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The Secret Life of Colin Chapman


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I confess I had seen this on Youtube several months ago, and have probably watched it 3 or 4 times since. I was reluctant to post about it though, since I was uncertain of the age of the program, and I was very certain that it might generate some pretty heated discussion. I can't recall which forum I visited regarding this program, but that forum's discussion was very polarized.

Not that anyone is asking, but I found the program was really good. It seems many who have seen it, though, saw it only as though it portrayed Chapman negatively (I do not see it that way). Nevertheless, a very very interesting show.

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it only as though it portrayed Chapman negatively (I do not see it that way). Nevertheless, a very very interesting show.

I think it portrayed him as a classic British bounder and a genius and a man who was very much of his time who was always looking to push the envelope whether it was in engineering or tax law.

Very interesting though.

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"Champan could have been a hitler" ? LOL

"flying fag packets" :lol:

I think it too was a bit negative, on the F1 side, LOADS of drivers died not just Lotus drivers.

Yes drivers complained about the cars but they never complained about being world champion...

Ronnie Peterson would never have died if they'd have recognised and treated his wounds sooner, they did not consider his injuries serious enough to warrent immediate hopital treatment.

On the Delorean front, Chapman was a business man, he did nothing more than business men do today, the only difference is people then went to jail, people now walk away with XX million pay offs and a massive pension - how times change. He gambled and lost, if Delorean had been the success it promised no one would have been the wiser.

The main difference is Colin is dead and cannot defend or sue anyone from the grave, which would probably kept some stories quiet.

Love the story at the beginning of pt5 though about the drunk night out :D

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I've got it on DVD, loved it! Agree, it showed Chapman as a human being, gave a rare insight to the people that worked with him first hand and what he expected of the people around him.

The Delorean affair was merely a tool for survival, he felt annoyed that he'd been asking for development funds from the government several times, then this yank rocks up and gets a hand out for what was in essence, a floored idea, Chapman merely took what he felt was reasonable to develop the idea. Note Porsche would have taken twice as long with twice as much money, a credit to Chapmans genius.

I've read the book as well, couldn't put it down!

Adding power makes you faster on the straights. Subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere.

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Cheers for posting this have just watched part 1 and found it full of info that i had not heard before, new to me this delorean scandal did not even know chapman was involved! you learn somthing new everyday! good effort will watch the rest later on.

Bulkheads made of paper, painted silver :lol:

Many thanks :D regards danny


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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for sharing, will watch all of them for sure

Attached links to two old articles from the vehicle dynamics magazine.

The first one is more positve, the second one a bit less, so the balance is right :-)

Enjoy !

Matt Becker

John Miles remembers Colin Chapman



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Guest mkelite

i saw this series when it was first shown on the tv. the point is, without doubt Mr Chapman was an engineering genius, however some of the advances were also credit to his team. as Mr Chapman assumed most of the credit at the time for development of the cars and the company - some thought that maybe he stole some of their thunder so to speak. as he can no longer speak up for himself i think its now unfair to make negative comments about his business accumen and the Lotus company as a whole. dare i say it Mr Delorean, although again a superb businessman, has always been a bit 'shady'. past events have shown his business dealings with attempts to raise capital and media attention are open to discussion. back to Mr Chapman, he will always remain one of my life heroes from the point of view that he always pushed the boundaries to explore and excell in his craft, to expand his business, his interest in all automotive, boat technology and microlight/aircraft interests. it would also be honest to say that if we were in his position at the time, we would also take any advantage - hopefully on the right side of the law - to exploit making a few bob! i do hope that during that time he did make his wife and family very financially secure for the future. you simply cant take away what Mr Chapman has achived. he is one of a few unique individuals from that era. please also look at what Jem Marsh of Marcos Cars has achieved too. Jem Marsh is also one of my life heroes together with Robert Jankel of Panther Cars. these types of fighters do not exist in the same vein today. we wouldnt still be buying Lotus cars this long after Mr Chapmans passing if his pure spirit did not remain at the Lotus factory. so in my waffle i summarise to say; documentary on a charactor or company after their passing is unfair. the truth can never be retorted and defended. it shouldnt need to be. there is so many 'fat cats' in industry today who make blatant mistakes, many unlawful, and simply get away with it - and get a golden handshake too!.

Hey! i think i better get off my soapbox for the day! but i hope you know where i coming regards guys.

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MJK refused to be a part of it, which is why (if I remember rightly) you don't see him interviewed despite being Colins Right Hand Man and one of his best friends.

If I remember rightly he thought that it could only damage Colins reputation and how people remembered him. They did portray him as a bit of a bounder and though they celebrated Colins ingenuity it was always with a previso that he was flaunting rules rather than pushing the boundaries.

"Rules are for the observance of fools and the guidance of the wise" Colin said many times to his staff....Bit like his "Mike there are 14 days to every week, today, tonight, tomorrow, tomorrow night etc etc". Today he'd be had up on both Health and safety and breaking EU rules. Then you either slept in the factory on a sofa or looked for another job!

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What people have to keep in context is those were the days of common sense, or you'd be judging a man of yester-years way of thinking on today's rules.

One example is an engineering genius such as Brunell, today he wouldn't have got off the ground, back then he was a master of his time. His work and safety killed hundreds of his own workers, squandered, what would be millions of pounds in our time, of public funds - I know very few un-flawed people who have done largely great things.

I'm sure many people had an axe to grind with Chapman, but name a business man who didn't have that reputation ? There are very few.

On the engineering side, I agree Champan didn't have all the answers but by golly that was few and far between. Again though times change, nowadays the boss and the driver are always praising the engineering teams and so on, back then it was the boss who took the credit as well as the fall in companies - this is why I think that a lot of the critisism is unfair, it was across the boad. All I can say is look at when Chapmans last F1 throw of the dice was banned, what did Lotus do with 10 years in F1 after that...sod all to be fair.

There is a paragraph in the Esprit book about the design of the chassis where the engineers brace the back of the two suspension turrets with a 'top hat' profile (it's the bit that goes over the gearbox, under the boot floor) Colin wanted it taken off as it was not necessary, but the engineers argued it should be left on - as usual Colin got his way and the car was tested without it and found to be a lot less stable. The engineers knew they had one on the old man but he never formally admitted it....thats just the way he was.

What was another saying I heard..."on mechanical things you could question Colin's judgement, but you never told him anything about composites and GRP"

I dont agree with the fact he was only flaunting rules (I know thats not what you said Kimbers) but again look what Brawn / Red bull done to the F1 teams this year, part and parcel of that is taking the rules and seeing which ones can be swayed to your favour (isn't Lotus' own moto "break the rules ?". There are so many Lotus 1sts, or Lotus joint 1sts out there in car design and F1 and if you watch Top Gear these modern car companys are STILL trying to re-invent his concepts from the 50's.

Simplify and add light weight

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I, too, remember watching it when it was on TV and remember it as taking pains to damage Colin's reputation, trying to take away credit from him for some of his innovations and making him out to be a drug abuser. It was made clear that he, and others, took tablets to stay awake and others to go to sleep. But that was in the 50's when taking barbiturate tablets to get to sleep was nothing unusual. The series ran other hatchet jobs on other heroes of the time such as James Hunt and Murray Walker has gone on record as being very sorry he agreed to be interviewed for that episode as his remarks were taken out of context to besmirch James' reputation.

It pigs me off when people who have contributed nothing to this world go out of their way to bring down others who have.

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