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A forgotten room at Lotus F1 factory
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A forgotten room at Lotus F1 factory
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Aug 2010   |  10:11 am GMT  |  56 comments

When I was doing some behind the scenes filming at the Lotus factory in Norfolk, I came across a room which houses the chassis mock up, made of what looked like clay, which the team built over the winter prior to building their first car.

This is also where the drivers have their seat fitting, making sure they actually fit in the cockpit.

It was amazing to see perfect replicas of the Cosworth engine, the fuel tank, the oil tank and so on, which the engineers and mechanics spent hours on, like a giant Lego set to make sure the car all went together as intended.

What struck me was how intense that work must have been at the time and how quickly things had moved on as now these items lay abandoned. They’d played their part, now they were obsolete.

Soon they will be cleared out as the 2011 chassis mock up will be constructed in there and the whole process will start again.

This video is short and sweet, but it shows a side of F1 few fans ever get to see.

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56 Comments
  1. ozzmosis says:

    The epitome of “humble beginnings”! Thanks James, and Lotus :)

  2. Darren munford says:

    Great insight, you don’t realise all the effort they put in.

  3. Louise Austin says:

    Wow. Great little video. It’s good to learn more and more about the level of preparation that goes into F1 cars

  4. Iain M says:

    Wow James,

    How cool is that! Great stuff please keep it coming!

  5. Kettman says:

    Damn i didn’t think this was still part of a modern day F1 setup, that’s all i wanted to do as a kid, to be a model maker in F1 *&^£^”%”!!!!! [damn]

  6. Looks to me more like model board (polyurethane resin board for hand shaping or machinng)than(styling)clay. Coswrth engine lloks to be built up from several rapid prototype technologies including I’m guessing SLS (selctive laser sintering).

    Lovely stuff. Thanks for showing James

  7. Langue D'Oc says:

    Short and sweet indeed – nice one, James!

  8. MK_Chris says:

    James,

    “Soon they will be cleared out as the 2011 chassis . . . . ”

    Maybe I won’t be the first to suggest this, but, why not auction or sell some (all) of the parts for charity?

    Maybe a Marshall’s benevolent fund or a Norfolk charity that the Lotus staff vote for should benefit. The Lotus racing budget might also like a boost.

    “Cleared out” implies a very low status for parts that are the very essence of the re-birth of Lotus F1 racing. At least start at the bottom by giving the Ebay devotees are chance. Buyer collects ‘cos they could be bit fragile.

    1. James Allen says:

      I’ll suggest that to Tony Fernandes

  9. Matt F says:

    The engines are amazingly small these days. Hard to believe that’s a full sized V8 Cossie, it’s about half the size of the V6 in my car!

  10. Red5 says:

    Incredible just how small modern powerplants are. 18,000 rpm and 700 bhp from an engine that looks about the same size as the television in my spare bedroom.

    Are these models used purely for fit and function tests or does this room play a part during the season as new development parts are brought on-line?

  11. Eyeteaguy says:

    Very cool! Not even the BBC shows this kind of thing and I find it fascinating.

    Cheers.

  12. Gilberto says:

    Really nice video, thanks a lot James.

  13. Stupre says:

    JA on F1 has – for a long time – been my first port of call for info.

    This item is one of those gems that I never knew I wanted to know and now I am glad I do.

    Thanks James

  14. Pinball says:

    Wow, I can’t believe how small the engine is, tiny little thing.

    Really nice behind the scenes video. I love seeing this sort of stuff.

  15. drums says:

    Wonderful, lovely and illustrative. One knows on the importance of preliminar mock ups. But it’s not alike imagining than seeing. Thanks for posting it.

  16. Andy W says:

    Interesting stuff, but a bit to short to be sweet for my liking, I would have loved to have seen a bit more of these parts and given a demonstration of how they fitted together, although I understand that Lotus probably wouldn’t want you to do that.

  17. Harvey Yates says:

    Thanks, James. I’ve not seen anything like that before.

    if, as you say, the room is about to cleared out, there’re a few thing there that would make great prizes in competitions. That Cosworth engine mockup fot instance.

    Great article. More please.

  18. Gordon Divitt says:

    Remarkable how short that engine block is

  19. F1 Novice says:

    Stick that stuff on Ebay – someone will buy it !

    I wouldn’t mind the mock Cossie in my front room :)

  20. Rich C says:

    Where can I buy that??

  21. HowardHughes says:

    Weird that they’d spend so many hours on the mockups rather than simply slot in a real Cosworth for the time it’d take to guage the dimensions were just right…

    But it’s a very cool article – I hope the items find a cherished resting place, not merely chucked away!

    1. Steven says:

      They probably didnt have the full engine yet, remember that Costworth was developing and building just as the new teams were. Plus the composite material might not withstand the weight of the real engine, plus the real engine could get damaged.

  22. Bayan says:

    short but very sweet to see.. keep up the great work James. This is pretty much the first site i visit everyday.

  23. Steve Arnott says:

    James, I’ve been following your blog from day 1 and your career for longer than I care to remember. I love the website stuff that you do, and I love it, but I still miss your TV work.

    You are excellent at it, extremely knowledgeable and are obviously respected by the teams, hence your level of access as demonstrated in this video.

    So…why not start up an internet live commentary service? I guarantee you’ll attract a large (and growing) audience, and if your website’s rate of or progress is anything to go by you’ll have no problem attracting sponsors and partners.

    Of course, I guess the limiting factor is a license to broadcast (as well as money, but I’m sure you could overcome that hurdle). Get on to Bernie! See if you can be the one to convince him of the importance of the Internet! I know you could do it…

    Kind regards,
    Steve

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks. You are right about the limiting factor there!

      1. Steve Arnott says:

        …from which I could deduce that the thought – or more – had crossed your mind already. Keep talking to the Old Man. He’s a tough cookie, sure, but he usually makes the right decision in the end :)

        Steve

      2. Ben G says:

        What a shame. Seems strange that FOM can even stop people talking about F1 live, without pictures. But, of course, I’m not surprised. And one day you’ll probably need to pay even to write about it!

    2. Andy W says:

      Great idea, it would be great to here a ‘colour’ commentator with passion and knowledge of the sport covering qualifying and the race.

  24. What a great piece, after all the years of following F1 I didn’t realise they put that much detail into the model.

    I wonder what they do with these models, just destroy them or do they get kept in a warehouse

  25. Jeremy says:

    That Cosworth V8 looks tiny, I assumed it was a half scale model when I saw it first.

  26. StephenAcworth says:

    Auction them off for charity?

  27. Jonathan Dye says:

    Its fascinating to see how small the Cosworth engine is.
    Lotus, and all the new teams, have done a fantastic job in putting their cars on the grid this season.

    It would be nice to find out a bit more about HRT. Have they got the old Toyota cars for next year? Have they got the money for the old Toyotas? (second hand Toyotas always seem to hold their value) Whats going on with their drivers? Is Geoff Willis staying with the team?
    They dont seem as open as the other two new teams?

    Could you shed some light on this James?

  28. Kenny says:

    Something of a bold statement/analogy here, but in a way that room to me appears to be like the garden shed equivalent where the whole thing starts before it gets moved onto the finalised product.
    Nevertheless another very nice little video of insight :)

  29. Robert Lujan says:

    Man I just love this website. These are just things you don’t get to see anymore. I really look forward to these short video presentations. Thanks again James Allen. Your site has really made F1 more interesting for me.

  30. Marc says:

    Nice bit of insight there. Good on Lotus for providing access.

    Got to say I really like Lotus and hope they remain as open and honest as they move up the grid.

  31. fausta says:

    Thanks James!
    I didn’t even know they did this kind of stuff full scale. I appreciate your efforts and hope to see more things like this. It would be interesting to see a feature comparing and contrasting the ways cars were designed past and present.

  32. Stu says:

    This is another reason why I love this site and regularly recommend to my F1 fan mates!

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for doing that

  33. Mike Misgerett says:

    So many comments here reflect surprise at the smallness of an F1 motor. What’s really amazing is how small and delicate the whole car is, not only in relation to its power and strength, but especially in comparison to the cars most of us are familiar with.

  34. Thanks James, interesting as always!

    Something else of interest for you to check out (about F1 sims) : http://www.racecar-engineering.com/articles/f1/495544/digital-reality-f1-simulators-revealed.html

    I wonder who the unnamed team could be?

    1. Peter Morgan says:

      thanks for posting that link. A very interesting read. i particularly liked the idea that a third party scands the circuits and the cost is shared amongst the teams. I was wondering how old that agreement is?
      Has it come about through FOTA or does it pre-date that? I wonder if a company like lotus could make a real killing being more open with the public and for instance allowing the purchase of the same circuits that they use in their simulators?

      Perhaps even making things even more open source and allowing feedback from the web community on the setups that ordinary gamers found to be most effective…..

      I am getting carried away now.

      Peter

  35. VicWeir says:

    Nothing original to say, just want to be supportive of little gems like this.Well done, James. And Lotus.

  36. Bill Day says:

    Reminds me of those great stories about building Tyrrell’s first F1 car in a woodshed.

  37. Steven says:

    Thanks James, this video justs show how the application of CAE/CAD/CFD & rapid-prototyping all make the required accuracy become reality! And that little Cosworth model, how many 100′s of horsepower from that tiny engine…!! It doesn’t look to me like the fuel tank could ever hold around 200 ltrs!

  38. F1Maniac says:

    Thanks for the behind the scenes James, this is the stuff that the true F1 Anoraks love to see. I know many other F1 bloggers like myself follow your site religiously, perhaps you could run a comp for next season for all aspirant bloggers to be mentored by you for the 2011 season, all virtual of course, but having access to your F1 brain will be a huge prize in my opinion, thanks for all the great posts and for keeping us F1 fans entertained in the summer break.

    1. James Allen says:

      Interesting idea. How would you see that working?

      1. F1Maniac says:

        Perhaps end of season you could ask amateur f1 bloggers to submit a motivation and their blog links. You could maybe choose 2 or 3 that you think have potential and offer some mentoring throughout the 2011 season. You could offer advice and tips on improving the article content, writing style etc.When I think of mentoring I would like to sort of pick your brain. How you analyse race situations for instance. How you compress all your thoughts for your post race reviews. Sort of journalistic stuff but with an F1 slant.

      2. James Allen says:

        Thanks for that. Nice idea. I’ll think about it.

  39. mayon says:

    This behind the scenes is so sweet, thanks for sharing it. I think this could be a great award for fans – to visit the factory of their favorite team, in order to get some idea of how the things are done.

  40. Noahracer says:

    Great little feature, thank you. I would have been cool to see the “growing and growing” factory but I suppose that was off limits.

    1. James Allen says:

      I did that last week, if you look back

  41. Andy C says:

    James
    bit of a silly question, but what happens to all of the parts (i.e old designs of wing etc) when they are superceded.

    I have visions of huge warehouses full of old spec wings and floors

    I doubt you can recycle carbon fibre can you? by grinding an reconsituting (I’m thinking of meat here).

    Do they just crunch them up and scrap them? Or put them on chassis they sell ina few years to corporates for show?

    1. James Allen says:

      Good question – they have a value to some people. They are sometimes used as charity prizes etc. But I think mostly they are scrapped.

      1. F1Maniac says:

        Do you think it’s scrapped so as not to let other teams “buy” last years RBR front wing at a charity auction for instance.

        Any f1 fan would give anything to be able to have a scrapped part off an actual f1 car.

        James you should get hold of this stuff and give some bits away in competitions every month :-)

  42. Banjo says:

    I really enjoy these behind the scenes footage. Keep the videos coming James. It’s reasons like this that i keep coming back to this site.

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