Newsletter November 2009 – Number 17

  1. Contemporaries and Peers – Progress Chassis Company
  2. Museums around the world (one you will have heard of)
  3. Questions from our readers
  4. Automobiles by Architects – Book Review
  5. The little Lotus museum (as promised)
  6. Lotus books (recommended reading)
  7. Lotus books(one for the library)
  8. Lotus collectables
  9. Lotus interest on YouTube

All previous articles relating to these are held on the website.

1. Contemporaries and Peers

Progress Chassis Company

The editors have been using this section as a “build up”. It has also been used to give advance credit to those that made significant contributions to Colin and Lotus cars. There are other names to follow and no particular priority has been given. These series of articles have been undertaken to record with due justice those that helped but who did not always receive proportionate recognition.

It will also serve to place the achievements in better perspective. A further advantage of this approach is that it helps us appreciate the value of team work and how mutual respect and shared standards might be adopted. Colin Chapman and Lotus were astute in their incorporation of extraordinarily gifted craftsmen / engineers who helped overcome problems and modest beginnings. Lastly it is hoped that it can explain the necessity of theory and practice; design and craft execution and that they remain fundamental to harmonious problem resolution.

Progress Chassis

John Teychenne was the founder of Progress Chassis Co. He was joined by Dave Kelsey, Frank Coltman and others in the early 1950’s.

John and Colin had attended Scholl together and had been boy hood friends. Colin had lived with his parents at the Railway Hotel in Tottenham Lane until they moved to Muswell Hill. John was based at 19 Ribblesdale Road on the other side of Tottenham Lane. When Colin’s dad Stan gave Colin use of the stable block to work from; John was only 100 yards or so away. [See photographs]

Progress 000

.How John developed his welding skills has not been elaborated but he had the motivation and resources to create his own special. There has been a suggestion that there was some learning on the job. It is possible that Len Terry might have made a contribution to the design or construction. [With some overlap; please see our article on Williams and Pritchard and other contemporaries]

The proximity, the friendship, and shared interest in motorsport made for a potent local net work. This enabled introductions to be made and reputations communicated.

It’s possible that John and his team might have contributed to the chassis of the early Lotus trials cars or they might have made or adapted components.

The first major complete chassis that is attributed to Chapman and Progress is the Clairmonte Special.
This car had many very advanced features and is particularly well described in Peter Ross’s book. [Please also see photographs].

Progress 002 Progress 003

The Lotus Mk.VI

Colin had developed the Mk.VI essentially for the 1172 Formula that had been proposed by the 750 Motor Club. He also hoped that the car might also be made eligible for national class racing up to 1500cc.

To these ends the first car was built up with considerable help of the Allen brothers. [Nigel and Michael were to make such a significant contribution that it is intended to devote an entire article to them. This will follow shortly]

Dave Kelsey was to comment when he first saw the first Mk.VI,
“The car was immaculate in unpainted aluminium, gleaming in the Sunday morning sunshine but I had no way to know that this was to be the forerunner of a whole new breed of car …………….. It was revelatory, therefore to see this shiny, nest two seater – engine lost in spacious and spotless engine compartment, exhaust burbling twin SU carburettors, rocking gently as Nigel blipped the throttle. I already knew Colin could make a car go, having watched the Lotus Mk.III perform spectacularly well at various meetings and now had produced one that looked right and almost professional”

Posterity does not record the sequence of events. It’s very probable that Colin had conceived the Mk.VI as a small run semi production model. [It was certainly well thought through and entirely practical as a dual road/ race car].The early Mk.VI in private hands was soon winning races and drawing publicity. The demand was passed on to Progress. They produced a jig [a secure accurate former to hold the chassis tubes as they are assembled].It will be appreciated how necessary this is in three dimensional form when heat induces expansion and then contraction during welding].The existence of a jig also aided a degree of uniformity and small production runs. The possible interaction between success on the track and production capacity drew orders. Once in circulation a driver had to be in an Mk.VI to be in contention in the 1172 Formula. More cars more wins, more publicity, more demands. Between c1952-56 it has been suggested that approximately 100 were made.

Dave Kelsey has suggested that the first chassis took six weeks to produce working evenings and weekends. Later with experience and greater resources it is claimed that this was reduced to a week [but 17 hour days].This is an indication of the complexity and patience required. It should be noted that each tube requires joining / welding at each end and each joint has to be completed 360 degrees. To achieve this for practicality the complete chassis has to be rotated around. Any omissions could have serious consequences and rectification more difficult one the aluminium panels attached. Hence the absolute attention to detail and checking .To the bare chassis brackets have to be attached. Often these require almost the same time as the chassis itself. The most important brackets relate to the steering, suspension, engine mounts and gearbox etc. [note that engine /gearbox mounts might vary depending on what items were used].

The Mk.VI chassis was well designed relatively over engineered and generally robust and repairable. Contentiously built by Progress with rudimentary rust proving and paint their survival rate is an indication of the quality and workmanship .Even in period the completed body and chassis unit were expensive. This is established by comparisons with house prices and average wages [in a future article will reinforce this point and bring the details to light]

Although the production numbers suggest that Progress were almost fully engaged on Mk.VI production Dave Kelsey has suggested that they also undertook shop fittings. This might have been to hedge against seasonal variation in demand and also not to be over dependent and to aid cash flow. During the 1950’s London as austerity eased there was an increasing demand in retail sector [this might have also been a useful source or raw material!]

The mid/late 1950’s

The Mk.VI chassis was basically the basis for the Mk.VIII, IX and X. Although these were made in smaller numbers.
The mid late 1950’s were the halcyon years and saw Lotus emerge onto the world stage. By the late 1950’s Colin Chapman had designed the Lotus Eleven and had been successful at Le Mans.In 1957 the Seven and Elite were displayed at the Motor Show. Colin was also entering GP racing with his single seater cars.

Town Planning restrictions at Hornsey and the growth of demand for Lotus products prompted the move to Cheshunt. Also about this time Arch motors seem to have undertaken more work for Lotus. The available reference books do not tell us much about Progress during the 1960’s.The proprietors would have been in their prime. Britain was entering an intense period of success in International Motor sport and London was the epicentre. London was also entering the pop era and it’s entirely possible that these skilled craftsmen could have responded to a variety of lucrative opportunities.

It has been suggested that Progress constructed chassis for others and this is fully understandable given the experience they had acquired. [It should be noted that they were in an ideal position to evaluate a chassis and frequently conducting repairs were probably aware of the strengths and weakness.

Dave Kelsey constructed and raced a Lotus Mk.VIII and produced a car to his own design in 1961 .This was known as the Kelsey GT2/4.

Note. Please refer to an earlier newsletter to see the article by John Douglas on Progress

2. Museums around the world (one you will have heard about)

THE SCHLUMPF COLLECTION National Automobile Museum
192, avenue de Colmar – BP 1096 – 68051 Mulhouse cedex
Telephone: + 33 (0) 389 332 323.

The museum is located 5 minutes from Mulhouse town centre the A36 motorway, 15 minutes from “l’Écomusée d’Alsace”, 20 minutes from Colmar and Bâle, 60 minutes from Strasbourg.

Photos to come…

Visiting options:
The museum may be visited:
– on your own with the audioguide (available in 6 languages) supplied free of charge to all visitors;
– with a museum lecturer;
– with your own personal guide.

* Museum lecturer for groups of 15 to 30 people: 90 euros
Informations and reservations:
Telephone: +33 (0) 389 332 323.
Fax: + 33 (0) 389 320 809

3. Question (can you help?)

Still many unanswered questions on our website can you help?

Note… We are still looking for a photo of Pub Lotus..there must be one out there somewhere.

The following are recent questions:

Allow me to introduce myself my late father Peter Springall was the founder of PD Springall Ltd who manufactured Steering wheels both as an OEM and aftermarket supplier under both the Springall and Springalex brands during the late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

The Company was founded in a small workshop behind the Railway Hotel across the alleyway from the Lotus works After receiving an order to supply steering wheels for the elite and series 2 lotus 7 P D Springall Ltd continued to supply steering wheels both to Lotus cars and Lotus racing Most notably for Jim Clark’s 1965 F1 33, F2 32 and 38 Indy car. My father received one of the initialled knock off wheel nut ash trays which were engraved to commemorate the Historic F1 championship and Indy 500 winning year.

I am in the process of gathering information for a possible history of P D springall ltd and am wondering if you have any historical information on the relationship between Lotus and my Fathers company. Particularly I would be interested in speaking to any Lotus personnel who remember my Father’s business and especially where exactly his workshop was on the site. I believe that he occupied the workshop from founding the Company in 1957 until moving to a larger factory in Hitchin shortly after 1960 and the Lotus move to Cheshunt.

I have attached a photograph of the commemorative ash tray and a picture of my Father outside the Hornsey workshop the date is only approximate

Lotus celebration ashtray 0001

PDS Hornsey workshop

4. Book review

Automobiles by Architects


Automobiles by Architects

Ivan Margolius
Wiley Academy 2000
ISBN 047160786X

This is an important work. It looks at designers and the design process. For the reader it poses interesting questions. Not least why architects disciplined in design methodology with training towards function and aesthetic have not designed more successful cars.

A reverse approach might be adopted in asking what buildings car designer would produce.

Colin Chapman applied himself to many forms of industrial design; Motor boats, industrial furniture and micro lights. I am sure his interest in structures, lightness and performance would be relevant today and he might make a significant contribution to the green movement’s architectural school.
Automobiles by Architects contain:

  • An introduction
  • The Automobile as an Artistic Creation
  • Architects as Designers of Automotive objects
  • Architecture& the Automobile.

Of those architects that have designed significant cars some of the best are illustrated. Walter Gropius of the Bauhaus was one although the cars did not reflect the functionalism of his buildings [Form follows function].

Pierre-Jules Boulanger and his team seem to have had the greatest success with the Citroen 2CV but this may have been due to the very tight specification and absolute commercialism of designing for specific market sector.
Carlo Mollino with Nardi and Damonte produced the Bisiluro and Osca 1100 c 1954.This car was entered in competition.

The works of Richard Buckminster Fuller have a cross over to Colin Chapman. Fuller is famous for his domes and lattice construction rather like a space frame. His car the Dymaxion –Car No 1 c 1933 was less successful but certainly a forward looking attempt.

5. Marc Hogenkamps wonderful “Little Lotus museum in France”

We have featured many of Marc’s diaroma’s in previous newsletters. What he is undertaking at the moment is much more ambitious. His own museum, we featured a few of the pictures he has sent us. More to follow.

little lotus museum 080 little lotus museum 082

little lotus museum 083

6. Lotus books (recommended reading)

Successful Lotus

This compelling book marries together a study of a great period in the life of Jim Clark with the history of a great British marque, featuring in particular the famous Lotus 25, from its golden 1963 World Championship-winning year, through subsequent owners and crashes until the remains are discovered and the gallant old charger is restored to its original specification.

Some of these books are out of print so autojumbles may help. More recommendations welcome. Please keep sending recommendations.

7. Lotus books (one for the library)

Can-Am Challenger by Peter Bryant

Something different , however it’s a terrific book with a history from Lotus to Can-AM.

Peter Bryant’s career from early Lotus days to Formula 1 , Tasman trips, Indianapolis and then Can-Am makes wonderful reading.

Available on Amazon and other sources for about £25,

Can-Am Challenger

8. Lotus collectables

Scalextric C126 JPS Lotus 77

Scalextric JPS

This is an opportunity for you to share with other “friends” any pictures of collectables you may have. Just send me an email with the picture attached and it will be included in our next update.

10. Lotus interest on YouTube

One item on Youtube maybe of interest our readers.

Lotus factory tour

Thank you for your continued continued interest and support

Editors of the newsletter
John Scott-Davies
Neil Duncan
Jamie Duncan (webmaster)