The new year is cause for celebration in itself, but it has an even deeper meaning for Lotus lovers. This day also enacted an important feature that saved many lives.
The New Year is carried in the spirit of exuberant celebrations and fireworks accompanied by the popping of champagne bottles. In 1952, Colin Chapman may also have hit a few pegs on New Year’s Day, and there is no doubt that the joy must have been great. On New Year’s, he founded the Lotus Engineering Company brand and brought the Mark VI model to the world, the first car he designed and produced in a larger number, specifically 101 units.
The Mark VI was followed in the footsteps of its five predecessors. The Mark III in particular enjoyed success on the race track, prompting Colin to think about offering the car to the public. It had an Austin engine, a modern chassis and brakes, and it could hit up to 160 km/h around the circuit. In 1953, the racing organization 750 Motor Club allowed the use of custom chassis, which opened the door for Chapman to build his own space frame. And so the Mark VI was born.
The tubular steel frame weighed just 25kg and the aluminum body only added another 15kg to the base. In mid-1952, the first prototype equipped with a fifteen-seat Ford Consul was registered.
Racing success came the same year at Silverstone, where the team took three second places and third place in the next event. Unfortunately, the first prototype had an accident with a truck, so it did not enter further races, but it showed its potential.
In the second half of the year, Colin Chapman fully launched the production of parts for series production and in early 1953 he delivered the first finished pieces to clients. A big attraction for the public was the wide range of alternative parts allowing for different tunings and several mounting points for installing a wide range of engines. Due to the lower tax burden, the car was sold as a kit. Automobiles were among the luxury goods taxed at almost 50 percent. There was no tax on kits, so a finished Lotus Mark VI cost around £400 at the time. Production ran until 1955.
In addition, automobile safety also celebrated an important milestone on New Year’s Day. With the beginning of 1937, the regulation to use a safety windshield came into force. This broke into small pieces in the event of an accident and greatly reduced the risk of injury to the crew. Until then, ordinary glass was used, which produced large pieces with sharp edges.
The safety version had a sandwich structure, where the outer and inner panels were separated by a new type of plastic called polyvinyl butyral. The plastic intermediate layer to increase safety was experimented with almost 30 years ago. Flexible plastic was first used in 1909 by the French chemist Edouard Benedictus.
Lotus Cars is a British car manufacturer focused on the production of sports cars. It was founded in London in 1952 by Colin Chapman. Lotus was and is again active in F1 racing as well.
In 1994, the bankrupt car company was bought by Malaysian Proton.
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