Colin Chapman is revered as a genius in automobile and especially racing-car engineering and development, but would any of that have happened without the involvement of his late wife, Hazel?
Hazel (Williams) Chapman died December 14 at age 94 and her obituary noted that she was co-founder of Lotus Engineering and Lotus Cars.
Spouses often are given such credit, but her claim to the title goes back to when Hazel and Colin began dating as teenagers. They met at a dance in 1944 and their relationship developed to the point that Hazel’s parents allowed Colin to build what became the first Lotus, the Mark 1, in the garage at their home in Hornsey, UK.
When Colin left to join the Royal Air Force, Hazel not only finished the Mark 1, but started the Mark 2. The success those cars had in motorsports led to new commissions for the company established by Hazel, who paid the £25 registration fee out of her own pocket in 1952.
The Chapmans married in 1954 and Hazel, known for her “commercial acumen,” had a seat on the board of Lotus Cars, Team Lotus, Lotus Components and Classic Team Lotus.
She not only worked with drivers from Jim Clark and Graham Hill to Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna, but founded The Dog House, a women’s motorsport club.