Chapman’s Catalogue: Car Sales Brochures, Advertisements and Promotional Photography


This is a new series that will examine car sales material and potential promotional photography used by Colin Chapman. Chapman commissioned sales literature from the Mk.VI onwards. In the 1950’s and 60’s off-set printing became reasonably affordable and almost immediately we see Chapman respond along with his marketing colleagues.

The A&R has a good cross section of these brochures in various forms adopted from the earliest to the present.

In each of our studies we will examine:-

  1. Visual imagery , content and message / marketing of the brochure
  2. Examine briefly the social/historical context where appropriate
  3. Examine the model in context [ note technical information invariably contained +within brochure itself]

The editors believe these will appeal to a wide audience .Increasingly sales material is down loaded but there remains a significant incentive to retain crisp, clear, graphic, professional, well designed and presented printed brochures on quality paper as a reflection of the products /brands inherent attributes.

It will be interesting to observe through brochures how Chapman’s car products evolved, became more sophisticated and how this was expressed through changing times, markets ,technologies and of course presentation.

Brochures will not be offered in chronological order but will explore subjects and topics relevant to our main articles and themes. The editors will be very pleased to hear from our subscribers should they have any priorities or preferences.

Subscribers are directed to our related articles:-

* Sales and marketing see individual models and categories

* In this instance our Design Decades series and the Elan and the 1960’s are particularly instructive

Brochure Definition and Content

A brochure or sales literature might take the form of [or combination of]:

o Flyer

o Leaflet

o Pamphlet

o Booklet

o Catalogue

o Manuals

o Data /technical data sheets

o Price lists

o Press clippings/ release

o Testimonials

Their purpose is primarily to:-

* Pass on information and effectively communicate often subtle messages

* Introduce the company or organization to products and services

* Generate sales through broad strategy and promotion

* Impress and generate interest , enquiry about company beyond immediate product

* To present favorably against rivals

Brochures are produced to reach target audiences. These are reached through display and distribution in dealer’s showrooms, at exhibitions, through postal enquiries, and possibly dissemination to selected organizations and individual such as authors and researchers.

In the case of the car it might be hoped that the customer having gathered intelligence short lists the product and proceeds to test drive. Thereby through a process of design and content [product] to persuasion [brochure] and demonstration a sale is generated. [Subject to realities of price, service trade in and other individual considerations]

In one respect the brochure might be seen as an equation in another a bridge. Its success measured by the extent it can influence, reach and persuade the customer. We will examine this in each case.

A good brochure might be considered aspirational.

Marketing: Visual and Literary Symbolism

Marketing will attempt to identify the prospective purchaser with the product. There is an element of providing the customer with a reflection of their desired self-image. This subtle persuasion often relies on messaging and tie-in between the two elements. Visual and written information is likely to endeavor to exploit affinities and use allegory, metaphor, analogy extensively and be aspirational.

Often the cars will be posed consciously with intentional lyrical atmosphere or ambience to establish connectivity between the customers his/her values and of course significantly romance .This is often achieved with reference to occupation, status, hobbies and the customer’s cultured aesthetic sensitivity. Some of the principle backdrops adopted are:-

> Aircraft, aviation, runways, gliding etc.

> Fashion, clothes

> Architecture

> Landscape, rivers, sailing and seashore etc.

> Distinct British landmarks e.g. London

The editors provide some detailed examples and dates:

Identified Categories

Prime Focus Secondary Focus Tag Line Model Bro or photo

Architecture Seven S 3

Architecture Europa

Architecture Modern Design Europa S1

Architecture “The man in the Elan” Elan

Architecture “Elegance breeds Elegance” Elan +2

Architecture Esprit

Architecture Kettingham Hall Esprit Turbo Pub’ Photo

Architecture Chateau Esprit Turbo Pub’ Photo

Architecture Georgian home frontage Europa Pub’ Photo

Architecture Farmhouse Elan +2 Pub’ Photo

Architecture Windmill Elan Pub’ Photo

Architecture Modern factory/whareh’ Europa [GKN] Pub’ Photo

Architecture Farm/mansion Europa Pub’ Photo

Architecture Country House drive Elite Pub’ Photo

Aviation “Fly Lotus” Elan +2

Aviation Glider Eclat

Aviation Bell Ranger Helicopter Eclat Pub ‘Photo

Colour impact Tints Seven S1-3

Families Elan +2

Fashion Elite

Fashion Elan

Fashion “An even more powerful temptation” Elan +2

Fashion Elan +2

Fashion Architecture Sunbeam Lotus 79

Features Technical specification 15

Features Steering wheels Elan

Hippy era “Groovy” Seven S4

Landscape Elan S 4

Landscape “If you have just bought…..” Europa

Landscape Europa S2

Landscape Seascape Sunbeam Lotus 79

Landscape Riverside Elan

London Houses of Parliament Europa S2

London Harrods Eclat

London Crystal Place old track Esprit Pub ‘Photo

London Gates St. James Palace

London Houses of Parliament Esprit Turbo Pub’ Photo

A visual image carries and is loaded with much greater symbolism than words .It is also more immediate and possibly indelible. Hence photography is a preferred medium of communication being both more effective and economic than the written word. Photography is very powerful in its ability to borrow from and assimilate symbolism from its surroundings.

In our analysis we will examine how this is adopted.

Analysis of Sales Brochure for:

  1. Visual imagery, content and message / marketing of the brochure
  2. Examine briefly the social/historical context where appropriate:

See Lotus Design Decades.

  1. Examine the model in context [note technical information invariably contained within brochure itself]


Figure 1.Lotus advertisement from Motor Sport, March, 1970.

This advertisement contains a strong element of heritage allied with a connectivity to word, image association with refinement and ancestry etc.

We will explore this in more detail.

Automobile manufacturers have used this content from the birth of the motor car to confer a status to their product. There is strong reference to identification between the presented owner and the marque. One giving reference and style to the other. In doing so it presents an opportunity for a new owner to belong or possess a similar status and the car becomes a passport into society.

Study of Lotus cars is more complex than just the engineering. Chapman relied on sales for personnel income to employ his work force and to support his racing programme.

In order to achieve this his company had to:-

* Design and produce cars for the market

* Those cars to enshrine the Lotus brand and its mystique

* They had to survive in changing times and against formidable commercial opposition

* Having defined a market and produced a car for that profile , the product had to be sold

The 1960’s had been a good decade for Chapman, Lotus and the models built. Chapman was style leader.

However society as a whole was becoming more sophisticated with greater expectations.

The enthusiast engineer /mechanic type was dying and owners expected turnkey performance. Other brands had established reputations and imagery commensurate to their customers.

Towards the end of the decade and into the 1970’s Chapman realized he had to change his product and to an extent brand image and go up market in order to survive.

This was not an easy task:-

  1. Lotus by the 1970’s had 20 year history of high performance cars which were very close to out and out competition cars
  2. These had the reputation of needing care ,maintenance and sympathetic ownership
  3. Other more established brands had either commenced on a higher status entry point or had acquired this and developed it. It ought be remembered the intense competition form Italian marques through the era of the 1960’s
  4. During the decade Japanese cars of extremely high reliability were entering the British market
  5. Aerodynamic theory had impacted on the automobile in general and closed sports cars and increasingly high performance saloons from the mainstream manufacturers were offering attractive alternative products with performance, comfort ,safety and user friendliness

It’s into this context we see this magazine advertisement in which the Elan Plus 2 is presented as being owned by a young couple possibly of aristocratic background or from a well-established connected family. The image is further reinforced by the traditional hotel or restaurant with a uniformed attendant.

This type of imagery requires a visual image to produce mental imagery and association.

The strapline “Elegance breeds Elegance” provides the cue and springboard.

The two together galvanize and conjure associations these word associations include:-

o Chic

o Grace

o Poise

o Style

o Taste

o Luxury

o Grandeur

o Gentility

o Proprietry

o Refinement

o Discernment

o Distinction

o Sophistication

o Fashionableness

o Culture

o Debonaire

The image is constructed around the couple, their dress, and body language and of course the location and context.

The couple are presented as rich, cultured, cosmopolitan, possessing a value mechanism in which heritage, quality and value are enshrined.

As such the couple radiate a sense of style and presence; and from this extends a further trigger to mental images and association which include:-

* Heritage

* Ancestory

* Heredity

* Culture

* Descent

* History

* Lineage

The marketing objective here is to make a connectivity of one to another.

What the owners are and possess. What they value and own. [Tendency to acquire possessions in their own value mechanism], therefore by definition the Lotus possesses these desired characteristics.

The further projection then becomes that the car possesses status and an owner will acquire that passport in society.

Question does this brochure succeed?

The editors believe this to be a good marketing piece. As stated clearly it was not easy for Lotus to make the transition into a different social category. Values, image, and

societal acceptance are extremely subtle forces that exert very profound controls limits, norms codes and mores.

Individuals who ignore these risk rejection or demotion.

The purchase of a product is thus an indication of certain place in society .an alternative can mark the individual out and subject them to polite unspoken criticism.

The Lotus marketing device here is therefore complex. There is certain duality:-

  1. To project the car as suitable choice for individuals
  2. To have the car purchased and used in societal circles that will generate acceptance and brake down the resistance and rejections we have described

Here the strap line “Elegance breeds Elegance” has special duality and double meaning that embraces the societal mechanism we have outlined with means of continuity and preference value statements /projections.

We believe that the Elan Plus 2 was able to achieve this with some resistance.

It was clever mix. It attempted to bridge the competition car into the practical useable.

We further believe the advertisement projects a cosmopolitan urban couple who are traditional but also modern and progressive and hence their choice.

The subtle inference too, might be that their status and individualism permit them to take a radical choice and as such mark them out …………but in a positive vein.

It’s into this territory that Lotus hopes to go .Its brave because many societal values discourage that experimentation.

The fact is; a perhaps not always evident that Chapman and Lotus produced more elegant and sophisticated products than reognised.They were not conservative with a small “c” possibly did not help them.

Learning Opportunities

Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.

These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.

In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

> What is the credibility gap in this advertisement?

> Seen in context of the times was the proposal acceptable?

> Would a similar advertisement work today?

> Identify and profile customers for Lotus as the moved up market [in period]

> What aspects of society and psychology does the advert involve?

> Conceive an ad campaign involving a brand changing its image

Education, Exhibitions and Economics

The proposed museum believes that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our 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.

In particular it’s proposed to retail sales brochures and memorabilia derived from them including posters, cards, calendars, postcards. The prosed museum has the potential to hold originals in archive, buy, sell and exchange brochures and undertake exhibitions that explore marketing of Chapman derived products.

The design of brochures also has a strong educational content and this will be exploited with direct and indirect learning opportunities and competitions.

In this instance we feel the following might be appropriate:-

* Marque Heritages

* What does the Customer Want?

* Subjectivity, Psychology and Selling in automobile industry

* Marques,Manners and Markets in the automobile industry

* Understanding and Defining Lotus :Brand Identity

* Gear change and step change in product development

* Meet the Ancestors: Lotus Evolution


In this instance we see a marketing formula that has been used since the birth of the automobile.

In the early days cars could only be afforded by the rich but mass production brought democratization.

Many of the world’s foremost automobile brands remain expensive and beyond the majority and born of this ownership confers many things and sends signals.

Brand management is a very creative and dynamic activity.

It has to understand the brand its heritage changing times, customers and the product and a means by which they can be aligned.

Brands and manufacturers have to survive and adapt .Reputation and good will of one era may not suit the next.

In this advertisement we see one of the greatest challenges to marketing professionals that of managing a credibility gap. It’s an extremely creative exercise in retaining the best and positive and explaining how this has evolved with continuity, traditional values yet modern.

As we have noted sales brochures are a function of communication and marketing. As long as products and services are manufactured to some extend there remains a requirement to bring these to a targeted audience.

The design and presentation of sales materials is a dynamic subject .It requires understanding of psychology, the brand, the product, the customer and the prevailing culture. To some extent it also requires an appreciation of rivals. Brochures and other sales materials generate income but also have a cost. When commissioned these need

to be balanced and the selection of consultants and the ability to grasp subtle sometimes sublime messages is an art.

Much of Chapman’s design mantra is technological but his racing programme would not have been possible without selling road cars and consultancy. Brochures played an important role .Therefore this exercise is particularly relevant and has educational overlaps for the creative and marketing professionals. Between the manufacturer, marketing professionals and customer are dynamic interfaces.

These are issues that extend outside the automotive industries and our case histories provide useful examples to study. learn from and apply in new environments.


The Lotus Collectables Book.W.Taylor.Coterie.2000.

ISBN: 1902351010


ISBN: 1857781473

Vintage Ad Gallery

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.