Elite Elegance Advertising

Figure 1. Elite Magazine advert

Figure 2. note how on location photograph has been edited for picture above

The Elite Elegance:

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.

In this piece we explain how and why Chapman and his marketing team including Robin Read employed the connectivity of high fashion to sell the Elite.They engaged the best professionals and adopted industry norms. To emphasise this point we will make reference to the best practice of the era.

Brochure Definition and Content

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

  • Flyer
  • Leaflet
  • Pamphlet
  • Booklet
  • Catalogue
  • Manuals
  • Data /technical data sheets
  • Price lists
  • Press clippings/ release
  • 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/where’ 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.

It is thus extremely cost effective.

In our analysis we will examine how this is adopted.

Subscribers might like to see the directly relevant and integrated A&R pieces that complement and help structure this article: –

  • Read and Right
  • Seven Sales to Sunset
  • Lotus Sales and Fashion
  • Carnaby Street
  • Lotus and Celebrity Owners
  • The Avengers: The Elan and Diana Rigg

Holding Fashion to a Mirror

Fashion and cars have gone together since the birth of the automobile.

Briefly our suggested explanations for this are: –

  • Symbolism contained within clothes and fashion
  • Association of fashion as signifier of elegance, wealth, taste, style and contemporary mode
  • Publicity when a fashion element is incorporated with a car there are multiple outlets for varied audience
  • There is appeal to both men and women [ although possibly processed in different ways by gender]
  • Persuasion and agenda: the linking of above strikes a contrary association to grease, engineering and macho chauvinism

The examples set out below demonstrate fashion selling and this applies across the brand status and intended audience. The evidence is that fashion is a long-established method of glamorizing a product and strengthening sales base.

Fashion and cars were particularly established in the concourse’s events held throughout the 1930’s into the 1950’s. The rich, famous, aristocrats and film celebrities strutted and posed alongside cars in the South of France. Edward Quinn captured these moments.

Historical Example of Brochure Glamour

Selected from Glancey – “The Automotive Nymph”:-

  • 1917 Oldsmobile
  • 1923 Peugeot 18C H
  • 1935 Bugatti Type 57C
  • 1938 Nash Ambassador
  • 1945 Riley RMA 1.5L
  • 1948 Tatraplan
  • 1955 BMW Isetta
  • 1955 Fiat 1400 Saloon
  • 1957 Simca Aronde
  • 1959 Cadillac Sedan

See also examples of Concept car publicity at auto shows.

Haute couture from wiki and the net :

(/ˌoʊt kuːˈtjʊər/; French pronunciation: ​[ot kutyʁ]; French for “high sewing” or “high dressmaking” or “high fashion”) is the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothing. Haute couture is high-end fashion that is constructed by hand from start to finish, made from high-quality, expensive, often unusual fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable sewers – often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques.[1] Couture translates literally from French as “dressmaking” but may also refer to fashion, sewing, or needlework[2] and is also used as a common abbreviation of haute couture and refers to the same thing in spirit.[3] Haute translates literally to “high”. A haute couture garment is always made for an individual client, tailored specifically for the wearer’s measurements and body stance. Considering the amount of time, money, and skill allotted to each completed piece, haute couture garments are also described as having no price tag: budget is not relevant.

The term originally referred to Englishman Charles Frederick Worth‘s work, produced in Paris in the mid-nineteenth century.[4] The Dapifer notes that Worth would allow his clients to select colors, fabrics and other details before ever beginning his design process which was unheard of at the time.[1] In modern France, haute couture is a protected name that may not be used except by firms that meet certain well-defined standards. However, the term is also used loosely to describe all high-fashion custom-fitted clothing whether it is produced in Paris or in other fashion capitals such as London, Milan, New York City or Tokyo. In either case, the term can refer to the fashion houses or fashion designers that create exclusive and often trend-setting fashions or to the fashions created.

Just as car manufacturers show off their expertise through the creation of supercars, fashion designers use couture as a statement of strength and technical ability. Entry to the schedule is strictly policed by the Chambre de commerce et d’Industrie de Paris – in order to become a couture designer, fashion houses must meet stringent guidelines, including having a Paris-based atelier with more than 20 staff. Couture is a showcase for a designer’s most outrageous ideas, where budget is no limit to ambition. It is also an expression of financial muscle. Versace, for example, almost collapsed during the recession of the early 2000s, and stopped showing couture for eight years. When it returned to the schedule, in 2012, the brand was perceived as being back in rude health. In short, couture designers are the creme de la creme; fashion’s richest, most accomplished top dogs.

Figoni et Falaschi from wiki and the net

F&F also became known for coordinating with Paris couturiers, so that their cars were often presented at auto shows and concours d’elegance together with models wearing ensembles and fashion accessories which matched the car in style and color.,[1][2] Ovidio Falaschi is quoted as viewing the firm as “true couturiers of automotive coachwork, dressing and undressing a chassis one, two, three times and even more before arriving at the definitive line that we wanted to give to a specific chassis-coachwork ensemble.”[1] According to prewar French automobile expert and restorer Ricardo Adatto, for Figoni et Falaschi to finish a complete body required 2,100 hours.[12]

Figure 3. Jacket Cover

Edward Quinn

Edward Quinn was one of the foremost photographers active in France during the mid –century and his reputation has been based around celebrity photography. He has published a book dedicated to this and the following examples are taken from this work. The main characteristics are: –

  • Locations fashionable South of France, Cannes and Antibes and Paris,
  • Celebrities
  • Concours d’ Elegance ……. a competition inviting cars and women to be judged
  • Alfa wins Grand prix d’ honneur

The images the author examined were in black and white.

Specific examples are: –

Title or subject Year
Concours d’ Elegance Automobile in Cannes 1951
Mme. Westine wins Prix du tout dernieron
Prix de la plus jolie toilette de jeune fille
Le plus harmonicux ensemble 1951
Francoise Sagan [ with Jaguar XK120]
Grandstand at Monte Carlo GP 1957
Moss [Monaco] 1956
Tony Brooks
Ella Fitzgerald
Marai Callas
Roberto Rossellini and Ferrari 1952

From Quinn website etc.: –
“Edward Quinn, born 1920 in Ireland, lived and worked as a
photographer since the ’50s on the Côte d’Azur, which was
during the “Golden Fifties” the playground of the celebrities
from the world of show biz, art and business. The rich and
the famous came to the Riviera to relax. But the movie stars
knew how much their off-screen image counted and Quinn
was at the right place at the right time and was able to get
spontaneous and enchanting images which catch the charm,
sophistication and chic of a legendary era.

In 1951 Edward Quinn met and photographed Pablo Picasso
for the first time. Their friendship lasted until Picasso’s death
in 1973.
This encounter with Picasso was to be greatly influential to
Quinn himself and to his subsequent work. Quinn is the author
of several books and films about Picasso.

Since the ’60s Quinn concentrated his work on artists,
amongst them Max Ernst, Alexander Calder, Francis Bacon,
Salvador Dalí, Graham Sutherland, David Hockney.
In the late ’80s an intense relationship, similar to his friendship
with Picasso, linked Quinn to Georg Baselitz.

Since 1992 until his death in 1997, Edward Quinn lived near
Zurich with his Swiss wife Gret. She passed away 2011.”

Norman Parkinson

Norman Parkinson is considered one of the world’s greatest photographers. He often used the motor car as prop or accessory.

It provided an element of story, excitement, drama, romance, modernism and suggested equality and perhaps subtly the means to own such a car.

Parkinson was a capable draughtsman [ Modern Country house ,1929] and its evident he could draw and compose freehand. He had visual facility and the editors believe this informed his sense of composition and storytelling in his photography.

He was able to and consistent in: –

  • Capturing life, energy, mood and spirit
  • Parkinson’s imagination and deliberate composition reference to surrealism
  • Haunting black and white – lighting
  • Exotic locations like India
  • Variously referred to as “Romantic Modernist and Action Realist”

Notable examples of his work. Note most of the early examples are in black and white.

Photograph title Model Content Publication /Company Date Colour /B&W
Celia Hammond Celia Hammond Queen 1964
Golfing at Le Touquet 1939
The Iron Road Wenda Rogerson 1947
The Apotheosis of the Bicycle Vogue 1944
Getaway Advert Car National Benzol Petrol
Nena, Rotherhithe Docks, London 1957
Casual town Wear, Carlton Hill,Edingburgh 1953
Speedboat, Dubrovnik, Croatia 1937
After the Shower [The Bystander] Feb 3rd 1937
Threshing Wheat Vogue 1944
Advertising photograph Armstrong Siddeley Car Armstrong Siddeley 1960
Jim Clark and his Lotus Elan Car Men in Vogue 1965
The Beatles and Rolling Stones 1964
The Cotswold Country Vogue 1942
Wenda Parkinson. London airport Wenda Parkinson Vogue 1951
Precision built Jets & suits: all British Vogue 1954
TYT 100 [Jaguar Mk.II] Car Vogue 1957
Model outside Houses of Parliament Car Vogue 1952
Shower Coat Car Lancashire Vouge 1960
Engineering; Manchester ship Canal Lancashire Vouge 1960
Switzerland Bystander 1938
Nena and Status Symbols Car 1958

Figure 4. Titled “Nena and Status Symbols”.1958 [ model Nena von Schlebrugge.

Figure 5. Note for publication in USA for Jay Chamberlain

Aesthetic, Form and Function

“Can one think that because we’re are engineers, beauty does not preoccupy us, or that we do not try to build beautifully, as well as solid and long lasting, structures?

Are’not the genuine functions of strength always in keeping with unwritten conditions of harmony

……. yes I confirm that the curves of the four corners of the monument, as mathematical calculation determined them……. will give a great impression of force and beauty, because they will visibly reflect the strength of the overall conception “

Gustave Eiffel

Lotus Elite and Glamour

Road and Track,1964

“A beautiful design was the Elite, one of the greatest designs of the post WW-II era, one that seems certain to be looked back upon as a landmark of some sort in automobile design.Without question, it was one of the best, if not the very best looking Grand Touring cars ever built.The body, all fibreglass, was designed entirely in the Lotus works……… an was not only an immediate and lasting success but also an example, perhaps the only example, of the fluid plasticity of speed/motion to be captured in that glass fibre and resin medium…….

Admittedly, the Elite had its problems……. the car was also plagued by other problems-high initial price that scared off all but the most sanguine, a marketing situation during its production that could only be described as impossible……….

So think well of the Elite.It will be remembered as one of the outstanding designs “

Our other related articles on the Elite have demonstrated what a tour de force it was. However, Read makes it clear it was expensive and had limitations that prevented it being a truly acceptable road car

In a free market the elite might have been a commercial flop. It had the potential to almost break lotus financially.

For these reasons Read, Birdsall and Boys had to produce sales material specifically aimed at higher income owners. An inference is that the Elite would either be a second car or a dedicated hobby race car.

These marketing men therefore had to develop targeted imagery that would permit sales to an affluent audience and possibly provide sufficiently attractive and inviting ambience that wife’s / partners would embrace the marque.

Additionally, it’s possible that the Elite was such a radical departure from the previous Lotus canon that the marketing men believed it could be pitched directly at women who would be drawn and attracted to its graceful even lyrical aesthetic accompanied by some practicality, originality and usability.

The fashion iconography adopted as we have seen had historical president. The Elite possessed exceptional aesthetic and it’s not incongruous to embrace fashion. The Elite was ambitious, sophisticated and took Lotus up market into target range of brands identified with higher social class.

The range of Elite brochures and magazine advertisements were in the main modern, consistent, quality conceived and executed. Seeing the very deliberate plan and presentation of Read and his colleagues it’s easy to understand why when one American Lotus distributor produced a brochure in the “girly “vein this was frowned upon.

Robin Read

Quoted in Colin Chapman’s Lotus: –

“The Elite had to be seen against the background of competition from Alfa Romeo and Porsche .These two were expensive but had established reputations for superb engineering , durability and finish……………with very few exceptions the Elite customer would be a sophisticated buyer who has probably already experienced ownership of the direct competition …………it was going to be a hard uphill struggle to move the relatively large numbers ……………we had in mind …………..

We had to present the Elite in a way that would appeal to the broadest possible front to people with both taste and money [and there were even fewer of them than now]

We have also to be sure that the car would appeal beyond the male enthusiast to his wife and family; perhaps even to his parents. therefore, it was necessary to play down the racing element and project the Elite as an elegant and sophisticated product in impeccable taste that would add to the stature of the owner.

In order to convey this image and message I felt it essential to use the very highest standards of photography and graphic design “

Figure 6. British Elite brochure

Michael Boys

Robin Read: –

“Michael went on to take some excellent shots of the products of the Dante Engineering Co; I knew Michael well and admired his work for the fashion world .it was therefore appropriate to invite him to come up with a series of photographs of the Elite to create a style for the car which would appeal to the target audience .Boys responded by selecting a top model ,dressing her elegantly and then photographing car and driver in a series of striking settings ……….”

Examples of Boys work are: –

Dame (Esmerelda) Cicely Courtneidge

by Michael Boys
bromide press print, 1956
9 3/4 in. x 7 1/2 in. (247 mm x 189 mm) image size
Transferred from Evening Standard Library, 1983
Photographs Collection
NPG x184123

This image was taken in the context of the theatre particularly ‘The Bride and the Bachelor’.

Michael Boys has been an accomplished photographer since. In particular he has illustrated books about architecture and interior design [ see bibliography below]

Question does these series of brochures succeed?

We believe they do .See our conclusions below.

Figure 7. Note how car registrations reoccur

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: –

  • List concurs de elegance events –past and present
  • List haute couture designers
  • Define the aesthetic of the Elite
  • What factors made the Elite gender neutral?
  • What were fashion trends in America when Elite was released?
  • Compare and contrast the fashion iconography used in sales material for the Elite and Elan
  • Can fashion be considered Product Placement?
  • How ambitious and innovative was Lotus marketing in and around the Elite?
  • Obtain copy of Read’s Colin Chapman and reference examples to text
  • Cross reference this article with A&R piece Read and Right and the complementary input of Derek Birdsall

Figure 8. Image From the net, historical example of cars and fashion

Analysis of Elite 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.]

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

Exhibitions, Education, Economics and Entertainment

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.

In this instance we suggest the following exhibitions might be appropriate: –

  • Elite: The Ensemble
  • Elite: After a Fashion
  • Elite: A la mode
  • Elite: Exclusive, Elegant,
  • Elite Special Equipment: All dressed Up
  • Elite: Style Leader
  • Elite and Fashion: The cutting edge
  • Elite Enchantress
  • Colin Chapman: Rags to Riches
  • Lotus Elite – New Look: The Shape of Things to Come
  • Elite Fashion Carriage: Posture and Bearing
  • Elite Equilibrium: Poise and Composure

Figure 9. Further example of American advertising

Figure 10. One of set with aviation connotation


The Elite was a tour de force but extremely expensive. [ see our dedicated articles on Price Relativities and Lotus the First Ten Year –Sports Car peers].

Read realised it would be extremely hard to move. Because of this he developed a highly sophisticated marketing strategy [ which also recommended the kit format]

The production volumes of the Elite were relatively small and thus the sales.

Despite this the team of read, Birdsall and Boys put together an advert and brochure package that reflected a step change in Lotus in terms of the product, levels of refinement, sophistication and audience.

In doing so they engaged some of the best professionals available and adopted a marketing tool that aligned the brand with motoring’s marque vanguard; see the evidence of their adoption of the techniques demonstrated by some of the greatest photographers of the time [ and it ought not be overlooked that these photographers harnessed aesthetics for the purpose of very subtle marketing]

The Elite witnessed the evolution of the brand product offer partly away from racing to a mainstream GT with far greater potential for road use –although it in reality it was racing car for the road.

The Elan would possible reach an even greater level of fashion consciousness. Here though the product required less deliberate manipulation and its incorporation in fashion orientated contemporary TV like the Avengers ensured it was perceived as one of the most recognised fasion accessories of the era as well as being one of the greatest handling sports cars of all time.

Fashion would play a significant role in attracting and addressing audience and Lotus continued in this vein [ see related A&R articles]

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.


The Lotus Collectables Book. Taylor. Coterie.2000.

ISBN: 1902351010

Lotus. Bacon. Sunburst.1995.

ISBN: 1857781473

Vintage Ad Gallery

Fifty Fashion Looks that changed the 1950’s. Reed. Conran.2012.


English Style.Gilliatt with photographs by Michael Boys. Bodley Head.1967

Living in London. Astaire with photographs by Michael Boys. Thames &Hudson.1990

Lotus Elite.Ortenburge. Coterie.2002.


Lotus Elite .Clarke.Brooklands.


Norman Parkinson: A Very British glamour.Baring.Rizzoli.2009.


Norman Parkinson:Lifework .Weidenfeld & Nicolson.1983.


Parkinson Photographs.1935-1990.Harrison. Conran Octopus.1994.


Norman Parkinson. Published Beetles.2010.


Norman Parkinson :50 Years of Portrait and Fashion.Pepper.Gordon Frazer.1981.


Portraits in Fashion. Parkinson. Palazzo.2015.


A Cote d Azur Album.Quinn.Zurich museum of Design.1994.


The Car .Glancey.

Vouge 100.Muir. The National Portrait Gallery.2016.


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.

Appendix 1: Dante

Engineering Co. LTD

Robin Reads first Dante speed equipment advert appeared in July 1956 under Robins Sporting Motorist Agency banner. Initially offering cylinder heads and finned sumps for the Austin Seven cast by Dan Taylor at the Horesten Foundry in Derby’s. They were soon offering a wide range of products including inlet manifolds, valve chest cover and a four-branch exhaust manifold. Then in late 1957 with the help of Jim Shaw amongst others, Dante introduced the aluminium Clubman body for the Austin.

By 1958 a full range of tuning equipment was also available for the Ford Ten and “one off” bodies would be made to special order. But by May 1959 they had gone into liquidation and Robin joined Lotus as sales manager for a couple of years.
Then in late 1962 Robin Read was back in the specials business with this advert appearing for just a few months in the 750 MC Bulletin.