Pat Dennis’ Mk. VI – POP 444
Why a Lotus?
The image of that car was indelibly burned into my memory, as clear today as it was in 1958. It was the sleekest, most purposeful shape I had ever seen.. I had only recently become interested in sports cars, having been totally immersed in racing boats for those early years. The car was a Lotus Eleven, a “single seater” type. It sat on an open trailer, painted to match the car and truck. Later I determined that it was returning from an event fairly close to the Midwestern city where I lived.
This one exposure was all that I needed to begin an interest in this young company that was making history on the world’s racetracks that continues today – many years later. I was captured by the innovation that was Lotus, Colin Chapman in particular. I think my Engineering Research & Development background made me appreciate the features and, especially the speed of development that Lotus excelled at.
Fourteen years after becoming a Lotus road car owner, I felt the strong desire to own a truly Historic Lotus. After much searching – and arm twisting, in 1985 I became the curator (you really do not own a historic Lotus, you are only the caretaker, charged with is care and maintenance until such time as you “pass it off” to the new caretaker) of a Lotus Mk VI, chassis # 39, reg. # POP 444. Several things seem to happen the minute you join the curators of Historic Lotuses – your circle of friends, acquaintances and contacts, expands exponentially from the more local group of other road type Lotus owners to an international fellowship of people interested in the preservation, cataloging and restoration of this relatively small quantity of very special Lotuses.
Why a Mk VI? There are several facts that are little known by most people; The Mk VI was:
The first Lotus manufactured in quantities greater than two.
The first car utilizing a space-tube chassis
The first Lotus to compete outside of England
The first Lotus to be imported into North America
The first thing an owner seems to do is join the Historic Lotus Register (HLR), trace the history of your Lotus and start the search of other such cars in your area. With the assistance of the HLR (Mk VI registrar Charles Helps, Vic Thomas, founder of the HLR), I quickly confirmed that POP, as my Mk VI is fondly referred to, was first owned by Ian H. Smith, the author of the first history books on Lotus ( ‘Lotus, the First Ten years’, ‘Lotus, the Story of the Marque’, and ‘The Story of Lotus – 1947-1960 Birth of a Legend’). As Ian had chronicled the building of POP in the first book, I had a detailed history – including such facts as the engine was built by Mike Costin (Mike was running a small division of Lotus, ‘Racing Engines Ltd’), he had specified Mk IX brakes (those 11″ magnesium finned items produced by Lotus), and knock-on wire wheels. Probably one of the most interesting facts was that Colin himself conducted the test drive (how many people can claim this!). Ian raced POP for two successful seasons – primarily Hill climbs, Sprints and several circuit races.
Ian went onto founding the original Club Lotus
and became a director of Caterham, when that facility was designated as an “official Lotus Centre” for the Seven and Type 14 Elite owners.
POP’s second owner was Roy Millbank, a farmer and racing enthusiast from the Shoebury areea. Roy raced the “wheels off of the car”, winning over 100 races on the well know circuits in England (Brands Hatch, Silverstone, among others).
Roy managed, through his driving skills and car preparation to keep this Mk VI more than competitive with much newer and more sophisticated (not to mention streamlined) adversaries. until it’s sale in 1960 – fully 6 years after its build date. The sale even was featured in the local newspaper.
With POP’s race years over, the car was simply maintained in original condition be several subsequent owners, Today, POP lives a much less stressful life, only used for exhibition races – the last one being at the Barber Motorsports facility in Birmingham, AL USA last month.
Today, POP attends many exhibits and shows and it provides the introduction for me to expound on the rich history of Lotus to both the newest Lotus owners and non-Lotus owners alike., a task that I dearly enjoy.
Thank you Pat Dennis for this excellent article.