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Colin Chapman: The Dark Side of the F.1 Genius

The creator of Lotus was involved in a scandal as a result of his partnership with John DeLorean. For some he even faked his death ...

In that F1 From the '60s and' 70s his name was synonymous with victory thanks to a team that was invincible and that stood out for being at the technical forefront through different innovations. In 1979, when the team he had founded two decades earlier, he achieved his seventh Constructors Cup in the highest category, Ferrari I was six and McLaren, just one. Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman enjoyed prestige, good fortune and had even been recognized with the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire through Lotus, the company that he had created in 1948 to build sports cars and that soon after hit the tracks.

Colin chapmanChapman was born on May 19, 1928 in Surrey, Great Britain. At age 20 he left his engineering studies at the University College from London to join the Royal Air Force. At the same time, he began to immerse himself fully in the automotive industry.

His first experience was modifying a Austin 7 that he baptized as MK1 and that he used in some races. This model was followed by several more with different modifications until 1952 when the Lotus 6, which allowed his company to make good profits. However, it was the Lotus 7from 1957, the car with which he achieved resounding success.

Chapman also put on his running gear and helmet. Participated in competitions GT, sport y F2. In 1956 until tried his luck in the F.1, but his experience lasted what a sigh. He tried to compete in the Grand Prix of France with Vanwall, but an accident in training left him wanting.

Graham hillShortly after he retired. Although he remained linked to motorsport under the car with his own team, which debuted in the top flight in 1958. Only two years after his arrival in F.1, Lotus achieved its first triumph. It was in the Monaco Grand Prix hand in hand with English Stirling Moss.

Lotus quickly established itself as one of the great protagonists of the World Championship thanks to its vehicles, which were characterized by being small and very light.

All their F.1 cars used to have innovations that were later used by the category, such as Chapman set, used in the rear suspension and named in honor of its creator; the monohull, ailerons, the ground effect or the active suspension. Even pioneered partnering with sponsors when in 1968 he changed the British green for the red and gold of the cigarette brand Gold Leaf.

Colin chapmanSuccess. That was the word that was linked to Chapman. Their cars won races and championships in Formula 1 and were also famous in United States thanks to the brilliant foray into the 1965 edition of the Indianapolis 500 that ended with the triumph of the English Jim Clark. Such was the prestige of Chapman that other renowned companies in the automotive sector seek to link his name with that of Lotus. Thus were born, for example, the Ford Lotus Cortina and Talbot Sunbeam Lotus.

For this reason, it was not surprising when in the mid-70s he teamed up with an American engineer who had become vice president of General Motors and that he had in mind to produce a revolutionary sports car. His name was John Zacary DeLorean and the car in question, the DeLorean DMC-12.

Colin Chapman and John DeLoreanThe renowned executive obtained the initial capital for the creation of DeLorean Motor Company of bank loans and private investments from friends like Johnny carson y Sammy davis jr. The project included setting up a factory in a country with a high unemployment rate to benefit from government aid.

He was first in talks with the Republic of Ireland, then with Puerto Rico and finally closed a deal with North Ireland. Thus it was that in 1978 the construction of the plant began in Dunmurry, near Belfast, which was completed 16 months later.

The DMC-12 had been designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro following the parameters of DeLorean: a sports car with a mid-engine -although it was finally rear-, a striking and very European style, gull-wing opening doors and a body of unpainted stainless steel.

DeLorean DMC-12For the mechanics, after analyzing several options, a 6-liter V2.8 engine of 170 CV that they had jointly developed Peugeot , Renault y Volvo.

While an advanced composite material technology called Elastic Reservoir Molding (ERM) formed by two joined pieces on which the bodywork was.

However, the ERM was not suitable for mass production. To solve this problem, DeLorean made a deal with Chapman to deliver the “Y” frame used in the Lotus Esprit. Such was the commitment assumed by Chapman that it was decided to create a DMC office in Conventry, very close to the Lotus headquarters ...

John DeLoreanFor DeLorean including Chapman in the project was not a problem, on the contrary. I already had the financial backing from the British government, who had given him some 120 million between loans, grants and guarantees, and now there was an English partner, who was a real personality.

Although the original idea was to start production of the vehicle in 1979, engineering and cost problems meant that the first DMC-12s were ready only in 1981. There was also a change in price. Of the U.S. dollar 12.000 that DeLorean had promised - hence 12 in the car's name - the value went to U.S. dollar 25.000.

The first DMC-12s that rolled off the assembly line went to the United States, although months later they were withdrawn from the market due to suspension problems. Subsequently, other vehicles were affected by failures in the accelerator and the injection system.

DeLorean DMC-12 factoryCompanies that expert reviews They didn't help DeLorean's goal at all. They claimed that the car lacked power, It used a lot of fuel and was difficult to drive. All product of the changes to which it had been subjected to fit in with the American regulations.

Soon John DeLorean's paradise turned into hell. Sales of his car dropped and many orders were canceled. The businessman tried to save the company by going public, but the plan was a failure.

With few options, DeLorean tried to sell 100 kilos of cocaine valued at $ 24 million. "This is as good as gold", he told the people he gave the drugs to and that they were actually undercover agents of the DEA and FBI.

On October 19, 1982, John DeLorean made news again, but for being arrested. The next day, DeLorean Motor Company ceased production of the DMC-12 and filed for bankruptcy with debts exceeding 100 million. Until that day the more than 2.500 employees of the company had produced 9.000 units of the sports car.

Colin chapmanWhat happened to DeLorean, who a few months later was acquitted of drug trafficking charges, unmasked a Chapman who was unknown to everyone.

The English team-manager, who had so much prestige in Formula 1, had ripped off the British government through an operation that orchestrated with the lawyer Fred bushell, who held the position of president of Lotus. The duo had channeled over 18 million through a shell company called GPD Services. 

The British government already had some suspicions and had launched an investigation that led to DeLorean's arrest. But just before the UK Serious Fraud office completed investigations and a lawsuit against DeLorean, Chapman and Bushell was launched, something nobody expected ...

El December 16 1982, two months after the DeLorean raid, Colin Chapman died of a heart attack while sleeping at home. He was 54 years old ...

The news left everyone dumbfounded as only a couple of weeks before Chapman  had successfully passed a rigorous heart check as a requirement for life insurance and to renew your airplane pilot license.

His funeral was very intimate and fast, so much so that when several pilots asked to fire him, among them Emerson Fittipaldi y Mario Andretti, they were informed that his remains had already been buried in the cemetery of East Carleton, very close to your residence.

Colin chapmanWithout the possibility of extraditing DeLorean from the United States and with the death of Chapman, Bushell was the only one who had to explain. He went to trial, was found guilty and spent three years behind bars. But this story did not end there since A rumor began to circulate that the founder of Lotus had faked his own death.

The ten years in prison he would have received for misappropriation of government funds and tax evasion still sound like the main motive for such a theory, which even claims that Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman spent the rest of his days in Brazil under a new name, a new face and a lot of money ...


Diego durruty

Journalist with 30 years of experience. Worked in magazines STROKE, The graphic, Coequipier y Only TC, on the Internet sites SportsYa!, y and on the radios Rock pop y He covered the Dakar rally for the German agency dpa. He currently drives Two Daring Guys, a car magazine that is broadcast on Tuesdays from 18 to 19 by; is editor of motorsport in Red Bull Argentina, columnist on the show WorldSport (AM Splendid) and in Surf & Rock FM.  He is also a teacher in SPORTS. Now you can read it on his blog:

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