Lucas: and Lotus charge of the Light Brigade

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

Lucas: and Lotus charge of the Light Brigade

Figure 1: Image from the net.Highly redolent portrayal, although not identifying Clark


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 particularly Coventry Climax and Cosworth DFV
  • Logo on Lotus

Useful sources

The following are detailed reference works relevant to this subject:

  • Lotus 24/25/28/29/33(Unique)
  • Coventry Climax Racing Engine’s (Hammill)
  • Lotus, Coventry Climax and Cosworth Engine’s (Unique) which includes Coventry Climax Racing Engine’s 1961-1965

Lucas Company Profile /Abbreviated summary

See: Industries

The origins of Joseph Lucas are extremely modest with a base in Birmingham extending back to the late 19th century.

Early on Lucas were manufacturing ships oil lamps and cycle lamps c 1878.

Acetylene lamps, dynamos and batteries followed in the early 20th century.

Lucas equipment was involved in motorsport from the 1920’s with Norton motorcycles and Bentleys at Le Mans.

Further support was given to land speed records.

ERA and Austin racers at Brooklands frequently used Lucas.

Later Lucas contributed to Jaguar, BRM, and Coventry Climax, Ferrari and into the Cosworth era.

Their aviation heritage is worthy of note: see Graces Guide etc.

“1939 See Aircraft Industry Suppliers

1939 Acquired Express Magneto (Repairs) and Electrical Co.

1939 Opened new factory at Shaftmore Lane, Hall Green.

WWII Lucas produced electrical equipment for military and civil vehicles and for aircraft. Many of its standard products were adapted for war uses: for example, its windscreen-wiper motors were used to operate aerial cameras and its starter motors were adapted for the electrical control of tank gun turrets. Outside its normal fields, Lucas produced a wide variety of military requirements including gun turrets, aircraft wing sections, primers, fuses, anti-aircraft shells, bombs of various kinds, control and release mechanisms and metal pressings. It also undertook research work for the Government, including research and development work on jet propulsion in factories it took over especially for the purpose [8]

“1961 Manufacturers of electrical equipment and accessories for motor-cycles, aircraft, cars, and cycles, including lighting sets, dynamos, dip and switch reflectors, horns, coil ignition, batteries, magnetos, lamps, mirrors, windscreen wipers, hydraulic jacks, brakes, starters, wrenches and generators. Also manufacture fuel and combustion system equipment for gas turbine engines and oil burning equipment for marine boilers. [10]

Lucas Divisions included:

Lucas Management

Kettlewell writing in early Eighties:

“The philosophy of the Lucas Management has always been that involvement in competition is primarily an engineering exercise….

Experts from the competition department attend the major rallies, the European GP’s and many F1&2 meetings in this country to ensure that any ignition, electrical or injection troubles can be dealt with….

Many problems that do arise are usually due to incorrect installation, so the Lucas field service engineers are usually at their busiest during the early part of the season.

The department is happy to advise any club contender who holds an RAC competition licence and has a very wide range of racing equipment available for sale…

In addition to the equipment it provides for racing teams, Lucas also makes a considerable contribution to facilities at many circuits …

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

“Lucas has been involved with motor sport since the 1920’s, but it was in the 1940’s when the Lucas Racing and Competition Department was established following a decision to back the BRM project, both financially and technically

In 1951 Lucas engineers developed an electronic spark generator system ….which was soon adopted by most leading teams.

By the 1960’s this had been developed to the OPUS (oscillating pick up –see below) and RITA.


“The fact that out of the last 18 F1 World Championships have been won with Lucas –equipped cars is ample evidence of the priority that Lucas gives to its involvement in motor racing.

Mario Andretti drove to victory in last year’s Championship, his Lotus fitted with Lucas fuel injection and electronic Ignition equipment….

Lucas electrical, ignition and petrol injection systems have helped many a contender to championship success.”

In the post war era Lucas provided much of the following for the British motor industry:

  • Complete ignition system
  • Batteries
  • Starters
  • Lighting
  • Alternators
  • Windscreen wipers
  • Circuit support
  • Multiple World F1 Championships after 1959
  • Rally support

Lucas Girling


“The list of drivers and riders who have raced using Girling equipment includes Fangio, Moss, Whitehead, Walker, Salvadori, Clark, Stewart and Hunt….

Started officially in 1950 the Girling Racing Department offered the racing fraternity a product range of high performance drum and disc brakes and suspension units for cars and motorcycles.

Within a few years the reputation of the department for its trackside competence and service had established itself ….

A fully equipped mobile workshop offering general and technical service became a familiar sight at the world’s circuits…

The cars themselves are also well remembered particularly famous ones as the Aston Martin DBR’s, and Le Mans Lotus’s, the Coopers and Tyrrell ‘s.

The current F1 cars depending on Girling brakes are Ligier, Williams, Brabham and Wolf.”

Lucas Ignition and Injection “brief overview

Our reference works make it clear how both Coventry Climax and Cosworth used Lucas components.

Unique Books includes Lotus Climax 25 for 1963 in .Autocrar, 1963 where specialists supplies of ignition and fuel injection are listed as Lucas.

From the Coventry Climax Racing Engine 1961-65 specification records “the Lucas transistor system. Four equally spaced triggers mounted on the flywheel face, pickup set in flywheel housing.”

Hammill records:

“A major departure in the design of the FWMV engine was the use of an all new electronic Ignition system made by Lucas…. Designed by Norman Jukes ….and Jack Laird…. The ignition system was only made for racing purposes where it’s high cost and limits temperature operating range was acceptable….”

Wagstaff writing of the Lotus 49 under Cosworth DFV Engine Specification references both the Lucas injection system and ignition system.

See details below

Fuel injection

Hammill records:

“The original Lucas injection system had in fact, been designed for use on Rolls-Royce Merlin V12 aircraft engines and, as a result, all parts were made in the aircraft division of Lucas “

Nb Hammill provides a graph showing the differences between Lucas fuel injection and the DCNL Weber carburettors as fitted to the Mk.III “short stroke “FWMV engine.


“Lucas petrol injection was widely acclaimed during the 1950’s and Jaguar D types won at Le Mans in 1957 using the Lucas system. But it was only in 1961 that F1 cars swung over to petrol injection.BRM were the first to use it and as the Lucas system became more sophisticated the engine manufacturers decided that it was the system to use.”

From the Coventry Climax Racing Engine 1961-65:

“In 1963 the Lucas fuel injection system was fitted. This made it possible to achieve really clean acceleration out of a bend, and was a most worthwhile modification.

Diagrams and cutaway drawing of the Lucas eight cylinder metering unit is given.

Wagstaff writing of the Lotus type 49, including a Cosworth DFV engine specification records the Injection system as Lucas indirect injection shuttle metering system, pressure approximately 110psi injection timing at 30degrees ATDC.

Figure 2: Image from the net, note Lotus representation

Lotus Connections

Types: 16/33/43/49/72/76/77/78/79/80/81/87/88/91/92 /101and B variants through range.

Figure 3: Archive and Resource collection graphic impact of Clark, Lotus and Lucas connectivity

Figure 4: As above also linking with John Player Specials iconography

Lucas OPUS: Magnum OPUS (oscillating pick up system)

This method provided a more precise spark with less maintenance.

One of the first fully electronic systems to become established was Lucas OPUS which was initially proven in racing at Formula One level and then entered production on the Jaguar V12 – an engine for which contact breakers would have been totally impractical. The name is derived from the method of operation, i.e. Oscillating Pick-Up System.

Wagstaff writing of the Lotus type 49, including a Cosworth DFV engine specification records the ignition system as Lucas OPUS ignition with Thryristor engine speed limiter, Lucas alternator

Figure 5: Image from net, see connection with editor’s sketch below

Lucas RITA (racing trigger ignition amplifier) “Lovely Rita, Meter Made

Kettlewell described this as “basically an OPUS without an oscillator”

Figure 6: Editors sketch drawing that connects with both Lucas ignition and fuel injection

Period Address for economic geography exercise

Lucas Electrical Ltd,

Great King Street,


B19 2XF


London Service Centre

Dordrecht Toad,

Acton Vale



Lucas Girling Ltd,

Kings Road,



B11 2AH

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 7: Archive and Resource library book

Specific to Lucas

  • Study Lucas and briefly outline their industrial heritage in the UK, including aviation aspects and Employer Relations
  • Who are currently the major electrical/electronic supplies to the international auto industry? What are their respective shares and where are they based?
  • Lucas throughout its history has diversified I. What part has this played in success does diversification sit with multinational corporations? Give examples
  • Enumerate Lucas contribution to aviation and aerospace
  • Criticality evaluate the importance of engines to Chapman/Lotus success in F1, what percentage does it occupy? Does it significantly challenge Lotus handling reputation?
  • Read reference works and make drawings of basic wiring diagrams annotating with conventions
  • Can fuel injection system significantly contribute to automobile sustainability?
  • Criticality consider battery technologies for automobile, what are the disguised negatives/anti green aspects? Forensically are they sustainability? Offer a cradle to grave audit, what alternatives exist? Who are the primary beneficiary of battery technologies?
  • 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 8: Editors more detail sketch of Lucas equipment aboard the Lotus 49


Lucas RITA Trigger Only tools and brake horses
Lucas Lotus switch to Lucas
Lucas RITA Lovely Rita, Meter Made
Lucas OPUS Lotus Magnum Opus
Lucas Lucasaid :Lotus gets electonic
Lucas Lotus gets lightbulb moment
Lucas provides a real transformer
Lucas Gives Lotus an extension Lead
Lucas makes Lotus a circuit record breaker
Lucas Lights,lamps,lectics and Lotus
Lucas Lotus charge of the Light Brigade


  • 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 Lucas

They assisted Lotus achieve multiple F1 World Championships across changing engine/performance technologies and era’s.Furthermore Lotus were often at a power and budget disadvantage and equipment and technology like those provided an equalisation.

Lucas as an industrial heritage worthy of detailed study. Rags to Riches and predominantly British, located in heart of post war British motor industry of the Midlands with several major manufacturing sites in its heyday located around the UK.Not least in Park Royal, London.

Lucas has a rich technology, economic, commercial, entrepreneurial and social history worthy of close study. Amongst this is its aviation links. Like many of the Lotus specialists developed advanced engineering with reliability where and when they were needed during the war and in post war civilian aviation and defence.

Components were material to reliability and competitiveness.

Lucas promotes itself as:

“Lucas products are driven by engineering excellence and a spirit of innovation that’s ensured our continued global success. The brand’s reputation is built on an extensive range, exceptional technical durability and endurance, and outstanding quality.

Lucas have been providing all this for over 135 years – and we’re still growing. That’s why the brand has been continuously trading longer than any other automotive component brand in the world.”

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. Official 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.