I have not been able to find this on my reads. Is it a reference to the flower? I tend to associate Lotus (the flower) with eastern cultures which would seem a bit odd for Mid 20th century UK.
Why are the cars called Lotus?
The real answer is known by a small number of people, including Colin Chapman's widow Hazel, but no one is telling. Of course, this does not stop people from speculating. Here are some theories from Mike Causer:
a. Lotus fruit - the Oxford Concise says "fruit represented in ancient Greek legend as inducing luxurious dreaminess and distaste for active life". Working on the car certainly had the same effect.
b. Lotus flower - a different plant to the above, used symbolically in Hinduism and Buddhism. Nice name if you're going to chose one without a specific connection to what you're doing.
c. The reverse of "Us lot", apparently a favorite phrase of Colin Chapman's.
There is some suggestion that Hazel Chapman actually came up with the name Lotus.
One theory that is usually dismissed from the days when Colin Chapman was selling cars. The British government was rationing fuel and stopped issuing gasoline rations so people weren't buying cars. Colin Chapman started his career as a car builder with one of these unsold cars. Some people think that "Lotus" came from the phrase "LOT UNSOLD" or "LOT U/S".
The following story on this topic was posted to alt.fan.colin-chapman by Nori Saitoh ([email protected]):
I found a little story about ... why "Lotus" in a non-fiction
titled "Formula One: A Dream on the Earth" by Yasuhisa Ebisawa
(written in Japanese). The book was about Honda's Formula One
Grand Prix activities from the early 1960's to 1986.
It was summer of 1963 when Honda was looking for a partner in
Europe to join F1 Grand Prix Circus as an engine supplier in the
1964 season. Then Team Manager Yoshio Nakamura was visiting Cooper,
Brabham and Lotus to talk about a possible partnership. After
Nakamura has gone back to Japan, Colin Chapman visited Honda in
Tokyo and agreed to use the Honda engine for his team's second car
After discussing the plan, Nakamura invited Chapman to a night club
for a drink, where Chapman explained why he had named his cars "Lotus."
He said he was interested in Asian Philosophy when he was in college
and knew Lotus flower is a symbol for Nirvana in Buddhism. (A statue
of Buddha usually sits on a Lotus flower.)