Oliver Winterbottom’s story of the Lotus M50 project

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Marcus
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Oliver Winterbottom’s story of the Lotus M50 project

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The text is extracted from a presentation that Oliver made in ..............To a group of about 30 people in Holland???? (Does anybody know when and where??)

It is available to be viewed on You Tube with some annoying text in the middle of the screen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGHLRHvhDuA

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After 10 years at Jaguar, Oliver Winterbottom joined Lotus in 1971 to help to develop the upmarket cars that started with the Elite and the Eclat. One can say that the whole projected started on 14th Nov 1967 – when the directors at Lotus issued a specification for a 4 seater Lotus – the project started enthusiastically, but then the directors and staff lost enthusiasm.

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Oliver said that by the time he got there in 1971, people were sad at the factory, (he did not explain specifically as to why, but I think he refers to a project, designed by John Frayling which had been scrapped at the time that he arrived)

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Oliver said that he was told that it was an aerodynamic disaster, or perhaps he was just given an excuse to scrap the project. So, for Oliver a quick baptism at Lotus was to cut the fins off the Europa and add some new paint colours, and then he was told that we need a new 4 seater car.

So, on the first Saturday morning in March 1971, while Oliver was at his drawing board, he was joined by Mr Kimberley, Chapman and Rudd, in the course of the morning, they basically came up with the Lotus Elite design which actually went into production. (Oliver actually said that it was very little difference to the finished car).
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The following Monday morning, Oliver started to draw the car properly, as an engineering package - some 2 weeks later a 1:4 scale models produced.
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This model was produced before the introduction of the requirement for strong bumpers, had less bright metal that the finished product (it was Colin Chapman wanted the “glittery bright parts” ) Oliver said that Colin Chapman would approve the design of the car, if it was good aerodynamically.

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So, a lot of time was spent at the wind tunnel for models at Specialised Moulding’s at Huntingdon and at MIRA. They went to the wind tunnel 6 or 7 times, each time with a small modifications, especially around the front of the car, and before the large American bumpers were thought of. This eventually became a landmark, low lift and low drag car.

Meanwhile, Colin Chapman designed the backbone chassis and rear suspension over a weekend at his home. Oliver refers to the design as a scheme, as the details were not worked out. Both Messrs’ Kimberley and Rudd said that the rear suspension would not work, Chapman said it would, and it did, so Chapman was right. (I do recall speaking to Tony Rudd in Ibizia, and one thing I do recall him saying he had tremendous arguments about suspension design with Colin Chapman)

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With the basic concept approved, in May and June 1971 they moved to a full-size model made in body filler on top of foam. This model was made as real as possible, for example, the wheels had a bit cut off the bottom to simulate sitting on the road, and the number plate actually came off Oliver’s road car. The model had wheels that were made from glass fibre, sprayed with aluminum and then polished. The tyres had the bottom bit cut off, so that they sat properly on the road.

To be Continued

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