Car Culture

Lotus needs your help finding its very first car

Its whereabouts "have never been established." This could be tough.

Have you seen this car? Please call the number on the back of this milk carton.

Lotus / The Colin Chapman Foundation

As the glam-metal band Cinderella put it, you don't know what you've got till it's gone. Lotus must be playing that song on repeat right now, because it needs to find a very important piece of Lotus history, and it needs your help.

Yes, you. Lotus put out a press release asking everybody, anybody for any information that might help the automaker find the Lotus Mark I, the very first Lotus that founder Colin Chapman built in a London garage in the late 1940s, based on an Austin Seven. Lotus included a picture of the car, with Colin's girlfriend-then-wife Hazel in the driver's seat, in case you weren't sure what it looked like. (Hint: It looks nothing like a modern Lotus.)

Lotus said that after Chapman built the Mark I, he successfully ran it in several motorsports events with Hazel's help. He eventually got lost in developing its follow-up, the Mark II. The Mark I was reportedly sold in late 1950, and after that... poof. Gone. Off the map. "Its whereabouts have never been established," Lotus said, which means this is a case for a serious automotive sleuth.

Even Colin Chapman's son, Clive, is getting in on the search. "The Mark I is the holy grail of Lotus' history," Clive said in a statement. "To locate this landmark Lotus, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary, would be a monumental achievement. It's even possible that the Mark I was shipped from the UK, and we'd love to know if it survives in another country."

There is, of course, the horrible chance that the Lotus Mark I no longer exists. Cars of varying importance have been shelved, mothballed or otherwise left to the forces of nature for decades on end, languishing in some long-forgotten and overgrown barn or garage. Some are retrieved and restored to their former glory, but many just disappear to time. Here's hoping that the Mark I is safe and sound, and that Lotus can find out about it before the automaker's 70th anniversary becomes the 71st.