Koni: Shock and Awe (Awe Inspiring)

Sponsor, Brands, Specialists and Suppliers: The Companies that supported the Chapman /Lotus Road & Racing Programme

Koni: Shock and Awe (Awe Inspiring)


Lotus cars sold

They were bought for their:-

  • Performance –road or track
  • Driving pleasure
  • Reputation and image
  • Aesthetics
  • Symbolism
  • Owner identification /personality extension etc.

All the above were integrated within a total framework design.

The above list is heavily dependent on a select group of components [either bought in proprietary or in house manufacture] that delivered the desired outcomes and met strict criteria.

Many of these components often contributed significantly to the overall aesthetic, many are extremely functional and beautiful in their own right .They formed part of a complementary whole.

In this series we examine:-

  • significant Individual components from all the marque types
  • Briefly explain their role /contribution /evaluation
  • Analysis form and function with regard to their integration, where appropriate
  • Provide suppliers/specialist advertising materials where appropriate

Understanding Lotus’s use of proprietary parts provides invaluable learning opportunities not just historical but right up to the present day. These lessons are not just applicable to automotive engineers/ designers but to the wider Industrial /Product Design professions.

The Skillful and creative adoption, absorption and integration of components was a powerful factor in the Chapman design methodology and contributed significantly to both competition and commercial success. It also feed his ability to mutate parts and materials to his desired ends.

The use of components is a fundamental skill of the Industrial Designer and the direct provision of added value.

The exact interpretation of sponsorship in conjunction with Lotus is difficult to establish objectively. The appearance of a sponsor’s logo on a car is not necessarily evidence of financial support. Access to historical archive and contracts is sought wherever possible but with the passage of time and for various reasons these are not always available or accessible to the public.

This series also embraces the specialist suppliers to Lotus. We are particularly interested in those suppliers and products that have a connectivity with aviation.

In constructing the historic sponsor series, the A&R looks only at the logos worn in period and assumes the company involved had no objection to Lotus promoting their products. The A&R sees much to be gained by the wider promotion of sponsors but in the event that a specific organization disapproves for any reason that article will be removed.

Sponsorship is an instrument of mutual benefit and promotion. Subscribers might like to see A&R articles on Sponsorship and Product Placement to understand the numerical / financial reach provided by sponsorship with its ability to identify and project status through identification.

The principle continues particularly with regard to education based exhibitions [see below for details]

Each of these articles is devoted to a company/ organization that is believed to have sponsored or supplied specialist items to Lotus.

The intention of each article is to: –

  1. Explain the sponsors own history and outline their products and services – past-present and future
  2. Explain the historical connection with Lotus and the contribution made both in competition and the production cars
  3. To suggest how these two interlocking facets may be translated into exciting, interpretive, educational and commercial exhibitions

Subscribers might to see complementary and structured pieces to this article: –

  • Primary sponsors like Gold Leaf / John Player Specials
  • Product Placement
  • Separate dedicated series on engines and gearbox
  • Logo on Lotus

Shock absorber; definition c 1983

Incandela records:

“The function of the shock absorber is to reduce the suspension spring oscillation.

For F1 use these dampers are all of the telescopic type, in which oil kept in reservoirs is displaced through fixed orifices and spring loaded valves by the movement of a piston inside a cylinder…… dampers tend to be set to a drivers preference “

Additional useful support information and diagrams is available in:

  • Staniforth :Race and Rally Car Source Book and
  • Campbell: Automobile Suspension

See bibliography below.

Subscribers are invited to study respective cutaway drawing in publications listed in bibliography below.

Singh Reyat writes “

“In the hydraulic shock absorber, fluid is tended to pass through a tiny hole which resists the movement of the fluid. This resistance creative friction in the fluid which gives rise to heat.

Fluid in the shock absorber swallows this heat generated due to spring action and thus energy of motion is absorbed.

Thus the toad shock is absorbed by converting energy of motion into heat which is absorbed in the fluid of the shock absorber.”

He provides a cross section diagram comparing a direct double acting telescope shock absorber.

Koni Company Profile /Abbreviated summary

From company website

“After starting with rally, KONI switched to the racing scene. In 1956 KONI entered the Formula 1, while at the famous Nordschleife, KONI assisted the Ferrari team in solving their suspension problems.

Until that time, F1 still used the lever arm type shock absorbers. The KONI shock absorbers offered better damping characteristics and the possibility to mount the spring around the damper, which made it more compact. The first official Grand Prix that KONI participated in was in 1958 with Ferrari. The Belgian driver Gendebien made his appearance on the Monza track with KONI and took sixth place.

After the start with Ferrari the business went fast and in 1971 KONI achieved its first World Championship win, as Tyrrell Ford won the driver’s (Jackie Stewart) and constructor’s championship.

Nowadays, KONI is still represented in the Formula series. Formula Racing can be divided in a lot of national and international categories. Often the cars are driven by a major field of young drivers, which guarantees spectacular races and a lot of action. KONI is involved and competes in several major Formula classes all over the world, including the GP2 series, GP3 series, Formula E, Formula 3 and Formula 1 classes, where KONI has won many races.”

In the Chapman/Lotus era the Company was identified with:-

Incandela (1983) sums up:

“Because of tremendous reliability, effectiveness and compactness of their shock absorber the Dutch company Koni have become world famous, particularly for their externally adjustable units.

Almost without exception all F1 cars are fitted with Koni units.

It has taken Koni a relatively short time to grow from a local handicraft firm into an industry of one thousand employees with steadily increasing export trade all over the world.

In spite of this spectacular growth Koni have stood by their first principles of skill and quality.”

The accepted product was the Koni GP aluminium bodied damper. It was externally adjustable (bump and rebound setting independent of each other permitting fine tuning) and operational through a wide temperature range. Koni were extremely successful from the 1970’s winning most World Championships.

They were fitted to both F1and F2 cars and other racing cars.Koni also equip road cars made in Britain, Europe, America and Japan.

Figure 1: Image published in Incandela: Koni

Lotus Connections

We believe that Koni dampers were fitted to the following Lotus types:


Figure 2: Editors sketch illustrating various Lotus uprights, note Lotus 72D on right hand side includes glimpse of Koni damper

Wagstaff writing on the Lotus 72 publishes a drawing from Classic Team Lotus of a shock absorber of the Koni type along with two detailed photographs of the dampers in situation.

Also included in this work is a cutaway drawing of the 72D by Tony Matthews which complements the pictures.

Type 79 in Incadela specification given as:

Front “inboard Koni shock absorber-Titanium springs

Rear: as front

Slater provides a photograph of the Lotus 98T, clearly showing the 98T from the rear looking forwarded at the underside where the Koni damper is fixed.

See the Roy Scorer cutaway below (image from net but included in Slater)

Figure 3: Note in Roy Scorer cutaway drawing item number 17 “damper with pneumatic ride height control “

Period Address for economic geography exercise

In the Lotus era we believe the sole concessionaire was:

JWE Banks and Sons Ltd,






Koni Shock Absorbers,

Unit 1, Hawley Industrial Estate,

Hawley Lane,



GU 14 8EH


Paul Drake,

Koni Technical Centre

Unit 1 Glebe Farm,



NN 13 5JE

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.

Understanding the potential of componentry particularly proprietary items provides some of the following learning opportunities; in this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

Figure 4: Editors outline drawing of Lotus 98T to be used in learning exercise

Specific to Koni:

  • Using template drawings provided sketch in location of Koni dampers
  • Using textbooks quoted above and cross section drawing either colour or annotate drawing explaining components in construction
  • Enumerate coil springs/damper manufacturers
  • What has been the characteristics of their products?
  • What has caused damper change in F1 history?
  • What are the main differences between production road cars and F1 damper requirements?
  • What is the size and value of the industry
  • How has it changed? And what is its future 2020 onwards?
  • Discuss the relationship with a multi-national mass-production brand/manufacturer and its links, how and why did it come into existence?


  • Use a technical dictionary where needed to define components and roles
  • Was there a viable alternative to the part under consideration?
  • Is what might it have been /cost?
  • Examine the suppliers/specialist advertising what does it convey? And what is its iconography?
  • Integrate this item with our series on the economic geography of motor sports locations and manufacturing bases
  • Has the component had exposure at any motor shows?
  • Does the company continue to supply classic/heritage parts?
  • What changes in technology and materials have impacted on Lotus through its history?
  • How does component design impact on form and function
  • Does the supplier/specialist have aviation links? If so what?
  • What is the importance of ergonomics and how does it influence modern automobile design?
  • Does excessive safety/ and or ergonomics impact negatively on aesthetics
  • What is the impact of standardization of platforms through mark ranges and indeed shared with other manufacturers? Could uniformity ultimately impact on sales even if economies of scale improved?
  • Enumerate Lotus bought in components
  • How has mass production and proprietary parts assisted the specialist car market?
  • Produce an engineering drawing of a selected component and consider the specification of the materials and assembly process, costs and volume
  • Explore an enumerate supplier/specialists components used in other Industrial Design fields
  • How did the supplier/specialist extract value from their sponsorship/support?
  • Explore Graces Guide for further background detail
  • Study the economic geography of the British auto industry what factors determined locations?
  • What have been the causes of change and circumstance that have impacted on British motor industry?
  • What has been the role of F1 /motor sport valley based around Bicester?
  • What is the importance of outsourcing to the motor industry?
  • Study a British car specialist like Morgan, TVR, Ginetta or Lotus where do they source parts? What are the advantages?

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 exhibition titles might be appropriate:-

Figure 5: Editors outline drawing of Lotus 97T to be used in learning exercise


Koni Shock and Awe (Awe Inspiring)
Koni Shock waves
Koni No damping down
Koni Shock treatment
Koni Putting a damper on Lotus
Koni The Shock of the New
Koni Particles in Suspension
Koni Their dampers were no inhibition to Lotus
Koni Rebound and backfire
Koni Helps Lotus bounce back
Koni Going Dutch
Koni Lotus getting over the speed bump
Koni Fancy bumping into Lotus
Koni and Lotus Bump of the competition
Koni Provide a bumper Advantage


  • Lotus Parts: Past ,Present Future
  • Lotus Parts: The Winning Factor
  • The Principle Part
  • Act the Part
  • Assign the Part
  • Lotus Components
  • Lotus Components :Parts and Parcel
  • Lotus Sponsors, Specialist and Suppliers:Form,Function and Forte
  • Lotus Components:Parts and Partiality
  • Lotus Aesthetics : With little to spare
  • Lotus Cars: Spare and Slender
  • Product launch with title of dedicated specific relevance

Conclusion: “The whole is greater………”

There can be little doubt about the significant contribution made by Koni.

They assisted Lotus achieve multiple F1 World Championships.

Figure 6: Further sketch by editor primarily of the Lotus type 79 upright, but note outlier of Koni damper and fixing

Components were material to reliability and competitiveness.

Koni continues to provide historic parts along with a current range e.g.

“8211 Series

Twin tube hydraulic damper

This is a steel-bodied, externally double-adjustable, coil-over damper which has been used on World Champion Formula 1, Can-Am and virtually every other type of race car ever made.
Bump and rebound damping can be adjusted independently without removing the damper from the car. Adjustable spring seats accept 2.25″ or 2.50″ I.D. springs.

These dampers are fully rebuildable and the valving can be adapted to a wide range of applications.
Recently updated to include advances in materials and manufacturing techniques, this classic shock design is the premium damper for vintage race cars and restorations, as well as the ultimate non-gas alternative for many new race car applications.

The 8211 series have plated steel bodies and are ideal for vintage single seater, touring car and sports car applications or where special mountings are required and weight is not a concern. The dampers are available in 8 different base valvings, and with open lengths of up to 432mm”

Chapman’s design and manufacturing methodology rather confirms the adage that “the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts”.

It’s an interesting an important study to consider deployment of components. It contributes to aesthetics, assembly economics and sales [attractive components/ known accepted performance and servicing ability etc.]

It is equally and mutually relevant and beneficial to the component manufacturer.

Chapman and his colleagues often took the best / most appropriate mass produced item and almost reinvented it in its service to design objectives. In this manner many components acquired a new status and indeed their aesthetic was enhanced surrounded by the Chapman conceptual whole.

It’s also extremely significant how many of these components were also used in Lotus competition cars. This created a powerful dynamic and interrelationship. Many components:-

  • Performed well in competition gaining beneficial publicity and sales
  • Both the component and racing reputation carried through to road cars and assisted sales
  • The component manufacturer gained disproportionate publicity and assisted products sell in other applications
  • All together a beneficial spiral was commenced. Publicity of the era often opted to highlight the Lotus dimension in publicity material. In fact there was a powerful synergy.

The relationship between Lotus and is sponsor specialist suppliers is significant and worthy of close study and has lessons for Engineering, Industrial Design and Manufacturing disciplines.

Along the way it’s possible too to study the wider British motor component industry and how it has helped foster the specialist car manufacturers.

Sponsorship is a worldwide phenomenon of immense commercial impotence. Both to host and sponsor organization.

With the Passage of time it’s likely to become more sophisticated and focused and the internet /multimedia technology will play greater role.

Sponsors have existed in motorsport before Chapman but he vigorously exploited the concept with Gold Leaf c 1967/68 and set a pattern for others to follow.

Sponsors of Lotus were likely to benefit financially and in terms of exposure to an extent greater than their investment. The benefits were, and remain essentially similar to present day:-

  • Access to mass international audience consistent with mass production distribution marketing branding etc.
  • Demographics of viewing audience and interest groups
  • Additional subsidiary /secondary advertising through media, news, magazines etc.
  • Identification with market /brand /marque leader in both F1 and road cars
  • Association with success and continuity evolving, developing technology, materials etc.
  • In period the identification with the charm ,charisma and ability to articulate that Chapman possessed
  • All the attendant glamour , drama ,danger ,and spectacle of F1
  • Ability to provide conducive hospitality to conduct business
  • Cost effectiveness of audience cost ratio
  • Possible further complex corporate benefits

Appendix 1: Context and operation of sponsorship from the net:-

  • Learn how sponsorship motives have evolved.
  • Be able to differentiate between advertising and sponsorship.
  • Learn the advantages of each of the key promotion tools.
  • Identify the six categories of sponsorship opportunities.
  • Distinguish between self-evident and strategic linkages.
  • Learn the trends in spending on sponsorships.
  • Gain insight as to how ambush marketing and leveraging play roles.
  • Develop a basic understanding of the three special cases of sponsorship.
  • Identify the five key sponsorship objectives.
  • Learn the importance of each sponsorship objective.
  • Understand the concept of matching.
  • Learn the potential components of a sponsorship plan.
  • View a comprehensive example of a sponsorship.

Gain an awareness of controversies regarding sponsorship.

Appendix 2 F1 and related racing results



Marks of Excellence.P.Mollerup.Phaidon Press.1997.

ISBN: 0714838381

Graces Guides

Internet websites and local History

Aircraft of the Fighting Powers.Cooper&Thetford.Vol.1.Aircraft [Technical] Publications.1940.

An extensive bibliography is provided in A&R article on John Players Specials/Gold Leaf

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

ISBN: 3822863106

Lotus Book.Taylor.Coterie.1998.

ISBN: 1902351002

Art of the Formula 1 Race Car. Mann, Codling.Motorbooks.2010


Lotus 24, 25, 28, 29, 33.Unique.

Lotus 49, 49B, 49C, 49F.Unique.

ISBN: 1842555185

International Corporate Identity.Olins.Laurence King.1995

ISBN: 1856690377

International Motor Racing 1978.Ed by B.Gill.Macdonald and Jane’s.1978

ISBN: 035409033X

The International Motor Show. Offical Catalogue.1966

Motor Racing Directory 1955-56 [Ed by staff of “Motor Racing”] Pearl Cooper.

Motor Racing Directory.Kettlewell.

ISBN: 0906556007

Autosport A-Z Motorsport Directory. [Annual editions] Haymarket

The Automobile.Reyat.Chand.2013.

ISBN: 8121902142

Fundamentals of Motor Vehicle Technology.Hillier & Pittuck.Hutchinson.1967.

Lotus 49.Wagstaff.Haynes.2014.

ISBN: 9780858334121

Lotus 72.Wagstaff.Haynes.2012.


Colin Chapman.Lawrence Breedon.2002.


Colin Chapman.Ludvigsen.Haynes.2010.


Coventry Climax Racing Engine’s.Hammill.Veloce.2004.


Lotus, Coventry Climax and Cosworth Engine’s.Pitt.Unique.

The Anatomy and Development of the F1 Racing Car.Incandela.Haynes.1982.


The 1000 BHP GP cars.Bamsey.Haynes.1988.


Lotus 98T.Slater.Haynes.2016.


Automobile Suspension.Campbell.Chapman and Hall.1981.


Race and Rally Car Source Book.Staniforth.Haynes.1997.