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The Secret Life of Colin Chapman

Submitted by on February 18, 2010

Colin ChapmanThe Lotus design philosophy has always held a special place in my heart. Much of the excitement in driving comes from the push and pull of physics as you test your skill and bravery against the meanderings of a great track or stretch of road. It is there, dancing on the raggedy edge of the perfect line, that the Lotus philosophy of light, agile cars excels.

“Any damn fool can build a bridge, that won’t fall down. But it takes a man of much greater skill to build a bridge that JUST won’t fall down” – Keith Botsford on Chapman’s design philosophy

The British motor industry after World War Two was stagnant, lacking in innovation and entrepreneurial vision. Likewise, British racing was in a sorry state, the prospect of a British champion an all but impossible dream. Colin Chapman was finishing up his education, racing cars he designed and gearing up to turn motor racing on its head.

The Secret Life of Colin Chapman is a riveting 5 part Channel 4 documentary; a no holds barred expose on the enigmatic rogue. It covers the rise of Chapman as a driver, designer and entrepreneur, charting his immeasurable contribution to the British automotive industry and sporting legacy.  His achievements are contrasted against concerns over the safety of his cars, his sportsmanship and the legality of his business practices.

No stone is left unturned and the documentary goes into fascinating detail investigating Chapman’s personal character, his relationship with Jim Clark, the deaths of his hero racing drivers, money, parties and the DeLorean controversy that stained his final days. Most interesting are the frank and uncensored accounts from friends, co-workers and journalists who knew him best.

“He was a genius and he was a rogue. Definitely a genius and allegedly a rogue” – Graham Arnold, Lotus Sales Director 1963 – 1981

I won’t spoil the details for you. Suffice it to say that The Secret Life of Colin Chapman is definitely worth a watch. With Lotus back on the scene, it serves as an incredibly frank reminder of what Chapman was really like and what it took for him, or even what it cost him, to achieve such staggering success.

Seth Reinhardt

The Secret Life of Colin Chapman (5 Part Series):

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