Although the first car built by Colin Chapman was in 1947 at the time he called it the Austin 7 Special. In 1949 the first car he called a Lotus was built. This was a car which could be used as a practical road car as well as a trials competition car and was fitted with a Ford engine. In 1941 Chapman built the Lotus MKIII which competed in the new 750 Formula which often beat cars of double the engine size.
The Lotus Engineering Company was formed on 1st January 1952 when the first production Lotus, the MK VI, was built. Racing success with the MK VI in 1953 encouraged Chapman to upgrade the MK VI with a 1.5 Litre MG engine which beats the works Porsche in the Sports Car Race before the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Lotus had arrived and new cars were being ordered and built.
In 1957 an updated version of the MK VI appeared called the Seven. This was so successful that it is still in production today and now called the Caterham Seven.
In 1959 Lotus moved to a purpose built factory in Cheshunt. This factory was needed to build the revolutionary Lotus Elite. The 1960s showed steady growth of Lotus both on the race track where Jim Clarke won two world championships and in the market place with the new Lotus Elan, which is still thought by many to be the best ever sports car, and in collaboration with Ford the Lotus Cortina. The new D.F.V engine from Cosworth brought further F1 success and Lotus won at Indianapolis.
Soon the rear engine Europa followed and the Lotus Seven was sold off to Caterham Cars. More cars were being built for a higher income bracket and Lotus moved to Hethel near Norwich in Norfolk. In the 1970s Lotus was a continuing success story in all the single seat formulae but sports car racing had virtually ceased. The Elite and the Eclat soon followed and also the two seat Coupe the Esprit.