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Hello All,

I figured as everyone else before me has done, I would write a short excerpt about my experiences with Group Lotus as well as Classic Team Lotus.

I'll first start with Classic Team Lotus as I went there first. I one to start by thanking Sapphire Whitbread for being such an excellent host during my time at Classic. They were extremely busy last wednesday during my visit as they were getting all of the cars ready for the Goodwood Festival of Speed, yet Sapphire took a good hour and a half to show me around the small, humble workshops that make up Classic.

Lotus_1 by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

Lotus_4 by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

When I first arrived in my small right-hand-drive Vauxhall corsa this was the sight that greeted me. My girlfriend and I were a bit worried as we didnt want to trespass. But shortly after making our way through the fence, a friendly mechanic showed up the way to the main office where we meet Sapphire. Sitting right outside the office was the 1987 Lotus 99T enjoying the beautiful sunny day. From this moment forward, I knew it would be an excellent experience at Classic.


Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

After a short wait our tour with Sapphire began, She started with a short history Classic Team Lotus which I have stolen from the Pamphlet provided to me.

"Team Lotus revolutionized and dominated Formula One in the Sixties. Free thinking, excellent design, hard work and competitive cunning are the perfect combination for success on the track, then as now, and that is what Team Lotus had more of than anyone else. Three World Championships were the product. Colin Chapman led Team Lotus to victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500 and recognized the commercial potential of the sport. Sponsorship enabled him to realize more and more ambitious design ideas so that Team Lotus continued to lead the way into the Seventies, winning four more World Championships. In 1982 Colin Chapman died suddenly. His Team Lotus cohorts took on the challenge of racing without him. Brilliantly they steered the Lotus marque back to victory. However, by the Nineties the team was struggling and withdrew from F1 at the end of 1994, but not before establishing Classic Team Lotus. Classic team Lotus is all about the Spirit of the Marque. Clive Chapman, a UCL Engineer, like his father, works alongside a number of original Team lotus personnel and younger mechanics. Based in the original workshops at Hethel, Classic Team Lotus maintains the Chapman Family Works Collection of Team Lotus F1 cars. More importantly it provides a comprehensive Historic Motorsport service to owners of Team Lotus racing cars from around the World; for restoration, maintenance, operation and competition."

After this brief introduction to Classic, we stepped into the most amazing room I have ever stepped foot in. It was a treasure trove of cars but more importantly, of passion for the Lotus tradition. This workshop was a true mechanics workshop with a faint smell of oil and petrol. The room was slightly messy with old formula one parts, some broken some restored scattered about. The cars that were in this room were some of the most famous cars to have ever raced they included the 1957 Lotus 12, Ayrton Senna's 1985 97T, Nigel Mansell's 1983 94T, Mario Andretti's 1978/79 79, and Mario Andretti's 1976 77. (Picture below, and if any of the cars are incorrectly identified, please let me know) I was like a kid in a candy shop at this point. I had read about these cars online and had seen various pieces of footage with the sights and sounds. But having such remarkable pieces of history standing in front of me left me awestruck for while a while. My girlfriend kept rolling her eyes at me since I had an ear-to-ear smile on my face. I was so excited to see where these cars were kept and where the history was kept alive. I loved seeing all the shelves with old transmission components and body panels laying everywhere. This reminded me much of my working style in engineering, lay everything in an orderly mess.

1957 Lotus 12

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

Ayrton Senna's 1985 97T

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr


Nigel Mansell's 1983 94T

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr
(In Back- Sorry no great photos of the 94T)

Mario Andretti's 1978/79 79

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr


Mario Andretti's 1976 77

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr


There was only one other room with which they repaired and maintained the cars. During my visit this room had the 1990 102, Jim Clark's 1962 25, and the Lotus 49. Unlike the other room, there were mechanics actively working to prepare the cars for Goodwood. While I was in here I got to have a brief conversation with Bob Dance, who has been with Team Lotus since the 60s. We spoke of his efforts in building and constructing Clark's Lotus 25 and all the trouble the team used to get into while traveling around for the races. He also told us that the buildings where Classic was located were the original buildings that were used for medical operations during WWII. He told us that these buildings were used originally both for the road cars and for formula one, but the road car assembly was moved after the formula one mechanics were caught "borrowing" parts from them. What a man! I hope to someday have such an amazing job where I get to play with race cars everyday! It was so refreshing to walk in to such an amazing place that held such a rich history of racing. My girlfriend and I were both extremely impressed especially considering that our visit to the Ferrari factory/museum a few weeks prior was a much different experience. Unlike Ferrari where there is a cold, white museum; Classic is still filled with passion, life, and love for these classic automobiles. I hope that you all get the chance to visit such a magnificent place. :UK:


Lotus_2 by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

1990 102

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr
(This car was being rebuilt after a small front end collision during a track day)

Jim Clark's 1962 25

Lotus_3 by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr

Lotus 49

Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr


I hope you enjoyed my brief overview of Classic Team Lotus. Now onto Group Lotus. Sorry I dont have more photos they were adamant about no photos. The two I got were taken in the parking lot where the security guard came and yelled at me. :thwack:

I returned to Hethel on Friday after a wonderful visit to Classic. I had high expectations as my visit to Classic was everything I had hoped lotus would be and more. Sadly Group Lotus fell far short of my expectations. I signed up for the Lotus Driving Academy Level 1 as this would be my third time on the track, my first in a Lotus. The day started with a short greeting from the driving instructors and tour guides that would be with us for the day. Then it was off to my first instruction in the elise. My driving instructor, Steve Darbey, was excellent and immediately picked up on a few of my bad habits and pointed them out to me. One of my biggest issues was finding 2nd gear (I was driving a right-hand drive). He first slowed down my rush to change gears :shift:. This enabled me to ease my way into 2nd and make consistance changes around the two hairpins on the test track. As a note, the north circuit at the test track is simple and yet complex with two late apex turns that are quite deceiving and required preemptive thinking in order to correctly hit them well. I really enjoyed this track. By the end of my driving instruction, I was starting almost an entire lap down from the other three cars and after a few laps we were right up behind the last one. I think that Steve did a great job helping me find the correct line and braking points and I think this was a direct result of that.

The factory tour was also a pretty cool experience as I was able to see were my exige (along with all of your cars were built) I was surprised at how large the factory actually was! Our tour guide, Richard, was a really funny man and told many funny stories about Mr. Colin Chapman. One includes the rumor as to how Mr. Chapman got the name LOTUS. Rumor has it, that during the early days of Colin's career he was at a car auction where he was trying to sell one of his custom tuned cars. Sadly, the car sat unsold. When Colin went to pick up the car the windshield still had the markings from the auction. It read LOT US (unsold) as they had brought it to the lot for the cars that had not sold. While no one knows truly is this is the real story, I like it. Now onto the actual factory. They have two assembly lines currently, one of the small chassis cars (elise and exige) and one for the large chassis cars (evora). There assembly line seemed like a modular style were all of the parts were created in various parts of the factory and then assembled together. I enjoyed seeing the bare chassis with the excess epoxy showing as I didnt realize just how spartan the construction truly was. After seeing the chassis assembly area, we went into the inspection area were every car is tested to make sure it is of proper lotus quality :wallbang: They had a rolling dyno to test all the electronics and engine mechanicals. They also had a water chamber to test the excellent weather stripping that we all have. Finally they have the area were they inspect the paint to make sure there are no defects. Once the car has made it through this point it just needs one final thing, the LOTUS badge on the front. This is what symbolizes that the car is a proper and finished Lotus, a cool sight to see. While the factory had many cool aspects, it was also extremely sad to only see a few people working there with both of the assembly lines closed and these few people finishing up a few cars. I know Lotus is currently between a rock and a hard place, but I hope that things turn out for the best.

Now onto my disappointment with Group Lotus. While neither my girlfriend or I could put our fingers on one thing exactly, we both left Group Lotus with a sour taste in our mouths. We felt as thought the guides at Lotus were very insincere throughout the entire day. After our amazing experience at Classic we had thought the Group Lotus would be similar with an excited group of individuals that cared and cherished the products that they helped produced. Sadly, we did not feel as though this was the case. Instead we felt like they were trying to move people through the factory experience as quickly as possible with no real personal involvement. I hate that this is how I am ending this overview but sadly this is the feelings that I had leaving Group Lotus. While I am still in love with my exige and have no ill feelings towards Group Lotus, I think that our cars were built and designed during a time when the spirit at Lotus was much closer to that of Classic, and I hope that spirit is restored once more.


Untitled by cyclingdude723, on Flickr


For the rest of the pictures I didn't post check them out here
Lotus - a set on Flickr
 

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Gamera The Atomic Turtle
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probably tough for those bloaks to maintain morale right now. Nice post - really enjoyed it. thanks
 

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probably tough for those bloaks to maintain morale right now. Nice post - really enjoyed it. thanks
+1 on that, I was there in the fall and the staff at Group were as friendly, enthusiastic and as accommodating as those at CTL
 

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Amazing!!! Thanks for sharing such a good write-up!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
+1 on that, I was there in the fall and the staff at Group were as friendly, enthusiastic and as accommodating as those at CTL
Those were my immediate thoughts as well as I know it has been a tough past few months. Hopefully thinks will get moving again and Goodwood helps reenergize the marque
 

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I took my tour after a layoff and I could see that folks were tense and unhappy.

Lotus has never been an easy place to work. There is much pride in the Lotus workforce and much sadness. I wish Lotus and its employees the very best.
 
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