Hornsey Lotus Factory



The first Lotus factory was located  at
7 Tottenham Lane,  Hornsey, North London

The showroom and office on the right was added by the Lotus Engineering Company, formed on 1st Jan 1952 by Colin Chapman, to exisiting buildings that were next to the Railway Hotel pub run by Colin's father, Stanley Frank Chapman












The Lotus Exige is parked next to the building, showing its current use as a builder's merchants






The photo on the right shows a chassis being lifted and demonstrating its lightness, next to the Lotus transporter, with Ribblesdale Road behind

It was in
Ribblesdale Road that chassises were fabricated by Progress Chassis Company










Progress Chassis Company was founded in the early 1950s by John Teychenne, an old school friend of Colin Chapman - when Colin lived with his parents at the Railway Hotel, John was based just over Tottenham Lane, at 19 Ribblesdale Road





A Lotus Elite, the first GRP monocoque car, is in the showroom here, with three Lotus Eleven race cars parked out the front













From the look of the number roundels ready on these cars, they could well be the trio of Lotus 11s that competed very successfully at Le Mans in 1956






This Sales invoice for an Elite shows the Lotus Engineering Co. directors as A. C. B. Chapman, S. F. Chapman and H. P. Chapman - Colin, his father Stanley, Frank and his wife Hazel

















The plaque commenmorating Colin Chapman's work placed there by Club Lotus is on the right, is visible by the Exige by the roller door





















The team are hard at work in the workshop here and Colin also shows a variety of skills, designing on the drawing board and behind the welding mask - when the new showroom building was added, Colin had a drawing office upstairs





































The ubiquitous Lotus Seven was launched from Hornsey ans was available as a kit of parts, as shown above, to avoid purchase tax















This is actually a Lotus VI, the predecessor to the Seven, but the photo just shows the pub sign for the Railway Hotel behind

The Exige is parked between the Showroom/office building and the pub, which has changed names a few times since then



















Some great shots here of the press launch of the Lotus 16 Grand Prix car, behind the pub in the rear garden









Stanley Chapman, Colin's father, stands to the left of the car with a drink in his hand





Below drivers, Graham Hill, Innes Ireland (with pipe) and Alan Stacey, stand to the right, along with Colin Chapman (in hat) and Mike Costin, with the Lotus 16 chassis and engine in the pub back garden, with Hornsey railway station behind  





















Mike Costin would go on to form Cosworth, wih partner Keith Duckworth and the bonds formed with Colin Chapman would bear future fruit, in the form of the Cosworth DFV engine in the Lotus 49 - Graham Hill spent some time as a mechanic for Team Lotus but talked his way into the cockpit and, after a stint at BRM, he returned to Lotus to win the F1 World Championship in 1969 in the Cosworth DFV powered Lotus 49 - Alan Stacey competed in the Lotus 16 and the Lotus 18 Grand Prix cars from 1958 to 1960, when he was tragically killed at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, reportedly by an accident caused by a bird striking his head at around 120 mph                   





Cheshunt Lotus Factory




The second Lotus factory was located at Delamare Road, Cheshunt, Waltam Cross

Lotus moved to these new, purpose made two unit factory premises shown below, in June 1959 - the new location was only around 10 miles up the A10 from from the old factory in Hornsey


 



Operations for the lotus Elite and Lotus Seven road cars and the Lotus 15 and Lotus 16 Formula cars were relocated here and the  premises was declared officially open on 14th Oct 1959







The company was also restructured into a group including Lotus Components Ltd, which  produced sports racing cars, Lotus Cars Ltd, which manufactured the Elite and Lotus Developments Ltd, which developed new models and was headed up Mike Costin







The Exige is parked by the main office here, showing the appearance today











The shot below shows the second building behind the Exige and its current use as a gym - the existance of the very large girder for the sign on the left is probably hard to explain, without seeing it used to lift down completed Lotus Sevens above


















The prodcution of the unique Lotus Elte GRP monocoque bodies was suncontracted to Bristol Aeroplane company, after an initial un of 250 with Maximar Mouldings, in a deal signed by Colin Chapman and they would arrive six at a time on transporter lorries


































The Lotus Elan started production at Cheshunt in 1962 - the 1500 lbs lightweight design used a GRP body over a steel backbone chassis, rumoured to have been a test rig originally devised to test the suspension geometry and drivetrain but was retained for its excellent characteristics






















In Jan 1963 the Lotus Cortina was launched and then exhibited at the Earls Court Motor Show

All completed Lotus Cortinas were driven down this ramp at the Cheshunt factory







Colin Chapman had been working with Ford for some time on a joint project and this eventually became the Lotus Cortina

Work with a standard car from Ford had been secretly going on since 1962 at Cheshunt and Jim Clark tested the prototype at the Silverstone circuit and contributed to its development





The photo above shows the current view of the ramp leading down to the roadway between the two buildings








The assembly area area for the Lotus Cortina was on the 1st floor of a new two storey extention built behind the exisiting office/factory unit

A winch was used to bring Cortina shells into the area and the ramp was used to drive the completed cars down to the road






Team Lotus was also based at Cheshunt and celebrated incredible success with immensely innovative designs during the 1960s - the incomparable driving talents of Jim Clark were, of course, a major factor in these achievements

The Lotus 25 Grand Prix car, the first monocoque chassis car, was produced at Cheshunt in 1962 - it was plagued with reliability issues that year and just failed to bring home the F1 title but in 1963, with a lighter and refined design, the Lotus 25 and Jimmy Clark totally dominated and accumuated the maximum possible 54 points

Clark won the Drivers World Championship and Lotus the Constructors World Championship





In 2015 the plaque below, commemorating the achievements of Colin Chapman, Jim Clark and all of Team Lotus, in winning both the 1965 F1 World Championship and the Indy 500, was placed on the wall of the former Lotus Seven assembly area


Many very notable people attended the event, as shown in the video on the left, including Hazel Chapman (Colin's wife), Clive Chapman (Colin's son), Bob Dance (Jim Clark's Chief Mechanic), Cedric Selzer (Team Lotus Mechanic) and Mike Costin (Lotus Development Director) 













On the left is the Lotus 38 at Cheshunt with the Team Lotus and below at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, thhe Indy 500











The Lotus 38 was the first mid-engined car to win the indy 500 and the Lotus design permanently chnaged the face of American IndyCar racing in that all cars were previously front engined roadsters but all chnaged to mid-engined designs



By the mid 1960s Colin Chapman wanted to have his own test track and also wanted to further expand car production - actually a proposal for development of the Cheshunt site was drawn up but planning application was refused

For these reasons, a larger site further afield was sort...






Hethel Lotus Factory





The third and current Lotus factory is located in Potash Lane, Hethel, Norfolk


Lotus relocated to Hethel in 1966 from their second location in Cheshunt

The Grand Prix developments of Team Lotus was also based at Hethel from 1966 but moved in 1976 to a new HQ at Ketteringham Hall, which is only a few miles from Hethel as can be seen on the map - click for more on Ketteringham Hall
























Norfolk County Council had purchased the former site of RAF Hethel after WW2, which had been unused since its closure in 1948, and Lotus aquired the land in 1966

Colin Chapman had wanted a test track, which the Cheshunt factory did not allow, and the two runways at Hethel were an ideal solution and were retained for that very purpose, as well as providing take off and landing facilities for Colin's aircraft

Construction on a new building for the offices facilties and car assembly was started in July 1966 and operations were moved from Cheshunt to Hethel in November 1966, with the official opening in early 1967


















RAF Hethel, as seen above (hover over to see the test track location over the runways), was transfereed to USAAF (United States of America Air Force) in WW2 and as Station 114, was used by the 320th, 310th and 389th Bombardment Groups






















The larger Hethel factory saw Lotus to increase turnover by 30% in one year and saw the evolution of three compaines and their repective car productions -  Lotus Cars producing the Lotus Seven, the Lotus Elan, the Lotus Plus 2 Elan and and the new mid-engined Lotus Europa - Lotus Components producing racing cars for the sales market - Team Lotus, developing and running cars in Formula 1, 2, 3, Formula Ford, Formula Junior, Sports car racing and Indycar

The 1970s saw Lotus move more into the luxury, high performance sports car markey with new  Lotus Elite in 1974, the Lotus Eclat in 1975 and the mid-engined Lotus Esprit in 1976
















































GRP Body shells at Hethel undergoing laying-up of fibreglass matting ready for the VARI (Vacuum Assisted Resin Injection) process








Lotus 910 Turbo engine under insection/test at Hethel







Lotus Esprit rolling chassis & engine being prepared for mating to the body shell






Lotus Esprit production line at Hethel









This video of a factory visit and tour in 1984 shows the various production areas at Hethel and assembly of the Lotus Esprit































The Lotus Hethel test track started as the remnants of the RAF Hethel runways but has been developed greatly over the years


This is the track in 1
991 within minimal changes to the runways, save for the uneeded parts being sold off to the surrounding farms - the original runway markings are still visible and the also the line of the full length of the runway into the field









By 2018 the track had undergone a complete refurbishment and was an FIA specification test circuit

The Lotus Driving Academy now boats a
2.2 miles circuit that has akk the required varying radius/length bends and varying length straights - the track is also, of course, used to test and develop new Lotus designs





 



Lotus now offers the Handmade in Hethel factory tour and test track drive for purchasers of new cars










The Hethel buildings have grown in number over the years and now occupy a very large area along Potash Lane - click here for the google maps satellite view

Classic Team Lotus are also located across Potash Lane from the factory - The company, run by Colin's son Clive Chapman,  supports many of the original Team Lotus cars and endures they are kept fully competition ready




The Lotus Exige V6 Cup, which has appeared at all Lotus factory locations in Hornsey, Cheshunt and now Hethel, appears below under assembley - the Cup cars are uniquely transferred from the road car assembly line into the motorsport area for completion