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Obituary: Family pays tribute to Hazel Chapman of Lotus Cars

It is one of the most famous brands in motorsport – but the secret behind the Lotus name will forever remain a mystery.

It comes after the death of Hazel Chapman, a co-founder of the UK company, as her family paid her tribute.

They called her a “really great woman” who makes a legacy for the history books.

To mark its 70th anniversary, Lotus launched a public search to find the elusive Mark I, which was handcrafted by company founder Colin Chapman. His wife Hazel is pictured in the Lotus Mark I. Picture: Colin Chapman Foundation
– Credit: Colin Chapman Foundation

The death of Mrs. Chapman puts an end to the generation that founded the Lotus brand seven decades ago. And with her goes the answer to why the name ‘Lotus’ was chosen for the company, as she and her late husband Colin Chapman had always sworn to keep the origin a secret.

Lotus has previously said that the company’s name “died with” [Mr] Chapman “.

Her family said: “Hazel leaves a legacy of the many great achievements she and Colin made that endure to this day. A really great woman of her time.

“As a co-founder of Lotus Cars, she played a fundamental role in the success of Lotus and has been a constant presence from the beginning to the present day.”

In addition to paying tribute, her family has shared more information about her life and how she became one of the most important faces in British business.

Hazel Patricia Williams was born in north London on May 21st, 1927, to Vic and Annie Williams.

She attended Queenswood School in Hatfield but was briefly evacuated during World War II. She returned to London when her mother decided she would be better at home despite the risks. As a teenager, she helped her mother in her wool shop in Muswell Hill.

Hazel and Colin Chapman

Hazel and Colin Chapman
– Credit: THE COLIN CHAPMAN FOUNDATION

At the age of 17 she attended her first dance at Hornsey Town Hall in north London. Here she met Mr. Chapman. Romance blossomed, although initially not welcomed by her parents, who moved to discourage their suitor.

Undaunted, Mr. Chapman often took her to her secretarial class while he was studying nearby at University College. It is said that he would always try to break his record for the fastest time on the commute.

Ms. Chapman later worked for a theater impresario in the West End before accepting a position with the BBC at Alexandra Palace.

Her family added, “Hazel’s contribution to motorsport and the automotive industry was significant.

“Under Colin’s leadership, she was a fast and successful racing driver, a smart businesswoman and the power behind the throne.”

Her parents allowed her and Mr. Chapman to build the first Lotus – the Mk I – in the garage behind their house on Alexandra Park Road, Muswell Hill. The rest, as they say, is history.

The couple married at Northaw Church in October 1954 and moved to Monken Hadley, north of Barnet.

Hazel Chapman with the special edition Lotus Evora GT410 Sport, which commemorates the late Ji.  was commissioned

Hazel Chapman with the Lotus Evora GT410 Sport special edition, which was commissioned to commemorate the late Jim Clarke. Photo: Lotus
– Credit: Lotus

The family said: “It was a Lotus occasion, many of the guests were on business and the Team Lotus van in the form of a converted Bedford bus served as the wedding vehicle.

“Hazel was a match for Colin with her motivational spirit and was instrumental in gaining the participation, enthusiasm, and dedication and dedication from the growing workforce who are highly ambitious projects both in terms of design and timescale in the face of severe challenges Took limited resources of time, facilities and money. ”

As the company expanded, Ms. Chapman took a seat on the boards of Lotus Cars, Team Lotus and Lotus Components and served many of the administrative needs of the thriving company.

“Today, invoices issued by Hazel Chapman can be a valuable element of the provenance of historical records for an early lotus,” they added.

Classic Team Lotus Festival, Snetterton Circuit;  Hazelnut chapman;  Photo: Jerry Daws;  Copy:;  Â © Archan

Hazel Chapman pictured at Snetterton Motor Racing Circuit in 2010.
– Credit: Jerry Daws

“Hazel was fully dedicated to her partnership with Colin, including all of the home affairs needed to support Colin’s now full-time career at Lotus.

“Work was everything, every hour, including at home, for planning, designing and meeting colleagues.”

Together, the couple had three children, Jane Susan in 1956, followed by Sarah Anne in 1959 and son Clive Kennedy in 1962.

“Hazel was a strong and smart businesswoman who didn’t stand any nonsense. She played a matriarchal role within the organization and was proud to get to know all of the Team Lotus drivers.

“Hazel co-founded the women’s motorsport club The Dog House with Bette Hill, while her commitment to developing the Lotus business has been exceptional.

“When Lotus moved to Norfolk in 1966, she still found the time to join the management of Team Lotus.”

Lotus F1 start in London 2010. Hazel ChapmanPhoto: Simon FinlayCopy: For: EDP NewsEDP pics

Hazel Chapman at the 2010 Lotus F1 start in London.
– Credit: Simon Finlay

Widowed in 1982, Ms. Chapman realized that Lotus Cars needed new owners to ensure its future. Under the watchful eye of longtime Lotus finance director and family consignor Fred Bushell, Lotus Cars Managing Director Mike Kimberley became Group Lotus Chief Executive to take care of the corporate side. Ms. Chapman decided to keep Team Lotus as a Chapman family business.

In 1994, the Chapman family relinquished control of Team Lotus to form the Classic Team Lotus, led by Chapman’s son Clive, with Mrs. Chapman as director.

As the “proud” grandmother of seven children, she died at home on December 13th at the age of 94.

  • To pay tribute to a loved one, send an email to norfolktributes@archant.co.uk

  • To read all of the obituaries and tributes, join the Norfolk’s Loved & Lost Facebook group.

Hazel Chapman presents the 100,000th car from Lotus for the company's 70th anniversary.  Photo: Lotus

Hazel Chapman presents the 100,000th car from Lotus for the company’s 70th anniversary. Photo: Lotus
– Credit: Lotus

The family house

In 1969 a new single family home was built on the site of the former East Carleton Manor.

The family explained their importance to Mrs. Chapman.

“She turned muddy fields into one of the best private gardens in the country,” they said.

“She was gardening the same way Mr. Chapman drove in motorsport – at full speed.”

Her interior design and exterior planning skills were also used in the renovation of the nearby Ketteringham Hall estate, which became the home of Team Lotus in the early 1970s, as well as in the interior design and outfitting of the Moonraker and Marauder boats that Mr. Chapman Center pioneered the 1970s.

The family has described the family home as an “oasis of calm, comfort, exquisite taste, calm atmosphere and refreshing joie de vivre”, as it represents a complete contrast to the everyday stresses of running the lotus and the vortex that often reigns in the office nearby Hethel.

They added, “The magnificent gardens of East Carleton would be Hazel’s pride and joy for life and continue to be open once a year for local gardeners to appreciate and enjoy.”

In later life, she opened her garden to raise funds for charity by hosting fundraising visits to gardening groups and other associations. The main charity was Care for Life at Home, which was founded in memory of their daughter Sarah, who died early of cancer.

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