, one cannot tell; things in Chapman’s life rarely were.
I am, Yours etc, Charles Armstrong-Wilson, Croydon