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Colin Chapman would have been 80 today


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#1 RTH

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 17:01

Whilst no one is perfect in all respects, he was a hugely significant figure in the history of motor sport, design of cars, and indeed in innovation in the design of passenger vehicles. I have always greatly admired his ability to get things done so quickly ,to think around problems and question a conventional way of doing things, and his massive achievements with building the Lotus Car Company in sadly what was to be a relatively short life was truly astonishing.

He died in 1982 aged only 54 from a heart attack only 3 years after the picture below was taken.

I think we have missed him greatly in the world of Motor Racing in the last quarter of a century or so.


Posted Image

photo from the paddock thread Colin Chapman 1928 - 1982. with Mario Andretti in 1979 with the Lotus 80



http://en.wikipedia....i/Colin_Chapman


http://www.colinchapmanmuseum.org.uk/


http://www.telegraph...14/smstat14.xml



Colin Chapman after dinner speech

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#2 Giraffe

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 20:54

I always remember Colin's birthday, as he was 40 the day I was 14, you see! I share his birthday! I have his autograph, given to me quite willingly at Oulton Park in 1969, along with Graham Hill, Jackie Oliver, Innes Ireland and Trevor Taylor, all on the same day!

#3 sterling49

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 21:02

A true visionary, the maker of beautiful,fast and world beating cars. An important part of manufacturers wanting to use a "name" on everyday vehicles, Ford were followed by Talbot and Vauxhall, most things he touched, worked, and worked very well. A major influence on this youngster growing up, near Brands, watching those gorgeous green and yellow cars. There really was only one team....TEAM LOTUS :up:

#4 Coral

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 21:38

Originally posted by sterling49

There really was only one team....TEAM LOTUS


Here's to Colin Chapman and Team Lotus! :up: :clap:

#5 Jones Foyer

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 23:54

Sucks. He would have been running a team even today, I'll bet.

Quite the innovator and I think he would have helped steered regulations and rules in the proper direction.

#6 flat-16

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 00:06

Definitely a Patron Saint of independently-owned manufacturing businesses :up:

Can anyone think of a car or similar type of business that has grown so rapidly?

For all his faults, it's hard to think of anyone who's brought more innovation, directly or indirectly, to the automotive world. Whilst it may not be cool to say so, I suspect he would've had a field day tackling the modern market for small, efficient city cars - it would've filled a niche, and paid for some racing!

BTW - There was a famous quote that I can't remember exactly, it went something like, "the wheels of major corporations miss holes in the market and leave niches for the independent engineer" - can anyone give it to me? Anyone know what I'm talking about? As a proprietor of a small manufacturing operation, I remember finding the quote highly inspiring - maybe I should've jotted it down!


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#7 fines

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 07:41

Colin Chapman was one of a kind :up: - sorely missed! :(

#8 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 08:20

Truly great engineer: sharp mind, tireless and relentless.



#9 DOHC

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 08:23

It's difficult to imagine a retired Chapman, who went the full distance of 80 laps. A stunning performance, with a series of brilliant moves, followed by a pump failure on lap 56 was more his style...

Although several of his cars were unforgettable (with my favorites being 38, 49, 56, 72 and 79), the one I associate more with him for its sheer innovative character, is the original 56. That car had everything done differently. The clean shape, 4WD, gas turbine instead of piston engine. That was an extraordinary piece of engineering and unusual thinking, and beautifully executed too. Bold, daring, and exceptional. It was revolution, not evolution. :up:

#10 ensign14

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 09:52

"Would have" been? ;)

#11 Muz Bee

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 10:12

Originally posted by ensign14
"Would have" been? ;)


He was only 54 when he died? Amazing I thought at least 10 years more than that and the pictures reinforced that. Hell he lived a lot into those 54 years and provided astonishing cars for some of the great and greatest drivers. Clark, Hill, Rindt, Fittipaldi, Andretti all won titles others like Peterson, Mansell and Senna had their careers firmly linked with the Lotus magic.

The 25 was astonishing for it's costruction and the 33 a beautiful refinement of it. The 49 won out of the box with Cosworth's first win and was the first car to be adorned in a sponsors livery if I'm not mistaken. It had a long service life and was a classic beauty. The 72 especially in JPS colours was without doubt one of the most stunning F1 cars of all time and was the leader of the trend towards today's shapes. Of course the 79 revolutionised the use of downforce and was a dominant car. All these achievements on their own make Colin Chapman one of if not THE most influencial people in F1 history.

Hard to convey to the younger generation of fans but Chapman and Lotus were the benchmark in Grand Prix racing more so than Ferrari are today. We salute you Colin "Crunchy" Chapman and the greats who you worked with. :clap:

#12 Giraffe

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 12:42

Wrong chocolate company, Muz Bee; I think you'll find it was "Chunky" rather than "Crunchy"! :lol:

#13 kayemod

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 13:37

Originally posted by Muz Bee


Of course the 79 revolutionised the use of downforce


You mean the 78 of course, the 79 was a logical refinement of the 78 concept one year on.

#14 Sharman

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 15:01

And you meant Chunky

#15 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 15:34

Something springs to mind: in 1978 Lotus was of course the superior car. ACBC used to throw his cap up in the air when Mario or Ronnie crossed the line. At the time I heard on TV that somewhere in the season Chapman had instructed a mechanic to pick up this cap after each win as it had become to costly. Any truth in this story?

#16 Jerome

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 15:36

Another thing I wondered. At the time, it was said Colin died of a heartattack. At the same time, would have he lived, he would have been persecuted. I always wondered if his death was completely natural.

#17 ensign14

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 16:04

Almost certainly he would have been prosecuted. The judge at the Bushell trial had no doubt that he would also have been found very guilty indeed and sent away for, well, until now, probably. Although that does not take into account any ingenious defence that might have been available.

#18 Giraffe

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Posted 20 May 2008 - 20:08

I always reckoned he'd done a Lucan.......

#19 kayemod

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 07:20

Originally posted by ensign14
Almost certainly he would have been prosecuted. The judge at the Bushell trial had no doubt that he would also have been found very guilty indeed and sent away for, well, until now, probably. Although that does not take into account any ingenious defence that might have been available.


Ensign is right, and my guess would have been a prison sentence of something like six or eight years and a fine of several millions, after being found guilty of serious fraud, but some of the speculation here comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of Chapman's character. One of his many talents was a capacity for convincing himself that he was right, even when mounting evidence indicated the contrary, after which he was quite adept at pinning the blame onto someone else. Some on TNF would no doubt disagree, but to me the Lotus 88 saga was a perfect example of this. Not for one moment am I questioning Chapman's engineering genius, but this unshakable self-belief, sometimes misguided, did lead the Company up a few blind development alleys, and from my own experience I'm including boats and road cars in this, not just the racing side. The full story of the DeLorean business and Chapman's part in it will probably never be fully revealed, I'm certain that it hasn't in any published work to date, but he wasn't a man to run away from something like that. He would have convinced himself in his own mind that he hadn't done anything so very wrong, and faced up to it. And he'd have been telling that to anyone who'd listen to him, throughout his time in clink.

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#20 Ted Walker

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 08:04

According to all the period rumours he is 80 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

#21 Macca

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 08:37

And is enjoying retirement in the company of Lord Lucan and Elvis............. ;)

For all his genius, and although he designed my favourite (and the most beautiful) cars, he was, as some have said, a difficult person - to convince himself that that the 88 had two 'chassis', one of them aerodynamic, rather than just moveable coachwork was a semantic self-delusion of huge proportions.

And his refusal to conceive of the idea that he could be mistaken led to that famous saying of his: " I haven't changed my mind, the facts have changed."

If people were right when he was wrong, it seems from then onwards their cards were marked; he definitely didn't like people who stood up for themselves - witness Len Terry being right about the Lotus-Cortina rear suspension, and then being sent home from Indianapolis in '65 before he could savour any of the success, or Alan McCall getting it in the neck over the amount of fuel in the 49 at Monza '67 and the weaknesses of the 49's suspension that he wanted to help cure but was over-ruled on.

Paul M

#22 Jerome

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Posted 21 May 2008 - 21:28

Originally posted by Giraffe
I always reckoned he'd done a Lucan.......


Sorry, what's that? Did mr. Lucan ehrm... (Pardon me. I'm Dutch!)

#23 Macca

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 11:28

Originally posted by Jerome


Sorry, what's that? Did mr. Lucan ehrm... (Pardon me. I'm Dutch!)


http://en.wikipedia....h_Earl_of_Lucan

Briefly, a fugitive who either killed himself ,or disappeared for the rest of his life, with alleged sightings in unlikely places......

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#24 RTH

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 16:36

These sorts of stories have done the rounds for 25 years, personally I think the bare facts do just speak for themselves .He was at the time under a great deal of stress and his overiding motivation was always only keeping the company going and there was nothing comparable with the Lucan case.

There was a bit of a hatchet job done some years ago by a TV documentary it was called secret lives or something similar which appeared to me to try and show ACBC in a bad light all the way down the line.

Equally another programme about Delorean correctly exploded some of the myths about that enterprise.

Much of the blame there was I think very poor control of the government grant by the state.

Of course he was not perfect , no one is. Equally I do not think things were as sinister as some at the time tried to make out. Fred Bushell ended up carrying the can.

#25 Giraffe

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 20:08

I think that alot of the speculation about Chunky doing a Reggie Perrin and faking his own demise comes from his reputation of being incredibly inventive and resourceful; certainly he was alot better equipped than Lord Lucan to pull off such a stunt!

#26 David Beard

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 20:54

Originally posted by RTH
These sorts of stories have done the rounds for 25 years, personally I think the bare facts do just speak for themselves .He was at the time under a great deal of stress and his overiding motivation was always only keeping the company going and there was nothing comparable with the Lucan case.

There was a bit of a hatchet job done some years ago by a TV documentary it was called secret lives or something similar which appeared to me to try and show ACBC in a bad light all the way down the line.

Equally another programme about Delorean correctly exploded some of the myths about that enterprise.

Much of the blame there was I think very poor control of the government grant by the state.

Of course he was not perfect , no one is. Equally I do not think things were as sinister as some at the time tried to make out. Fred Bushell ended up carrying the can.


Well put, Richard. And regarding the Lucanesque stories, I think the Mike Lawrence book effectively put all that to bed.

#27 Giraffe

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 06:48

Happy Birthday Chunky! 81 today & the Giraffe is proud to share his birthday with you!!! :wave:

#28 ex Rhodie racer

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 10:11

A genuine one off. Will always be greatly admired by any true follower of the sport.
My favorite Lotus? Has to be the 7. Still an icon today.
RIP Colin.

#29 Doug Nye

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 11:39

Today he'd have got himself elected as Honourable Member for Norfolk - or somesuch. And Boy wouldn't he have made hay in ingeniously rule-complying ways...

One of the few major arguments I ever had with Tony Rudd was over whether or not ACBC qualified for 'genius' status. Tony said absolutely not. I was not, never have been and am not so sure. I remember him as the Best of British Buccaneer - an empire builder in the most swashbuckling and jaw-droppingly ingenious sense of the term. That he was variably dishonest is - sadly - well proven, and indeed in some quarters much celebrated...but he was also the most wide-rangingly super-impressive and charismatic man I have ever met, or with whom I have ever worked. Would I have bought a used car from him? NEVER! Would I have followed him over the top (if asked)? UNDOUBTEDLY!

On his birthday my thoughts are with Hazel and the family. With him they went through the highs and lows, without him they have persevered through tough times. Raise a glass to them too.

DCN

Edited by Doug Nye, 19 May 2009 - 12:19.


#30 kayemod

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 12:23

...but he was also the most wide-rangingly super-impressive and charismatic man I have ever met, or with whom I have ever worked. Would I have bought a used car from him? NEVER! Would I have followed him over the top (if asked)? UNDOUBTEDLY!

On his birthday my thoughts are with Hazel and the family. With him they went through the highs and lows, without him they have persevered through tough times. Raise a glass to them too.

DCN


Don't think I could improve on that. For all his faults, I've never met or worked with anyone quite like him.


#31 PeterElleray

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 14:00

One of the few major arguments I ever had with Tony Rudd was over whether or not ACBC qualified for 'genius' status. Tony said absolutely not. I was not, never have been and am not so sure.
DCN


i once asked Maurice Phillippe the same question. The reply, memorably, and after a short pause, was 'almost...'. We were standing about 10 feet away from ACBC at the time. I had noticed that there hadnt been a single flicker of acknowledgement by either of the other, in my youthful nievety i asked why? It was clear that there was no ongoing relationship.. this was in 1982, 11 years after Maurice had left for California.

The typically unspoken subtext contained within that pause seemed to be telling me a lot - but i was too young and clueless about the 'politics of the paddock' to be on message...

peter

Edited by PeterElleray, 19 May 2009 - 14:01.


#32 Giraffe

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 14:10

IMHO, he was not quite a genius, but he could have been, had he been clever enough...........

I always felt through reading about him, and meeting him on a couple of occasions that there was a touch of Autism about his behaviour that I have found in a lot of "driven" and highly successful men; charming yet dismissive.

#33 David Birchall

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 17:22

And that f****r DeLorean is still alive :mad:

#34 kayemod

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 17:29

And that f****r DeLorean is still alive :mad:


No he isn't, he snuffed it just over four years ago.

#35 DOHC

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 18:16

One of the few major arguments I ever had with Tony Rudd was over whether or not ACBC qualified for 'genius' status. Tony said absolutely not.


From what has emerged in this thread, one gets the impression that ACBC was rather a great leader than a genius, with his charisma, his intuitive sense of business and his innovative approach to engineering. But it has to be acknowledged that he did rely on brilliant engineers, such as Len Terry, Maurice Phillippe and Tony Rudd, for true technical achievement, although as the press would have it, it was all "Chapman's cars."

Perhaps this post doesn't count for much, because although I saw the man, his cars and his drivers on track, I was much too distanced from everything to ever have an autograph -- being an engineering student in the early 70s awed with Chapman's example really didn't count. And only as a professional engineer did I come to appreciate the work done by the people who were not in the media limelight (Terry, Phillippe, Rudd).

Heck, the impression one got back then from the press was that ACBC did most of the blueprint work himself for the 49-56-72-79, but from what I understand he totally relied on having the right tech competence around. Nowadays that is not surprising at all. But I'm sure that with the charisma went a strong awareness of media and public relations, along with a wish to create an "image" of epic proportions. Team Lotus had a single pivot -- Colin Chapman.

Was that bad? I don't think so. Very few people can make bold ideas gel.

Edited by DOHC, 20 May 2009 - 05:43.


#36 David Birchall

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 18:59

No he isn't, he snuffed it just over four years ago.


Ahh well, that's all right then.....

#37 kayemod

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 20:07

From what has emerged in this thread, one gets the impression that ACBC was rather a great leader than a genius, with his charisma, his intuitive sense of business and his innovative approach to engineering. But it has to be acknowledged that he did rely on brilliant engineers, such as Len Terry, Maurice Phillippe and Tony Rudd, for true technical achievement, although as the press would have it, it was all "Chapman's cars."


I think you had to be there, I'd subscribe unhesitatingly to the genius theory.

I would re-phrase one bit of your post though, I'd have credited Colin Chapman with "An intuitive sense of engineering, and an innovative approach to business", rather than the other way around.


#38 Doug Nye

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 20:27

Let us not forget that his early cars were very largely the product of his own capabilities, as was the superb spaceframe chassis for the teardrop Vanwall, and his consultative work on BRM Type 25 suspension development. As ever increasing demands were made upon his time by the ducking and diving of business, of management, of motivating - and manipulating - dozens of others to do his bidding it is true he needed the Peter Kirwan-Taylors, the Mike Costins, the Alan Stymans, the Maurice Phillippes, the Peter Wrights, but the conceptual spark and the guiding filter was his until he lost interest...and other priorities intervened. I hope I am being objectively partial - as opposed to merely partial - but he's still very much near the top of my personal Best of British list. And I'll cheerfully duff up anyone who tells me that Colin Chapman does not deserve to be there. :cool:

DCN


#39 DOHC

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 20:36

I think you had to be there, I'd subscribe unhesitatingly to the genius theory.

I would re-phrase one bit of your post though, I'd have credited Colin Chapman with "An intuitive sense of engineering, and an innovative approach to business", rather than the other way around.



I am sure you are right on that point... :up:

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#40 DOHC

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 20:44

Let us not forget that his early cars were very largely the product of his own capabilities, as was the superb spaceframe chassis for the teardrop Vanwall, and his consultative work on BRM Type 25 suspension development. As ever increasing demands were made upon his time by the ducking and diving of business, of management, of motivating - and manipulating - dozens of others to do his bidding it is true he needed the Peter Kirwan-Taylors, the Mike Costins, the Alan Stymans, the Maurice Phillippes, the Peter Wrights, but the conceptual spark and the guiding filter was his until he lost interest...and other priorities intervened. I hope I am being objectively partial - as opposed to merely partial - but he's still very much near the top of my personal Best of British list. And I'll cheerfully duff up anyone who tells me that Colin Chapman does not deserve to be there. :cool:

DCN


I would think that one would have to agree. There's no doubt in my mind that ACBC was a singular individual without whom British racing would simply have been less prominent and spectacular. And just like he later on had to hire designer capacity, he had to hire some world champions too from the 60s onwards, although he was a quite accomplished driver himself back in the day...;)

I think that the fact that he didn't design all the cars himself, and much less drove them, doesn't detract from his pivotal role.


#41 kayemod

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 20:50

And I'll cheerfully duff up anyone who tells me that Colin Chapman does not deserve to be there. :cool:

DCN


And I'll hold your coat Doug.


#42 Robin Fairservice

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Posted 19 May 2009 - 21:27

I must consider myself to have been lucky enough to have met and talked to Colin in the 1950's. As a Paddock Marshall in 1954/5 I talked to most of the entrants and drivers at BRSCC race meetings. Colin was always able to talk and to answer my stupid questions. I also had a discussion with him at the Earls Court Motor Show when he displayed the little Formula 2 Type 12 car. With a friend we asked him how to turn an Austin 7 rear axle over so as to lower the spring mounts. I think that he thought that we were stupid, because we couldn't understand how to so it, but he came through and explained how it was done, and made us embarrased that we young engineering students couldn't figure it out.

I also remember over one long week end how he broke a rear axle on each race day. I asked him what had happened on the third occassion and when he said "broken rear axle tube" I innocently said "what again!". If looks could kill. As has been said, he did all of the design and a lot of fabrication of the early cars himself. On his own he transformed race car design and construction, even if he was slow to adopt mid engined cars, but when he did, they were brilliant.

His background was as a stress analyst, and he gained a reputation for making components too light. Regarding suspension design, he spent hours in the I. Mech. E. library reading papers about suspension design. What he designed wasn't using new theory's but he had done what others didn't do. Study published work and applied it.

I believ that of his generation, he was a genius for what he achieved then.

If I had lived near Hornsey, I suspect that I would have been amongst the volunteers who worked for him at weekends. I have often wondered about where I would have finished up as a result if I had.



#43 RTH

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 04:37

The world of both road and racing cars still miss him greatly today .

#44 Giraffe

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 07:21

.............I was much too distanced from everything to ever have an autograph --



Posted Image
By giraffe138

..............I got a bit closer......... :smoking:

#45 DOHC

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 08:13



Cool!

#46 Giraffe

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 08:21

Cool!


Thankyou DOHC! If you think that's cool, I have some unique 8mm footage of Chapman going around the Oulton Park Circuit......... on a Monkeybike!!! You should see the look he gives me!!! I must try and get it posted!!! :rotfl:

Edited by Giraffe, 20 May 2009 - 08:53.


#47 Giraffe

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 09:19

Posted Image
By giraffe138

..............I got a bit closer......... :smoking:

Posted Image


Where did your post go, Kingsleyrob?!?! I was about to say "Touche'"; herewith on the back of the very same programme are (reading left to right) Messrs. Taylor,Oliver,Ireland & Mike Walker.
A funny story when I got Oliver's; he was sat on the boot of his roadcar, and Mike Walker wandered over and said to Jack (honestly!) "How do you get into Formula One, Jackie?" It was toe-curlingly embarassing, & Jack just gave me a knowing look............... ;)
On the front of the programme along with Chapman are Hill, Stewart and Bonnier, but then you are the undoubted autograph King(sley), Rob! :clap:


#48 lustigson

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 09:37

Well, A.C.B. Chapman's alleged disappearance in stead of death always reminds me of a quote I once read on a bus stop advertisement (of all places) regarding similar stories about one E.A. Presley. Parafrasing:

If Colin Chapman were still alive, he'd be dead by now.


Nevertheless, he's very much missed.

#49 RTH

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 09:58

Thankyou DOHC! If you think that's cool, I have some unique 8mm footage of Chapman going around the Oulton Park Circuit......... on a Monkeybike!!! You should see the look he gives me!!! I must try and get it posted!!! :rotfl:


Any chance of a copy for the TNF film show in August ?


#50 Giraffe

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Posted 20 May 2009 - 10:07

Any chance of a copy for the TNF film show in August ?


I will sort it out for you; no problem! :wave: