A Lotus museum?

You know that saying “one thing leads to another”? Well, as part of my research into Lotus 19s (an ongoing project, not sure how that is going to pan out!) I was trying to track down a driver called John Scott-Davies, who had raced a 19 at some point in the 1960s.

Flicking through a copy of the Historic Lotus Register’s regular magazine, I noticed that a John Scott-Davies was listed as handling advertising sales for the magazine. Further into the magazine, there was a piece about the same person planning a museum about Lotus and Colin Chapman in London.

Bingo, I thought, it had to be the same guy, too much of a coincidence for it not to be, surely? So I picked up the phone and asked him if he was ‘my’ John Scott-Davies, only to find out that he wasn’t the one I was looking for…he was too young!

However, the conversation continued and he mentioned that he was planning a public meeting to actually set up the organisation which would plan, develop and run the museum and would I like to come along to the meeting?

Four or five days later, a small group of around 15-20 people assembed in The Wishing Well pub in Tottenham Lane, Hornsey, formerly a pub called The Railway Hotel which was owned and run by Stanley Chapman, father of Lotus founder Colin Chapman. The meeting duly took place, to the background of a gushing fountain feeding into a large indoor fish pond, which made hearing things a bit tricky!

It turns out that the original stable block which was the place where many of the early Lotus cars were constructed, still survives intact, as does the Lotus 11 assembly shop and stores built a little later and indeed the extension with showroom at the front of the building where the (at the time) revolutionary new Elite was displayed for a short time.

John had obtained planning permission to convert the buildings to a museum from Haringey Council and apparently, the current occupiers of the site, the builders’ merchants Jewsons, had showed some interest in the project.

I could see that the proposed museum could have some very useful synergies with what I want to do with my motor racing history research (particularly building up a Team Lotus archive). The museum intends to have some kind of archive and this is something which I think I would be well suited to run, or at least have some kind of involvement in, having started my working life employed by a business information library and with my knowledge of Lotus history generally.

I volunteered to become a trustee of the charitable company which would be established following the meeting to take the project forward. Since then, we have visited the site, held regular trustees meetings and John Scott-Davies, now the group’s President, has given a talk on Lotus history at the Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham. I have designed a logo, we have now been incorporated as a company and are pursuing charitable status and we are preparing a business plan, looking into possible funding routes and investigating possible site acquisition or leasing.

In addition, a website (www.colinchapmanmuseum.org.uk) has been established to provide a worldwide channel for information about the progress of the project.

So from one phone call about Lotus 19s, I  have ended up being a trustee of a museum project and I have to say I am enjoying it, although it is clear that there are many obstacles still standing in our way if this project is to become reality. Be sure to check this site and the museum site to see how we are getting on! And I’m still looking for ‘my’ John Scott-Davies, so if you are out there, I’d love to hear from you!

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