Colin Chapman Archive and Resource July 2015

Newsletter – Number 53

  1. Lotus Parade Hornsey 5th July 2015 (Chris Arnold)
  2. John Ross Motor Racing Archive
  3. Emails from our readers
  4. The Lotus Mk.VI: Six of the Best
  5. Raymond Loewy 1893-1986: The Consummate All Consuming Designer

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

1.0 Lotus Parade Hornsey 5th July 2015 (Chris Arnold)

The idea of the Lotus Parade, as part of the Hornsey Carnival, was  to celebrate Hornsey’s history and association with the birth place of Lotus.

After we managed to save the old showroom from demolition, thanks to lots of Lotus drivers,the Colin Chapman website and lots of press coverage It was discovered that very few local people even knew Lotus had started here.

So the idea was to raise awareness of Lotus’ heritage, something Hornsey residents can be proud of.

Hornsey is the oldest listed villages in London. The Carnival is also one of the oldest in the UK.

We did learn one lesson – slow parades aren’t good for clutches and keeping the engine cool on an unusually hot day is a challenge.

Parade 1

Parade 2


2.0 John Ross Motor Racing Archive: Lotus


This is a brief but important article.

All Lotus enthusiasts and those particularly interested in the Hornsey and 1950/60’s Lotus era ought to consult this archive.

The archive can be viewed on line: www.johnrossmotorracingarchive.co.uk

The photographs are exceptional. Verbal elaboration is unnecessary.

Ross 1

John Ross has kindly granted permission for us to use a couple of images however they are of such quality, distinction and importance subscribers are urged to look at them with some urgency.

John Ross can be e mailed at: – john@ross.uk.com

The editors consider that there have been in period two other significant photographers that have captured Chapman and Lotus at Hornsey .Subscribers are directed to A&R articles on :-

  • Cory Bevington
  • Geoff Goddard

All three capture the intensity and frenetic activity of Chapman and his colleagues including Williams and Pritchard whilst at Hornsey in the mid/late 1950’s.

Subscribers might like also to view all A&R articles about Hornsey and Tottenham Lane in order to comprehend the buildings, layout and general orientation.

Subscribers might like to note [and find John Ross images] within “Lotus Sports Racers” Unique Motor Books [reference below].Here are reprints of articles in which John Ross imagery appeared.

Notable are:-

  • p10                 Lotus Maintenance the Mk.Six      Sports Car & Lotus Owner,1959
  • p11                 A New Lotus                                     Motor Racing , 1954
  • p37-41            The Lotus Blossoms                        Autocourse, 1954

The John Ross Archive: Lotus Content

The archive the editors have seen falls into these main categories:-

  • Lotus 1955-1958                  29 images
  • Lotus 1958-1959                  31 images
  • Lotus 1960-67                      9 images
  • Lotus Archway                   16 images
  • Williams & Pritchard                        9 images

The editors considered the photographs entitled Lotus Archway possible the most interesting and relevant to the protection of the site. Because of their historical significance the editors take the liberty of listing each:-

Image             Main foreground                  background

1                      Colin Chapman /tripod       Transporter Reg No. FRD 918

2                      -do- with colleague

  1. Believed Mk.1Xlower front Ribblesdale Road

4                      -do-                                         Railway Hotel/office

5                      -do-                                         Rear driver side wing

6                      Colin Chapman welding

7                      Lotus Mk.VI                           Reg No. GES 268

8                      Lotus Mk’s VI &IX                 with colleagues

9                      Believed Lotus Mk.IX          Reg.No. 972 EMK and yard

10                    Believed Lotus Mk.IX          Ribblesdale Road, period vans on road

11                    Believed Lotus Mk.IX          Chapman and Railway Hotel

12                    Believed Lotus Mk.IX          at Williams & Pritchard

13                    Believed Lotus Mk.IX          -do- with two staff

14                    Colin Chapman                   at wheel of believed Mk.IX

15                    -do-                                         Schoolboys gather round/Ribblesdale Rd

16                    Believed Lotus Mk.IX          Reg.No 972 EMK, Mk.VI and stables

Ross 2

The car models /marques featured include:-

  • VI
  • IX
  • Eleven
  • 12
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18

There are a few multiple shots of cars [some part obscured or in background], all are extremely interesting and redolent.

Exhibitions, Education and Economics

In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our suggested outline Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.

The editors believe that at some point it will be possible to produce an exhibition of photography portraying the Chapman era at Hornsey. There are several significant local venues where such an exhibition could be mounted. This might be accompanied by guided talks and a town trail.

In the meanwhile viewers can submerge themselves in these delicious images, visit the old works and connect with the enormity of achievement that was established there. [A&R articles help with planning and an appreciation of context]

In many articles to be published shortly we will make frequent reference to this amazing archive.



Lotus Sports Racers. Unique Books.

ISBN: 1841554308

Lotus: The Early Years. Peter Ross

Lotus: The First Ten Years. Smith

Please note the editors of the A&R attempt to give the broadest spectrum of references but not all are available for consultation in an article. However by noting their existence it may assist students in their research.

*Items in italics non A&R library books.

3.0 Emails from Readers

Thank you very much for your latest newsletter, which I always find interesting.
You wrote about the Elan Sprint advert and it’s feature aircraft. Those advertising ‘flyers’ (quite appropriate!) were inserted into magazines of the time. They included not only some of the motoring magazines, but also lifestyle periodicals too, including some ladies titles. 
You wrote “The Sprint c 1966 was retailing for approximately £1686 and was available in component form. It’s believed taking information from “The Lotus Book” that an estimated figure between 900-1353 Sprints were built.”

In fact, the Sprint was available for sale from 1971 until 1973. Additionally, I have collected enough information over the years to say that 1409-1432 Sprints were manufactured. So far I can verify the 1409 figure. Please see my web site www.lotuselansprint.com and in particular the ‘Numbers Made’ page for a full explanation.
I have also written articles concerning the numbers of Elans, +2 s and Plus 2s manufactured in the Club Lotus News magazine editions of January 2014 and January 2015. The conclusions I reach overturn all the previous figures that have been published before in the usual Lotus books and classic magazines. Please let me know if you would like copies of the articles.
Please also keep up the good work; let’s hope we get a Chapman Museum sooner rather than later.
Best wishes


4.0 The Lotus Mk.VI: Six of the Best

The Multi-tube chassis: Chapman’s Frame of Mind


In this article we examine the Lotus Mk.VI with special reference to the chassis.


Editor’s photograph of Lotus MK.VI taken whilst at Caterham Cars showroom.

This article performs four significant roles:-

  • It is a component of our forensic study of the Lotus Mk.VI.ie taking one specific model and examining the minutiae of design and construction
  • A study of model development and speed of technological evolution. The MkVI very much acted as springboard into more advanced aerodynamic sports racing car design
  • An introduction to the space frame chassis which Chapman used up until the advent of the monocoque
  • It lends itself to learning opportunities and these are set out below

In a serious study of Chapman there is a considerable risk that the student can easily be subsumed in sophisticated science based design calculations .This can block a wider appreciation that Chapman was a considerable conceptual engineer [and Industrial Designer] and that much of the success of his design was adherence to first principles even when production economies would suggest cheaper alternatives although he was totally pragamtic around this and there are many instances where cost/performance were weighed towards  cost saving.

Therefore the editors believe it essential to grasp these first principles. Many textbooks assume level of knowledge and this can compromise a holistic appreciation. “The Automobile” by Singh Reyat the editors have found extremely useful and covers the mechanical subjects applicable to Chapman design methodology. We paraphrase much of his outline of these fundamental principles.

To date the editors have discussed Chapman’s transition from trials to track in dedicated articles covering the trials cars [Austin Seven Special, Mk’sII, IV and last Trials] and the 750 Formula sports car, the Mk.III. The Mk.VI holds an important role between these and the advanced aerodynamic sports racing cars to follow. There are important technological, commercial and competition dimensions to understand relating to the Chapman’s designs and products. We hope to draw out these and relate them to his products and estimate their significance in the marques development.

Subscribers will find the following A&R articles relevant and integrated with this piece:-

  • Lotus Mk.VI :Aesthetics
  • If so Inclined :Chapmans laid back approach [ with useable templates]
  • Chapman /Lotus chassis development
  • The 1172 Formula
  • The Trials of Chapman :Series of all the Trials cars
  • POP 444 [Owners appreciation Mk.VI]
  • The Lotus Mk.III and 750 Formula
  • Lotus Power plants

The diagrams provided are illustrative and intended to provide guidance. It’s appreciated that not all subscribers/ students can access illustrative material and it’s hoped these diagrams will assist in conceptualizing the subject.

Definition of the automobile

“An automobile is a self-propelled vehicle which is used for the transportation of passengers and cargo over the ground”

Fundamental requirements of the automobile are:-

  1. There should be a means for the development of power
  2. The rate of power development must be controlled
  3. An arrangement must exist to transmit the developed power to the driving wheels
  4. There should be a means to continue and discontinue power flow to the driving wheels
  5. There must be an arrangement to vary the torque
  6. The driving trust should be successfully carried in the vehicle
  7. The vehicle must have directional control
  8. There must be a means to stop the vehicle while it is running

The fundamental parts of the automobile are:-

  1. Chassis or frame
  2. Springs , shock absorbers, axles and wheels
  3. Power unit or engine
  4. Clutch, gearbox and transmission etc.
  5. Steering , brakes accelerator etc. [ the main controls by which vehicle is steered , stopped and sped controlled
  6. Fuel tank or reservoir
  7. Silencer, exhaust manifold
  8. Battery and electrical system
  9. Lamps gauges, switches , controls , information
  10. Sundries like spare wheel, hood, storage etc.

Power to weight ratio

“The performance of an automobile much depends on its ratio of power to weight. By keeping the weight down  to a minimum and installing engines of higher bhp , the best performance can be achieved ……….better its climbing abilities, the higher its maximum  speed  and better its acceleration………. A well designed streamlined car having a high power to weight ratio registers a low fuel consumption at a given speed”

Chassis Theory

Taken from the net:

The main functions of a frame in motor vehicles are: [1]

  1. To support the vehicle’s mechanical components and body
  2. To deal with static and dynamic loads, without undue deflection or distortion.

These include:

  • Weight of the body, passengers, and cargo loads.
  • Vertical and torsional twisting transmitted by going over uneven surfaces.
  • Transverse lateral forces caused by road conditions, side wind, and steering the vehicle.
  • Torque from the engine and transmission.
  • Longitudinal tensile forces from starting and acceleration, as well as compression from braking.
  • Sudden impacts from collisions

Suspension Theory and Practice

This article concentrates on the chassis. In follow up we will examine the suspension arrangements of the Mk.VI in greater detail.

However in relation to suspension and handling it’s important to note that Chapman saw the performance and handling of his designs holistically and primarily as a function of the chassis.

Production cars often adopted the single plane chassis for simplicity, cost etc. Often the overall performance did not warrant a sophisticated design. In such cars the chassis often flexed in use and this in turn impacted negatively on the handling .In an extreme the chassis twisted and in the process strove to steer the vechicle.This obviously has implications for handling, performance, predictability and safety.

Chapman understood this requirement and the Lotus Mk.VI chassis was designed not to flex or bend and thus improve performance.

Design Precedents and Influences

We know that Chapman read and researched widely. This directly supported his experience and feedback .In this section we examine some of proven designs that Chapman might have drawn upon. These do not diminish Chapman. From our Design Heroes series we note the constant creative mutation of technologies and materials and in fact how they are effectively reinvented to perform additional purposes. The very act of conceptual design is recognizing the potential within.

The multi tube chassis as we will note was neither new nor totally originated by Chapman. However what he significantly did was cast it into an affordable, democratic available structure that permitted low cost racing on scientific design principles.

Aviation Precedents

By the time that the Mk.VI was conceived Colin Chapman was a pilot. He had flown both at university and briefly at the RAF.

From interviews and records we are aware he read widely and absorbed colossal amounts of scientific and engineering material. What’s possibly more important is that he sought to make this knowledge malleable and put it in the service of his designs.

The main structural requirements of aircraft are that they should be lightweight but be able to withstand flight loads, landing loads and a wide range of vibration. In the aircraft structural members are designed to carry load or resist stress. In most cases the structural members are designed to carry end loads rather than side loads i.e. to be subject to tension or compression rather than bending .Ever part of the aircraft must be planned to carry the load imposed upon it.The determination of such loads is called stress analysis.

Within aeronautical engineering and commercial operation lightness is of considerable benefit. Aeronautical engineering therefore produced design philosophy directed towards maximum lightness, the most suitable materials and construction techniques available.

One of the great aircraft designers [Ed Heinmann] is attributed of saying:-

“Simplicate and add lightness”

Many of the principles of aeronautical engineering like structural are based on Newton’s laws.

When Chapman was conceiving his cars the Second World War was recently ended. Britain had won the war because of many factors not least the science focused disciplines and particularly the quality of the military aircraft.

Chapman would have been aware of this and the examples we believe he might have most appreciated are highlighted here.

Vickers Wellington

This British aircraft made a significant contribution during the Second World War. It’s believed it was designed by Rex Pierson and Barnes Wallis.

From the dedicated Barnes Wallis web site:

“Around this time, Wallis hit upon a revolutionary structural idea – rather than building an aircraft structure on the principle of a beam, which supports an external aerodynamic skin, he developed a new type of structure which had the structural members formed within the aerodynamic shape itself. This required the structural members to follow the curved outer shape of the fuselage and wings. These members followed geodesic curves in the surface, the shortest distance between two points in the curved surface – this gave the new structure its name, geodetics. By having the curves form two helices at right angles to one another, the geodetic members became mutually supporting, and the overall framework became immensely strong. In addition to being comparatively light and strong, the fact that the geodetic structure was all in the outer part of the airframe meant that the centre was a large empty space, ready to take payload or fuel.

The fuselage was constructed of a geodesic metal lattice which proved extremely strong and light.”

 The design proved an excellent load range to power –ratio.

An example can be seen at the Brooklands Museum, London.

Hurricane, c 1935

It’s believed that the Hawker Hurricane was designed by Sidney Camm.

The primary structural design principle was based on the Warren truss box girder which formed the primary fuselage. See details of Warren Truss used in civil engineering below.

A truss is a rigid framework made up of members such as beams, struts and bars to resist deformation by applied loads. The truss frame fuselage is generally covered in fabric. The truss frame itself is usually constructed of steel tubing welded together in such a manner that members of the truss can carry both tension and compression loads, this type of fuselage normally also has triangular  cross  bracing .It is based on geometrical form.

See details below.

Automobile Precedent’s

The editors provide very brief details permitting subscribers to conduct their own detailed research and comparisons.

Cistalia and Cistalia GP

Two Cistalia are believed to have adopted a space frame chassis: the front engine racing car and the much more advanced and sophisticated Cistalia-Porsche GP 360 designed by Ferry Porsche c 1947-49.This was mid-engine single seat racing car.

Mercedes Benz 300 SLR

“The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL was one of the first road going cars to be fitted with a high performance chassis .The aim behind its design was to produce an extremely fast touring car  with luxurious appointments , and for structural reasons it was decided to use a space frame chassis”

Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion cars

Subscribers are directed direct to our dedicated article on Buckminster Fuller in our Design Heroes series. Buckminster Fuller drew up plans for the “4D” Auto [airplane c 1928] and later Dymaxion cars. These were based on aircraft practice and included triangulated space frame chassis and his sketches clearly indicate the tubular frame in three dimensional form proposed.

Jaguar C-Type

From the net

The Jaguar C type used for racing adopted a space frame chassis as opposed to the conventional ladder chassis used on the production road cars. From the net:


The road-going XK120’s 3.4-litre twin-cam, straight-6 engine produced between 160 and 180 bhp (134 kW). The version in the C-Type was originally tuned to around 205 bhp (153 kW). Later C-Types were more powerful, using triple twin-choke Weber carburettors and high-lift camshafts. They were also lighter, and from 1952 braking performance was improved by disc brakes on all four wheels. The lightweight, multi-tubular, triangulated frame was designed by Bob Knight.[1] The aerodynamic body was designed by Malcolm Sayer. Made of aluminium in the barchetta style, it was devoid of road-going items such as carpets, weather equipment and exterior door handles.

The editors deliberately mention the Jaguar as it was British. It would have received considerable publicity and was raced shortly before the Lotus Mk.VI.Its important to study he chassis in some detail and appreciate the car was being raced with an engine almost 3 times the size of the Lotus Mk.VI.

Civil /Structural Engineering precedents

We must note that Colin Chapman qualified in engineering. He might not have been the most dedicated of students and possibly did not wish a career in structural or civil engineering. However he would have completed the syllabus and absorbed all the principles and fundamentals. [One of the most important applications was the Warren Truss – see below] Significantly he would understand the vocabulary of the discipline and been able to converse with other engineers.

Structural and civil engineers although primarily concerned with utility, function, performance and economy often appreciate that these qualities are the basis of aesthetics.

Colin Chapman had finely attuned aesthetic sensitivities applied to engineering problems.

Structural theory

Taken from the net:

Structural engineering depends upon a detailed knowledge of loads, physics and materials to understand and predict how structures support and resist self-weight and imposed loads. To apply the knowledge successfully structural engineers will need a detailed knowledge of mathematics and of relevant empirical and theoretical design codes. They will also need to know about the corrosion resistance of the materials and structures, especially when those structures are exposed to the external environment.

The criteria which govern the design of a structure are either serviceability (criteria which define whether the structure is able to adequately fulfill its function) or strength (criteria which define whether a structure is able to safely support and resist its design loads). A structural engineer designs a structure to have sufficient strength and stiffness to meet these criteria.

Loads imposed on structures are supported by means of forces transmitted through structural elements. These forces can manifest themselves as tension (axial force), compression (axial force), shear, and bending, or flexure (a bending moment is a force multiplied by a distance, or lever arm, hence producing a turning effect or torque).

Warren Truss

From the net:

The Warren truss was patented in 1848 by its designers James Warren and Willoughby Theobald Monzani, and consists of longitudinal members joined only by angled cross-members, forming alternately inverted equilateral triangle-shaped spaces along its length, ensuring that no individual strut, beam, or tie is subject to bending or torsional straining forces, but only to tension or compression. Loads on the diagonals alternate between compression and tension (approaching the center), with no vertical elements, while elements near the center must support both tension and compression in response to live loads. This configuration combines strength with economy of materials and can therefore be relatively light. The girders being of equal length, it is ideal for use in prefabricated modular bridges. It is an improvement over the Neville truss which uses a spacing configuration of isosceles triangles.


A preserved original Ansaldo SVA aircraft, showing the Warren truss-pattern interplane wing strut layout

Warren truss construction has also been used in airframe construction for aircraft since the 1920s, mostly for smaller aircraft fuselages, using chrome molybdenum alloy steel tubing, with popular aircraft such as the Piper J-3 Cub. One of the earliest uses for the Warren truss in aircraft design was for the interplane wing strut layout, as seen in a nose-on view, on the Italian World War I Ansaldo SVA series of fast reconnaissance biplanes, which were among the fastest aircraft of the First World War era. Warren truss construction is still used today for some homebuilt aircraft fuselage designs that essentially use the same 1920s-era design philosophies in the 21st century.



The integral members of a truss bridge

The nature of a truss allows the analysis of the structure using a few assumptions and the application of Newton’s laws of motion according to the branch of physics known as statics. For purposes of analysis, trusses are assumed to be pin jointed where the straight components meet. This assumption means that members of the truss (chords, verticals and diagonals) will act only in tension or compression. A more complex analysis is required where rigid joints impose significant bending loads upon the elements, as in a Vierendeel truss.

In the bridge illustrated in the infobox at the top, vertical members are in tension, lower horizontal members in tension, shear, and bending, outer diagonal and top members are in compression, while the inner diagonals are in tension. The central vertical member stabilizes the upper compression member, preventing it from buckling. If the top member is sufficiently stiff then this vertical element may be eliminated. If the lower chord (a horizontal member of a truss) is sufficiently resistant to bending and shear, the outer vertical elements may be eliminated, but with additional strength added to other members in compensation. The ability to distribute the forces in various ways has led to a large variety of truss bridge types. Some types may be more advantageous when wood is employed for compression elements while other types may be easier to erect in particular site conditions, or when the balance between labor, machinery and material costs have certain favorable proportions.

The inclusion of the elements shown is largely an engineering decision based upon economics, being a balance between the costs of raw materials, off-site fabrication, component transportation, on-site erection, the availability of machinery and the cost of labor. In other cases the appearance of the structure may take on greater importance and so influence the design decisions beyond mere matters of economics. Modern materials such as prestressed concrete and fabrication methods, such as automated welding, and the changing price of steel relative to that of labor have significantly influenced the design of modern bridges.

Note that Isambard Kingdom Brunel adopted this method in his Royal Albert Bridge [see A&R article] and the Forth Bridge.

The 1172 Formula

Students will not be able to grasp the fullest appreciation of the Lotus Mk.VI without first understanding the 1172 Formula .We therefore direct subscribers to our dedicated article.

Chapman was an active member of the 750Motor Club that sponsored and generated this formula. It was intended and structured to generate close affordable racing that invited innovation .Chapman had raced the Lotus Mk.III in the 750 Formula and had possibly gone beyond the spirit. In the Lotus Mk.VI he applies considerable care to ensure compliance and the editors believe it was an enormous competition and commercial success as a result.

The 1172 Formula was based on using the Ford side valve components from their utilitarian models dating from the 1930’s.

Understanding Chapman and the Lotus Mk.VI: First Principles

Colin Chapman trained and qualified with BSc in engineering. The discipline teaches students to adopt fundamental design criteria /methodology that includes:-

  • Consideration of manufacturing tolerance
  • Design form
  • Ease of maintenance and accessibility
  • Ergonomics
  • Strength /size requirements
  • Fulfillment of function
  • Reliability
  • Cost / life expectancy
  • Ease of manufacture
  • Efficiency of operation [ effectiveness]
  • Simplicity of layout

Colin Chapman therefore approached the problem with considerable holistic conceptual appreciation .Foremost in his mind would be:-

  • All the fundamentals of the automobile outlined above
  • Knowledge of best practice and performance in aviation
  • His own theoretical academic knowledge
  • His proven driving skill and feedback loop
  • His knowledge of the Ford components as used in trials cars
  • His membership of the 750 Motor club , its regulations , its members are their product requirements and commercial opportunities resulting and possibly beyond this viable costs
  • The 1172 regulations themselves setting the parameters
  • Access to specialist to translate the design into reality particularly the Allen brothers
  • The personal drive, confidence , ambition and hunger to deliver
  • Possibly not known as SWAT analysis then but an acute awareness of limitations and creativity to overcome and turn to advantage

Form and Function of the Lotus Mk.VI

In the editors mind the Lotus Mk.VI chassis is a beautiful object in its own right. It possesses a classical architectural order, hierarchy and evident, logical self-articulation.

Throughout there is a logical of multi-use of components.[note other schools of design thought sought to give each function and dedicated perfect separate component]

The editors suggest subscribers might like to look at period photographs of the chassis body-unit .Sources include:-

“The Lotus”                            Autosport                   2/10/1953

“The Lotus Chassis             Road & Track            June, 1953

Lotus                                      Sunburst                   1995

In addition cutaway drawings are also extremely useful. The most obvious being featured in “The Lotus Project” [see details above]

Other drawings are available on the net.


This image is of model the editor constructed using an artist’s mannequin to illustrate form and function. It’s recommended this is seen in context of text and other diagrams provided.

chassis 2

This illustrative diagram is not drawn to scale but is hoped indicates the 3 D nature of the multi-tube chassis.

Chassis: Weights & Measures

The Lotus Mk.VI is extremely objective and lends itself to vigorous analysis. Not only is it beautiful; it is extremely elementary and capable of very accurate formal structural analysis.

We have noted that in fact the multi-tube arrangement forms when clad with the stressed aluminium panels a chassis-body unit [CBU]

“The Lotus Project” article September 25th, 1953 observed:-

“The frame structure is of the multi tubular construction braced and strengthened by flat alloy panels riveted to the main lower tubes 1.7/8th inch x 18 SWG while the upper ones are 1 inch round and square of the same thickness is employed”

The weight of this in period has been quoted as:-

Autocar          25/9/1953      63 lbs.

Autosport*     2/10/1953      55lbs              90lbs [with all brackets & stressed panels

                                                                        120 lbs. with standardized bonnet etc.

*”The Lotus Project” written by John Bolster.

This article also features a significant photograph of Bolster holding the claimed 90 lb. CBU.

Another photograph that underscores this fact appears in “Lotus Seven and Caterham” by Morland which features a photograph with the caption:-

“Lotus 6 chassis held by ace Lotus 6/7 restorer Mike Brotherwood.This demonstrates how light the chassis construction is”

In his text he refers to the chassis as weighing 55 lbs. with main tubes of 17/8th dia. and 18 g. [90 lbs. with stressed panels]

More recently Kelsey in a magazine article [Thoroughbred and Classic Cars, 1994] quoted that:-

“I experimented with making the chassis lighter by using 20 gauge tube instead of 18 gauge , and 16 gauge sheet instead of 10 for various brackets and components and eventually got down to 36 lbs. for a complete chassis”

The Mk.VI is extremely amenable to forensic analysis.

Many technical publications including Costin & Phipps provide statistics on typical tube weight comparisons.

Examples are:-

Dia or section sq. / [in] Profile Sq. /round Wall thickness /SWG gauge Weight lb. per ft.

1”                                             Round                        18                                            0.488

1”                                             Square           18                                            0.643

1 3/4”                                      Round                        18/16                                      0.90/1.15

2”                                             Round                        18/16                                      1.00/1.32

Comparable material weights are given in lbs. /cu ft.

Aluminium                            161

Steel                                       490

Magnesium                           114

Carbon fibre moulding        95

Kevlar moulding                   90

Metal comparison in sheet form [lb. /wt. per sq. ft.]

SWG               Magnesium               Aluminium                Steel

16                    0.73                            1.02                            3.13

18                    0.54                            0.76                            2.23

20                    0.41                            0.57                            1.75

Using this data and the known measurements of the chassis is relatively easy to calculate chassis weights. The chassis is symmetrical in the main and this aids the speed of the exercise.

chassis 3

Figure 1.These photographs are intended to reinforce the text and call attention to the light weight of the multi tube chassis. Note chassis is not an original Lotus Mk.VI but is generally illustrative.

The Overall Technical Specification of the Lotus Mk.VI

The editors have quoted the statistics given by Taylor in their article on the last Lotus trials car and to avoid repetition subscribers are directed to this.

The Lotus MK.VI: Power to weight ratio

We noted above in our theoretical requirements that power to weight ration is important.

A great service of Taylors work is that this ptw ratio can be both calculated and contrasted with other models.

The editors average the Mk.VI as possibly weighing 8.5cwt.The car was fitted with a variety of engines. With the most modest; the Ford 1172 cc side valve the common accepted bhp figure are between   35and 45 bhp

This equates with the Mk.VI delivering a ptw ratio of 82.35 bhp per ton with the lower powered engine.

Note that if the overall weight were to increase to 9 cwt the ptw ratio drops to 77.7 bhp per ton again with the lower powered engine.

This is a yardstick of performance and also indicative why Chapman was so obsessional about weight.

Competition and Commercial aspects of the Lotus Mk.VI.”Faster thank you Think”

“Faster than you think! Was strap line to Chapman’s advertisement for the MkVI and built on a journalist observation that the car was “preposterously fast”

The Lotus Mk.VI was a phenomenal success .It was developed through 1952 with the prototype and “production” of serious customer deliveries started in 1953.

During its production life to c 1955/56. It sold about 100 units. There was at the time no effective competition perhaps other than Dellow as a marque and little opposition in track competition .Almost inevitably the Mk.VI would achieve dominance in results which of course accelerated a beneficial spiral generating more sales and more results.

Some of the successes quoted by Chapman in period advertisements included:-

“Competition success 1953: First Production Year.

In one season only the first four  Mk.VI gained forty –seven awards in competitive events , circuit racing , sprints and hill climbs- including 19 firsts………….Colin Chapmans car – chassis No.9 ……..has raced in many events at 11 meetings and has never been beaten in class. Since then the cars have been even more successful and in the hands of private owners more than 120 awards were won during 1954 by over 40 different drivers .It can be seen from this that success in competition is not confined to a few “works “ cars and drivers but is available to all LOTUS owners”

Additionally at the end of the 1954 season a ESSO advertisement in Motor Racing celebrated the success of Peter Gammon in Lotus Mk.VI [ UPE 9] that he had achieved 17 firsts out of 29 races entered and specifically in the 1500 cc scratch races :-

14 [1st], 2[2nd] and 1 [3rd].

Series students might like to go further and consult the 1172 Formula annual awards along with the 750 Motor club records. Essentially the Mk.VI was dominant at this level of racing until replaced by the Nine, Seven and Eleven, although it continued to compete against these much more advanced cars.

The Mk.VI was not cheap. Lotus advertisements, May 1953 [see A&R article] quoted:-

  • CBU at £110
  • Full road legal body work set :£75
  • There was a menu for adaptions and other accessories [ details in subsequent articles]

These figures allow us to look at the important profit margin as this multiplied over the units sold made the company viable and provided some capital to invest in the next generation of cars. It also contributed to a skilled workforce employed at Hornsey.

In the period the full cost of constructing an MkVI was between £450-£600 .Our research into price relativity informs us this was expensive although extremely good vfm.An existing donor helping keep costs down. Although some years later the construction of a decent , reasonably performing  Ford 1172 or Austin Seven Special was approximately £250.The Mk.VI held its price well as second hand advertisements confirm. It was a practical robust rugged dual use sports car. With its high quality coachwork by Williams & Pritchard it was professional and attractive.

It was only later in the decade that a rival emerged. This was Ginetta and their MK.II [see dedicated marque article on Ginetta to follow] .Subscribers might like to see a quality article written by Malcolm McKay describng and contrasting the two models.*

Another source of contrast is Morland [see references below] All evidence suggests the total success of the Mk.VI.It very much helped establish the brand , proving the product , delivering favourable road tests reports etc. and laying financial foundations [ although as noted much support came from the Allen family]

The editors believe that the MK.VI became a victim of its own success. It would lock Chapman into an ever increasing spiral of technical sophistication in track competition. There would be no going back.

In our next set of articles we will explore how Chapman went forward from this base line into the generation of Costin body designed aerodynamic sports racing cars.

Learning Opportunities

The editors consider one of the better methods of comprehending the Chapman methodology is through self-discovery. For this reason we provide base line information and diagrams and invite students and subscribers to explore, conceptualize and deduct.

We suggest that our drawings, diagrams and verbal descriptions are absorbed. [See also A&R articles on aesthetics; particularly Lotus Mk.VI].When absorbed they are capabale of being integrated and structured permitting the student to conduct either elementary exercises or projections.

chassis 4

The editors suggest some of the more obvious:-

  • Sketch in body outline overlaying chassis diagram [ refer A&R article on aesthetics of Mk.VI if needed for assistance]
  • Sketch in chassis on working drawings extrapolating from chassis diagram
  • Consider how suspension would work with chassis
  • Evaluate practicality of overall package
  • Using diagram undertake estimation of chassis weight
  • Consider alternative design package
  • Consider and evaluate against the Ford 1172 side valve chassis of the period or Austin Seven
  • Contemplate how Chapman might have made a creative leap from the Lotus Mk.III chassis to that of Mk.VI [see A&R article for guidance]
  • Contemplate how the MK.VI might be simplified and cost reduced and generally consider the evolution into the Lotus Seven
  • Study and absorb details of Mk.VI chassis and explore ,compare and contrast with that of Mk.VIII, IX [see A&R articles to follow]
  • Consider the aesthetics of the Mk.VI and compare and contrast with peer sports/ racing cars of era and evaluate in terms of appearance and desirability /vfm
  • Students with engineering background may wish to explore the complexity of construction [ both chassis and body], the likely assembly time and proceed to address the price in period and hence profit margins.[ note A&R article on 1172 formulae assists and gives comparisons with home built alternatives]
  • Contemplate the advance nature of the Mk.VI and the competition , commercial time gap before rivals caught up; suggest explanations
  • Examine the deployment of Ford components and the means by which added value and performance were achieved cost effectively

Note our diagrams are provided so students / subscribers can print and annotate.

Transition to Aerodynamic Sports Racing Cars

The Mk.VI we note was conceived a dual use practical sports car and particularly for participation in 1172 Formula racing .At this type of event in period aerodynamics were not a major consideration although within practicality and with detracting from utility the Mk.VI had features to reduce drag. A detailed study of UPE 9 is revealing.

The Mk.VI was the precursor of the aerodynamic cars. They also used tube space frame chassis and in some cases a similar front suspension and mechanical components.

At least two Mk.VI were fitted with more streamlined bodies of the “organic” perhaps rather than the Costin “scientific” specification. Photographs are available on the net.

The editors will be extending our study of the Chapman aerodynamic sports racing cars with articles on the front engine cars: the Mk.VIII, IX, Eleven, Fifteen and Seventeen.

Subsequent Multi tube chassis and legacy

The essential correctness of the Chapman multi –tube chassis is evidenced by its longevity and adaptability. From the Mk.VI onwards it was the chassis principle of the majority of the competition cars [excepting the Elite] until the introduction of the monocoque in single seat GP cars and the backbone chassis in the road cars. It was used for the Lotus sports /sports racing cars, GP and then mid-engine GP and sports racing models.

Not least it was the forerunner of the Seven and hence the present day Caterham. The Chapman inspired multi tube frame has therefore been in continuous development for 63 years.

During the 1960’s after Chapman had moved to the monocoque many GP marques retained the space frame in various forms.

Today many specialist firms still continue to use the Chapman inspired multi tube principle often with wishbone suspension.

This returns us to first principles and the Chapman design methodology. If the product could have been substantially improved or simplified it would have been over this time. The fact it has not is testimony to and reinforces our understanding of Chapman using first principles

Exhibitions, Education and Economics

The extremely high survival rate of the Mk.VI stands testimony to its utter correctness, its enduring appeal, fundamental sustainability and its living source of inspiration.

The Mk.VI lends itself to exhibition in a multi-faceted manner all containing essential learning opportunities. The editors suggest some of the following are possible:-

  1. Its link pin role in the development of the Lotus marque [time and place]
  2. As an example of fundamental correctness – first time
  3. Its role and performance and generator of the 1172 Formula [including the nursery role of British racing and drivers post war]
  4. The superb foundation for subsequent sophisticated aerodynamic cars
  5. A study in the pure architecture of the multi tube chassis
  6. The role of aesthetics and coachwork in appeal and sales
  7. The forerunner of the Seven and the component car industry
  8. A study in the flexibility and adaptability of its specification bog basic to highly sophisticated
  9. Chapman’s ability to work alchemy with Ford components and the basis of Industrial design and mutation of materials
  10. A study in price and value for money in era. How it was perceived/received and marketed

Nearly all these are sources of an educational programme and learning opportunity. Nearly all contain aspects of design, engineering, marketing not least elementary science and mathematics, with an overarching appreciation of the social, economic and cultural determinants of the era.

In its own limited way the MK.VI was a machine that helped Britain catapult itself out of austerity and onto the road of dominance in international motor sport.

In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our suggested outline Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.


Our conclusions are brief and unmistakable:-

  1. The Mk.VI was outstanding: commercially and competitively. These are linked
  2. It was remarkable dual purpose car offering excellent vfm.It set the precedent for the Seven and many component cars to the present not least the Caterham
  3. It is case study in the best of Industrial Design; the Mk.VI is a product with fitness for purpose primarily through the intelligent incorporation of inexpensive components .It perfectly radiates added value and remains an example for today’s designers. It also possessed a unique blend of theory practice and exceptional artisan craft skill
  4. Its competition achievements and resultant publicity galvanized the brand and Chapman providing resources for growth and not insignificant customer base
  5. Simply it looked and was the business

In future articles we will build and refer to this foundation on which Chapman and the brand would build. Chapman’s frame of mind like his chassis was structured, logical and increasingly driven.

All Lotus Mk.VI were built at Hornsey.


The Automobile.H.Singh Reyat.Chad.2013.

ISBN: 8121902142

Colin Chapman’s: Lotus Engineering. Haskell.


Colin Chapman: Inside the Innovator.Ludvigsen


The Science Museum Library. The Barnes Wallis Archive.

Lotus Seven and Caterham.Morland .Osprey.1994.

ISBN: 1855324903


ISBN: 1857781473

Brunel’s Britain.Beckett.Biddles.1985.

ISBN: 0715379739[nb good for diagrams and appreciation of theory /practice of bridge /truss construction and works with A&R dedicated article]

*”Marque Makers” by Malcolm McKay, “Classic and Sports Car, Jan.2002. Comparison of Ginetta and Lotus Mk.VI.

Please note the editors of the A&R attempt to give the broadest spectrum of references but not all are available for consultation in an article. However by noting their existence it may assist students in their research.

*Items in italics non A&R library books.

5.0 Raymond Loewy 1893-1986: The Consummate All Consuming Designer.

“Ugliness doesn’t sell”


The A&R has argued that Colin Chapman ought to be considered Industrial Designer of International repute. This has not always been the case, but there is some evidence in academic publications of a reevaluation; we hope to rectify this omission by a series of articles and benchmarking. In order to achieve this the A&R are committed to a series of articles entitled Design Heroes in which great designers past and present are compared with Chapman. The benefit of this exercise is that the principles of good design can be analyzed in detail.

It’s known that Loewy the design consultant was extremely successful and prolific yet sometimes misunderstood.

In this article we will examine objectively the design achievements of Loewy in context and set these against the works of Colin Chapman. Of those in our Design Heroes series Loewy provides an interesting comparison as he designed several famous car bodies.

In this instance the editors suggest reference to original published works of the period [see bibliography below] they are particularly instructive.

Raymond Loewy: Brief Biography

Johnson provides this brief but useful and inclusive thumbnail biography of Loewy:-

“In 1919, Loewy moved to New York from Paris to pursue a career as a commercial artist and fashion illustrator. However his knowledge of electrical engineering and his fascination with steam locomotives and all modes of modern transportation propelled him to open an industrial design firm in 1929.He modernized the duplicating machine for Gestetner Duplicating company , creating a sleek stylish housing of molded plastic .This project of 1929 was followed by the highly visible successes  such as the Hupmobile automobile [1934] , the ColdSpot refrigerator [1934] , the streamlined S-1 locomotive for the Pennsylvania Railroad [1937]and the well-known Studebaker “Champion” [1947] and “Avanti” [1962] automobiles.

Loewy was a master of corporate identity and package design .Among his clients were Lucky Strike Ciggerete Company, Coca-Cola, Pepsodent and the National Biscuit Company. In later years he worked for NASA designing the interior for Skylab”

From the outset the editors believe it’s important to emphasize:-

  1. In designers anthology some items will be proposals only. Not all are adopted and implemented
  2. That often there was team work , all contributors were not always acknowledged and this can include client/ manufacturers staff and is relevant to Chapman
  3. Although its believed Loewy had an engineering qualification and formal drawing ability , it’s very probable he was fundamentally a front man with particular skills of galvanizing, motivating, facilitating , directing and coordinating projects, inspiring a design team presenting ideas/proposals with colossal charisma and  providing PR and perhaps occasionally intimidating and challenging
  4. A large part of the design was face lift, make over, adopting a  visually unified integrated image , streamlined, seductive and suggestive of modernism

Loewy’s Peers and Contemporaries

The profession of Industrial Designer possibly emerged in the 1930’s and overlaid the New Deal in the USA. A group of men in particular formed Design consultancies and between them exerted considerable influence on world culture and visually /commercially celebrated American freedoms and consumer choice.

Amongst these men were:-

  • Walter Dorwin Teague
  • Norman Bel Geddes
  • Henry Dreyfuss
  • Van Doren

Subscribers might like to see and find directly relevant other A&R articles in the Design Heroes series:-

  • Buckminster Fuller
  • Eileen Gray
  • Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus
  • Carlo Mollino
  • 20th C Motoring Icons
  • Giorgio Giugiaro –Maestro of Motoring Motion

Subscribers are directed to the net for an extensive range of images of Raymond Loewy and the products he designed. On this occasion the A&R are limiting the drawings or pictures.

Raymond Loewy: The French Connection

Loewy was born in Paris in 1893.Fiell comments as other authors that “at the age of 15, Loewy designed and built a toy model airplane that won the then famous James Gordon Bennett Cup. Around the same time he also designed and patented a model plane powered by rubber band”

It’s believed he served in the French Army during the First World War. [Possibly in Corps of Engineers]. He completed academic training in Paris with a qualification in engineering.

He emigrated to America in 1919 and undertook work as window dresser, commercial artist and illustrator in New York, also a fashion illustrator working for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Vanity Fair.

C 1923 he produced a trademark for Neiman Marcus department store and undertook some display make overs for several department stores.

Raymond Loewy the Man and Designer

Loewy was remarkable man, humanist, designer and very charismatic. He has left an extraordinary body of work and legacy. He was the author of several books and the editors recommend direct reference to these:-

  • Never Leave Well Alone ,1951
  • Industrial Design
  • The Locomotive

Loewy once commented that:-

“To understand my design you must understand my lifestyle”

The editors believe that there is a considerable risk that Loewy might be misunderstood. This can be magnified over time, with a difficulty of comprehending him now in the context of his primary /most influential design period [mainly pre second world war] and other interacting factors.

Loewy was a European designing in America. He is very likely to have been aware of European modernism, its designers and the work of the Bauhaus of which he might have been a contemporary.

In the editors estimation Raymond Loewy was a cultivated urbane man .An internationalist liberal minded humanitarian. He might have cultivated a certain flamboyance to fit a stereotype. He was certainly imaginative, possessed extraordinary style, he had a highly developed entrepreneurial streak and enjoyed a rich / deep long and prolific design career.

In the simplest expression he added value through style.

He would speak several languages and had homes and offices on several continents including London.

He would have worked as part of a thoroughly integrated design team of specialists.

Loewy remains one of America’s best –known Industrial Designers, gifted and graced with a colossal talent and aptitude for self-promotion. His sense of style and make overs of products make him an easy target for detractors but it must be remembered to he pioneered many design innovations.[ see book reference to Inventions and the interface between invention v innovation.[much applies to Chapman]

Of Loewy it has been said:-

“He was keen to reconcile progress with human nature, and thereby encourage people to acquire goods for pleasure rather than out of necessity”

Fiell observes:-

“Unlike so many modernists who allowed form to be completely dictated by function, Loewy balanced engineering criteria with aesthetic concerns in order to achieve what he believed to be the optimal solution”

Critics tend to label many designers of this era as narcissistic and ego centric and Loewy as a self-conscious celebrity designer motivated by self-promotion. The Conran Directory explains in some quarters Loewy etc. were considered myths and icons of American consumer journalism and a related quotation suggests:-

“Raymond Loewy flair for style and publicity associated with styling in the pejorative sense which Europeans used to condemn the commercialization of design and designing in America.”

A school of designers and critics possibly liked to label the American Industrial designers as embracing streamlining –the art form of industrial capitalism but this totally fails to acknowledge the success of their designs as measured through volumes sold.

Industrial Design: Socio-Economic Context

The relationship between Industrial Design and the prevailing socio-economic conditions are extremely important in a free consumer society. This is directly relevant in the American context as it applies to Loewy and the birth of the Industrial Design consultants. America had a significant mass production base and in many respects this was most exemplified by Henry Ford. [See appendix below] However the American and world economies suffered the Great Depression through parts of the 1920’s and 1930’s.

America’s response to this was the New Deal [subscribers are directed to the net and ought to analyses the circumstances and outcomes]; launched by Roosevelt c 1933.

The New Deal comprised a series of domestic programs in the US between 1933-1938.

The New Deal helped America out of the depression .It achieved this in part with:-

[Some of the most significant impacting on retail and domestic goods were:-]

  • Electrification and other significant public works projects like motorways
  • US Housing Authority
  • Public works Administration
  • Women & Works Progress Administration

The Second World War committed the US to mass production and it engendered full employment that continued into the 1950s and the baby boom that followed.

The Government looked to and had an expectation that Industrial Designers who had a background in the visual arts, fashion, publicity, theatre etc. would have the skills to improve products and engender sales.

Lowey observed:-

“eventually a few industrial design pioneers were able to make some business leaders aware that this lack of vision and industrial timidity was foreign to the spirit of advance  that had made America a leading nation ; and could again………..

Success finally came when we were able to convince creative men that good appearance was salable commodity that if often cut costs, enhanced a products prestige, raised corporate profits, benefited the customer and increased employment”

Merely to look at product design in isolation is subjective and fails to identify cause.

In an understanding of Loewy, and his contemporaries it’s necessary to look at demographics, gender, marriage and household formation, birth rates, disposable income and the availability of credit etc. Possibly less scientific but equally pervasive is the prevailing cultural norms of an era; not least mail order and department stores. These factors then might be constructed into patterns and volume of demand which in turn might become a function of mass production volumes which in turn impacts on price and then re-enters the spiral of demand.

“Consumer Engineering”

The editors have recommended study of original sources. Two of the most significant works of the era pertinent to industrial design are:-

  • Consumer Engineering :A New Technique for Prosperity by Sheldon & Arens
  • Horizons by Bel Geddes

Consumer Engineering grew out of statements by Calkins Holden and relates to the socio- economic conditions and explicitly states:-

Economic Failure not at fault of “over-production but under consumption”

“Consumer Engineering” was an advanced work for the era. It suggested good business ought to address consumer wants, needs and desires. It also perceptible acknowledged that design and consumption were in a chain that also comprised production, distribution and consumption, affordability, wages and price.

The Bauhaus was seeking to train designers in an objectivity that enabled quality goods to be made available by mass production at affordable prices. They might not have totally succeeded but the laid down many principles particularly addressing affordability.

“Horizons” in a way is a manifesto for good design. Geddes states:-

“We are entering a new era which notably, shall be characterized by design in four specific phases”. He provides examples of his own proposals ranging from motor cars, coaches, aerodrome, airliner and House No.3.

He sets out the advantage to both customer and manufacturer the benefits of good design.

A negative aspect of consumerist society is novelty in design and an associated obsolescence but Geddes firmly believes that good design ought to engender pride of ownership and length of life.

Both works in a way were complementary and attempted to provide the means, theoretical and practice to deliver both prosperity and consumer sovereignty in a free market economy.

1939 International Exhibition

Loewy contributed to this exhibition in New York which was subtitled “Building the world tomorrow”. One critic observed that:-

“Designers were without doubt the key figures at the exhibition and their profession received public recognition for its role as an interpreter of industry”

Psychology of Customer and Design Aesthetics

Many have suggested that it was the artist rather than the engineer that was the benchmark for Loewy. The editors can understand this but believe the boundaries were blurred and sales were the real driver.

In the 1930/s his approach was radical.

Possible his most famous design methodology was:-

M.A.Y.A –Most advanced yet acceptable.

He explained and expanded this with an explanation that the formula operated when a designer seeks to move customers to a MAYA stage giving them only as much progressive style as they can internalize at a particular moment. This ought not to be considered patronizing.

He was an all-round designer

The “streamlined” look was deeply symbolic it contained a message of vitality, speed, mobility and aspiration and particularly expressed American cultural values in particular consumer sovereignty.

“Loewy offered the customer the complete package with addition to product design also included a concept for optimizing of marketing, packaging and sales “

It has been suggested that he “succeeded in aestheticization and commercialization of private consumption”

He retained a team of specialist staff that at various times included:-

  • Engineers
  • Market research
  • Interior designers
  • Model makers

C 1947 his practice comprised commissions on buildings, shop fittings, product design, transportation vehicles and equipment, packaging.

General Industrial and Product Design

  • Air Force One livery
  • Coca-Cola fountain dispenser
  • 1929   Gestetner duplicating machine
  • JFK postage stamp
  • Petrol stations
  • Navy ship furniture
  • 1943   Office furniture/desks
  • Mobil battery
  • Pencil sharpener [ streamlined case ]1933; homage
  • Shops and buildings
  • Schick razor
  • Corporate wear and uniforms

Domestic Goods and Case study: The Coldspot Refrigerator of 1934

Loewy and his consultancy designed a diversified range of products including domestic goods. Not all went into production. We have noted the requirement to appreciate demographics impacting on demand. These are possibly most prevalent relating to household formation. Some of the most influential goods designed by Loewy included:-

  • Rosenthal China Form 2000 Series possibly with Richard Latham
  • Sears Coldspot refrigerators[with in-house engineers –see below]
  • Heaters
  • Singer vacuum
  • Kitchen appliances e.g. Le Creuset; illustrated oven casserole mategot


  • Porcelain tableware
  • Elna Lotus portable sewing machines
  • Radios
  • Furniture and office furniture eg.for DF 2000,France
  • Textiles
  • Wall paper patterns for Sanderson

The ColdSpot refrigerator is heralded as his great commercial success and helped establish his career early on. It is thought of as one of his most enduring designs.Undoubtely it was a master stroke. However it’s important to understand important contextual factors that underpinned sales before eulogizing about the design.

The editors believe that early refrigerators might have been created for commercial and industrial applications. Possibly in America’s meat, seafood and fruit markets. Early domestic appliances were expensive, not particularly aesthetic and suffered poor reliability and serviceability. The editor’s note prices in 1931 $205 cash but available on terms, 1933 at $99.50

The editors have seen statistics that suggest that only 8% of the population owned a fridge in the early 1930’s but by the end of the decade this had risen to 44%.

Sears [Sears Roebuck Company, Chicago USA, associated with mail order and credit facilities] possibly had deducted that a large market existed but exiting products were too expensive. Their research possibly also told them that the standard capacity was 4 cubic ft. Their target was to offer a 6 cubic ft. fridge at the price of 4.

During parts of the 1920 and 30 the industrialised world suffered economic decline. A related consequence was that servants were less employed in American middle class homes. This trend possible accelerated during the Second World War.

The refrigerator took on a new importance. It was bought by wives and mothers and had considerable symbolic value. The wished to portray their contemporary awareness of family welfare, safety and hygiene. Therefore the clean white streamline shape of the ColdSpot appealed to modernity and meet an increasing need.

The Sears ColdSpot was marketed as “Tomorrows Refrigerator” conceptually it could be perceived as part sculpture part rationalisation.

Loewy and his team conceived the design to radiate quality and simplicity whilst they noted the feedback that customers appreciated finesse.

The editors believe that both Loewy and Herman Price worked on the ColdSpot.

The design was product of careful preparation and research which included:-

  • Tour of existing plant and production techniques
  • Meetings with executives , product engineers and marketing staff
  • Study and evaluation of earlier models and possibly competitors
  • Conducting market research
  • Observing shoppers behaviour

The information gathered was synthesised in all respects to examine relative costs, potential materials, manufacturing process and functional elements of user interface including the dynamics of aesthetics and cultural/ social values.

In fact Loewy and his team implemented much that was set out in “Consumer Engineering “see above.

Loewy possibly more than most understood the holistic and integrated structural relationship from design through manufacture to the importance of packaging, marketing and advertising.

The ColdSpot featured:-

  • Improved design; including reliability and service
  • Extra storage
  • Easy use chrome handles [ “feather touch latches “] and attractive hinges which possessed a jewellery quality and flush door
  • Easy to clean function of shape which was an encased whole, white enamelled steel container
  • Convenient controls
  • White enamel finish suggested all the right connotations and symbolic cold of snow
  • Rounded sculptural an “streamlined” profile achieved by sophisticated metal forming techniques
  • Not a machine but object of beauty
  • Rust proof aluminium shelving
  • Distinctive blue logo and repeated motif
  • Vertical aesthetic emphasis
  • Interior carefully designed with compartments of different size
  • Semi –automatic defroster
  • Instant release ice cube trays
  • Glass rolling pin for pastry

It’s perhaps inevitable with such overwhelming superiority and fitness for purpose that the Coldspot annual sales increased from 15,000 to 275,000 within five years.

Significantly the ColdSpot is thought of as partly initiating a form of consumerism embracing the “objects of desire trend”

It was an alluring improved design that also reduced manufacturing costs. This made for a more competitive retail price which generated sales.

Loewy the consummate Industrial Designer noted that the ColdSpot featured early aspects of cross pollination of products and materials [we will make further reference to this viz Chapman]

Trains and Boats and Planes: Motor Transport/Commercial /Utility

Loewy’s work on locomotives is interesting. His own published work although directly referring to aesthetics does not really expand on a theory. It does site some relevant examples such as:-

  • 19935 Commodore  Vanderbilt
  • 1936 New York Central Mercury
  • 1936 Pennsylvania Railroads                 designed with input from Loewy
  • ? Bugatti [France ]                               [see A&R article]

Loewy evidently loved the power presence and speed of the high-speed trains. His designs were in conjunction with professional engineers and possibly his contributions were styling but he states clearly that he used wind tunnel testing in arriving at shapes. Possibly of equal importance was the symbolism of the locomotive and for the operating companies their machinery and corporate image were fused and reinforced with Loewy’s transformation and adoption of modernism/ streamlining. He is most identified with the K4S, GG1 [1934] and T1 [1937]

His other automobile designs include:-

From the net:

  • “Studebaker President [1938] Commander ,Champion, Bullet nose   Starliner*[1953] and Avanti [c1962]** Design objectives included:- minimize chrome
    – avoid decorative moldings
    – accent the wedge-shaped silhouette
    – stress long, down-slanted hood
    – abbreviate the rear and tuck it under
    – place instrument panel overhead, above windshield as in aircraft
    – install aircraft-type knobs and levers on the console
    – pinch the waistline, as Le Mans-type racing cars
    – design hoods with an off-center panel
    – accent spacecraft “reentry curve” wheel openings
    – simple disc wheels”
  • Hillman Minx and Sunbeam Alpine c 1956-67
  • Retained by Austin/roots in UK in 1950’s
  • Concorde interiors and cutlery etc.
  • NASA interiors for Skylab [ mainly unimplemented habitability systems] and Apollo programs; cooperation  from 1967.Of this project Loewy was most proud
  • Hovercraft
  • Public transport
  • Alouette for Sud Aviation
  • Luxury liners
  • Greyhound coach e.g. “Silversides” c 1940-54 note not only accommodation but also reinforcing corporate image note also “Scenicruiser” [1954]
  • International Harvester “Farmall” tractor and “Tractractor” Caterpillar
  • Interior for Lockheed Constellation
  • 1934   Hupmobile for Hupp Motor Co;[ nb its believed Loewy took out patent relating to this design]
  • 1946 Lincoln Continental
  • Lancia Loraymo
  • Jaguar XK [Boano constructor]and BMW [ Pichon & Parat constructors] specials built for and designed by Loewy curiously they are of dubious aesthetic , the BMW deferring slightly to the European cannon

*It’s been suggested that the Starliner of the late 1940’s achieved approximately 40% of Studebaker sales. For many it was considered in period as the quintessential American 2 door coupe with its European style and flair.

** Lowey was involved with Studebaker Design Division and worked with engineer/ designers Hoffman, Hardig, Bourke on the Avanti.

“Weight is the Enemy”

We particularly identify weight reduction with Chapman. However through his published works and on the net there are many useful quotations pertaining to Loewy and automobile design. His general observation was that American cars were too heavy, bulky he identified them as:-

“Their chrome barges and juke boxes on wheels”

And therefore necessitated large engines.

 He possible understood the potential for the oil crisis.

The editors have considerable respect for Loewy and his concern for consumers but in the case of the automobile he either had a very different aesthetic or possibly overlooked the public wanted larger cars with all the accessories including higher prices.

However it ought to be noted that he possibly also had concerns that American car production would suffer sales volumes if it did not address world markets and a general trend towards smaller cars.

The editors readily recognise the considerable design achievements of Loewy but his automobile aesthetics do not really gel or come close to the Italian aesthetic excellence of the late 1950’s and 60’s.

Logos, Graphics, Corporate and National Identity

Loewy was involved in corporate design and image presentation. Some of his clients included:-

Logos for Exxon, Shell, BP, International Harvester, TWA, Nabisco, Quaker, New Man, LU ,U.S. Postal Service, New Man, elna,Quaker,corona, SPAR, Rank Hovis McDougall Ltd, NABISCO,CANADA DRY, FORMICA ,ALCAN,TWA etc. Loewy consultants also designed corporate uniforms .Possibly the most famous of these logos is:-

Lucky Strike package

This was another particular success of Loewy and his colleagues. Lucky Strike was brand name that appears to have its roots in the late 19C. Some suggest it was coined to coincide with America’s Gold Rush and was possibly a chewing tobacco. Its logo is associated with a bull’s-eye target. It is a product of British American Tobacco. [BAT]

During the 1930 cigarette smoking was possible made more female friendly and positively marketed toward women. Lowey redesign probably made the packet less dowdy and the adoption of white packaging  redefined the packs distinctive logo in fact making it bolder by virtue of stronger contrast , this had significant symbolism whilst modernizing the brand and appeal to women. In addition the printing of the logo on both packet sides increased visibility and direct/indirect promotion. The changeover reduced printing costs .Other explanations have been offered but the editors believe that fundamentals are the more significant motive and generator. Sales increased but this too must be analyzed against other events and cultural trends in society. Some pundits suggest that the redesign resulted in an almost 17% increase in consumption.

Briefly it’s interesting to note that BAR FI racing team was born out of BAT c 1999-2005 to essentially promote their cigarette brands Lucky Strike and 555. With the introduction of legislation they withdrew. [cf Chapman, Lotus and JPS – see various A&R articles]

Loewy also undertook commission from Shell 1967-1971 .It’s interesting to track the reductionism, simplification that evolves possibly set against the corporation’s identity/reputation needing so little articulation.

It’s important to note there was a collective or accumulative impact to Loewy’s designs.

It is not unreasonable to state:-

Loewy’s streamlined packaging for the bar top Coca-Cola dispenser became a symbol of American culture across the world”

Architecture and Interior Design

Architecture and interior design sits very comfortable with Industrial Design and perhaps there is tendency for one commission to grow out of another especially when multinationals seek by every means to enhance and reinforce their corporate identity.

Possibly one example is the International Harvester’s Stores and Service centers planned and designed by Raymond Loewy Associates.

Industrial Design A-Z

The editors bring to students/ subscribers attention that an extensive list of Loewy clients on an A-Z basis is provided in “Industrial Design”. The editors deliberately mention this as objectivity is important. This list can be used with discretion to cross reference clients, products and socio-economic contexts.

Awards and Exhibitions

From the net we can summarize that:

among his numerous honours and awards
– from the gold medal, in transportation (for GG-1 locomotive
design), international exposition, Paris 1937;
royal designer for industry, royal society of arts, London, 1937;
to the award from the president of France, 1980 /
became honorary citizen of France –
he was named one of the 100 ‘most influential Americans
of the 20th century’ by life magazine and
one of the ‘thousand makers of the 20th century’ by the
Sunday times.

He was founding member and fellow of the
American society of industrial designs (president 1946).

Exhibitions, Education and Economics

In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our suggested outline Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.

An exhibition of Loewy’s and Chapman would make for a fascinating Interactive and interpretative exhibition. This could be structured with many education and market research opportunities. As our lists suggest there are considerable communality of design projects but enormous difference in outcomes and aesthetics to compare contrast and explain.

Conclusion and Direct comparison with Colin Chapman

In our introduction we referred to Giorgio Giugiaro and we recommend subscribers make a comparison of both as Industrial Design consultants as this is instructive and overlaps with Chapman and Lotus.

A comparison between Chapman and Loewy reveals these communalities, both:-

  • were Industrial Designers and owned and operated Consultancy
  • were engineers by academic training/ qualification
  • held , appreciated and presented aesthetic solutions to design issues
  • conducted business through economic up turns but also decline and energy crisis
  • held patents
  • acknowledged the weight issue in motorcar design
  • designed with slightly differing focus but an essential methodology to quality product , simplified and at lower cost
  • acted as consultants to motoring manufacturers
  • undertook design in various transport modes
  • held an international perspective
  • designed goods that were exported
  • their design skills formally acknowledged
  • made significant contributions to their respective national economies
  • produced iconic designs recognized as all-time classics
  • adopted cross pollination and mutated technologies /materials into new applications

However for all these factors in common, the significant difference was that Chapman was in various degrees of involvement: owner, strategist, designer and manufacturer. He took greater risks with products and bore directly the consequences.

Whereas Loewy was possibly paid to undertake market research Chapman could less afford this particularly in the early days. He possibly relied on a strategy of multiple outcome supported by an intention to create a superior product to his competitors

It’s important to draw some conclusions from the evidence and factor in socio-economic determinants that impinged on their respective designs and careers. These help clarify the comparisons drawn. When evaluating a designer and his success it’s beneficial and objective to:-

  • Study the socio-economic conditions prevailing at the time and relate this to disposable income , its influence on taste and culture, availability of credit and whether society is subsisting or investing , purchasing luxury goods etc. and if government is supporting industry or indeed implementing Keynesian theory
  • Examine the impact of gender ,its priorities and purchasing power and demographics can be included
  • Consider whether the designer aims for mass production necessities / disposable or long life capital goods and the degrees of complexity and legislation impacting on their manufacturer
  • The brief that is handed to the designer; subscribers might like to see A&R article on Lotus and SUV’s where we look at Chapman, Lotus and market research
  • If the designer is the owner or consultant as we have noted plant /capital investment may impinge on product development

Raymond Loewy and the American Industrial Designers that emerged in the 1920’s were a group of men, in the right place and right time.

Raymond Loewy did America a great service at time when world economic depression cast doubts on free market economics to meet societies most basic needs. Loewy believed in choice, consumer freedom and good design .Assisted by societal change and an improving economic conditions prompted by the New Deal, he bought an acceptable modernism to product design. His slogan and design methodology MAYA was tolerant and essential component of free choice. He did not denigrate customers who did not share aesthetic extremes .The editors consider that Loewy was progressive, meet needs and in his own way educated and evolved aesthetic appreciation with a deference to consumer sovereignty .Its possibly because he was an essential democrat that his work is not always appreciated and he was not understood.

Loewy’s achievement was to identify American consumer sovereignty with personal liberty and free minded people of the world aspired to this basic human right that seem to underpin and integrate with other civil liberties.

Evidence suggests that Chapman on occasions was over ambitious but this contains powerful ingredients of over idealism as to what he could deliver organizationally and at cost. Chapman took risks and bore the consequences. Products of mass consumption, necessity and rapid replacement lend themselves to mass production. In these cases R&D and market research are more easily absorbed. The converse is true of limited production luxury/larger capital items .It is possible that for this reason Chapman relied on his knowledge of the market [competition & production] and considered this cost effective and decisive. Many of his motorcar designs are considered iconic but were not necessarily commercially successful. However it’s self-evident that for every less successful model Chapman returned with vigour having learnt lessons and provided a viable piece. Under these conditions there was the beneficial spiral we have noted between volume and competition results.

It’s notoriously difficult to compare /contrast two so different designers operating on two different continents at different times and in differing socio-economic climates.

Loewy designed products that entered a nation’s culture and contributed to how American consumer sovereignty was respected and aspired to and represented liberty.

His graphic corporation logos are seen and recognized around the world.

On occasions there was beneficial spiral of product, time and place all embracing in an appropriate design or packaging by Loewy. A gift of Loewy was possibly his ability to comprehend needs and translate these into a viable product and as such MAYA will remain a universal. He found a progressive mass common denominator

Chapman and Lotus did not reach perhaps the same mass global audience but approached it through his impact/presence on motor racing and indeed Lotus cars appearance in TV and film. Chapman was an owner designer of complex machinery and produced some designs that are regonised as some of the greatest ever created; Loewy’s automobile aesthetic rather let him down.

Both men have left a considerable Industrial Design legacy. Chapman through Lotus continues today and his design methodology essentially lives on.

Appendix 1. Henry Ford

Directly relevant to our study of Loewy and Industrial design is an appreciation of Henry Ford and Taylorism and other mass production techniques that were present in the USA prior to the economic downturn of the 1920’s and 30’s.

One quotation from Henry Ford is particularly instructive [see Bachelor, reference below]

“I want to build a motor car for the great multitude .It will be large enough for the family, small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials by the best men to be hired after the simplest design and modern engineering can devise. But it will also so low in price that no man making good a good salary will be unable to own one ………….great open spaces”

It’s important to note how this manifesto and programme influenced the Modernist designers of Europe in the early 20c notably Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus [see A&R dedicated article].The importance of precision manufacturer interchangeability, mass production and affordability were paramount factors in design. The Bauhaus designers sought to reconcile mass production with quality design made affordable and readily available to all.

After the success of the Ford Model T, other manufacturers competed by offering more choices and personalization and helped found product design.


By Raymond Loewy:-

American Modern: 1925-1940.Design for a New Age.Johnson.Abrams.2000.

ISBN: 0810942089

Design in America.Meikle.Oxford University Press.2005.

ISBN: 0192842196

Industrial Design.Heskett.Thames and Hudson.1997.

ISBN: 0500201811

Industrial Design A-Z.C&P Fiell.Taschen.2003.

ISBN: 3822824267

Design.Bonny.Larousse Chambers.2005.

ISBN: 0550101942

Design Source Book.Sparke, Hodges, Coad, Stone.Macdonald.1986.

ISBN: 0356120058

The Conran Directory of Design. Edited Bayley.Octupus Conran.1985.

ISBN: 1850290059

Design: Intelligence made Visible. Bayley & Conran.Firefly.2007.

ISBN: 9781554073108

Henry Ford: Mass Production, Modernism and Design.Batchelor.Manchester Uni.Press.1994.

ISBN: 0719041732

Consumer Engineering: A New Approach to Prosperity. Sheldon & Arnes.Harper Bros.1932.

Horizons.Bel Geddes. Little Brown.1932

Inventions.Ed.Wilkinson.Observer .2008.


From the Net:

  • Bayley, Stephen. The Lucky Strike Packet (Design Classics Series), Art Books International Ltd (1998) ISBN 3-931317-72-2
  • Byars, Mel. “Loewy, Raymond” in American National Biography, American Council of Learned Societies (2000)
  • Porter, Glenn. Raymond Loewy Designs for the Consumer Culture, Hagley Museum and Library (2002) ISBN 0-914650-34-3
  • Schoenberger, Angela. Raymond Loewy: Pioneer of American Industrial Design, Prestel Publishing (1991) ISBN 3-7913-1449-1
  • Trétiack, Phillippe. Raymond Loewy and Streamlined Design, New York: Universe (1999) ISBN 0-7893-0328-0

Please note the editors of the A&R attempt to give the broadest spectrum of references but not all are available for consultation in an article. However by noting their existence it may assist students in their research.

*Items in italics non A&R library book

Thank you as ever

John Scott Davies Co- Editor

Neil Duncan          Co=Editor

Jamie Duncan      Webmaster