COLIN CHAPMAN: Inside The Innovator


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By Karl Ludvigsen
Foreword by Emerson Fittipaldi


Renowned as one of the greatest creative forces in the world of the automobile, Lotus’s Colin Chapman (1928–82) left a mixed legacy. Was he an unparalleled innovator or an uninhibited exploiter of the uncredited ideas of others? In this landmark book, celebrated author Karl Ludvigsen gets to grips with the legend, digging deep beneath the skin of Chapman and his cars to explore and expose the motivations that drove this mercurial and controversial genius. Interviews with key figures in the Chapman story mesh with information from the author’s extensive archives to make this book a unique and compelling encounter between the engineer-innovator and the historian-investigator. Originally published in 2010, the book has become a standard text, not only on the man but also on the evolution and design of racing cars. Thus it is being reissued to meet continuing popular demand.

  • Conceiving concepts: assessment of the man whom Keith Duckworth described as ‘the most brilliant conceptual engineer I’ve known’.
  • Engine enterprise: recognising that he was, in his words, ‘not an engine man’, Chapman made the best of engines available to him, whether Ford 1172 side-valve, BRM H-16, Cosworth DFV V8 or Pratt & Whitney gas turbine.
  • Transmission topics: this chapter moves through Lotus-designed ‘Queerbox’ transaxles, four-wheel drive, automatic clutch actuation and much more.
  • Suspension sagas: from makeshift suspension ingenuity on his first Austin-based special to espousal of active suspension just before his death, Chapman gained and exploited an advanced understanding of a car’s underpinnings.
  • Structure stories: Chapman’s accomplishments in this field are numerous. Best-known among them are his monocoque innovations, in glass-fibre for the Elite road car and aluminium for the F1 Type 25.
  • Whittling weight: obsession with lightness was a Chapman mantra throughout his life. It contributed hugely to the success of his cars, occasionally at an expense of strength and safety that scared off some drivers.
  • Aerodynamic adventures: Chapman enjoyed aerodynamics — ‘a very absorbing subject’ — and was at the forefront of major F1 developments in this area.
  • Discovering downforce: early insights with wings and wedge-shaped bodies, exemplified by his Types 56 (Indycar) and 72 (F1), led ultimately to the pioneering breakthrough of traction-enhancing ground effect, which reached full flowering with the F1 Lotus 79.
  • Ludvigsen gives special attention to Chapman’s exploits at Indianapolis, where he and his cars transformed the nature of America’s premier race with stunning innovations far from the safety of home.
  • ISBN: 978-1-910505-64-9
  • Format: 270x210mm
  • Hardback
  • Page extent: 400pp
  • Illustration: 550 photos and diagrams

Karl Ludvigsen is widely known and respected in the automotive world for his research and reporting on all aspects of motoring and motor sports. This has come about through his studies of engineering and industrial design as well as his positions with GM, Fiat and Ford and his leadership of a motor-industry management-consulting company. He has been active for over 60 years as an author and historian, first meeting Colin Chapman at the 1958 Italian Grand Prix. He observed his work closely thereafter, especially as a fly on the wall during development of the revolutionary Lotus 78. As author, co-author or editor he has some five dozen books to his credit, all concerning cars and the motor industry, his life-long passion. Ludvigsen has received 60 awards for his works’ high standard of writing and research. He lives in Suffolk.


“When not driving, I seem to be reading. I’ve just scored Evro Publishing’s reprint of Karl Ludvigsen’s remarkable book about Lotus founder Colin Chapman, Inside the Innovator, which I failed to read when it first appeared in 2010. You couldn’t call it a biography, but its discussion of Chapman’s view and progress on important technical subjects (concepts, structures, downforce and more) gives a fantastic insight into the man himself, especially as his associates are liberally quoted. Ludvigsen has written over 60 erudite books; this is surely one of his finest.”
Steve Cropley, Autocar

“Full credit to Evro for re-issuing this profile of the Lotus founder and boss, written by the grandee of motoring journalism, Karl Ludvigsen, who first interviewed Chapman back in 1958. While focusing on the latter’s engineering approach to car design, the book is nevertheless a fully rounded profile of this complex man — it includes chapters on his abilities as a driver and team manager — and Ludvigsen’s down-to-earth style makes it an easy read. Very well illustrated, it’s a definitive work.”

“What makes this book so captivating is two-fold; firstly the detailed exploration of what made Chapman such an icon of automotive culture. With chapters devoted to extensively discussing suspension, weight-saving measures, aerodynamics and engine developments it shows the brilliance of Colin Chapman as an engineer (even if he was generous in what he declared to be his own ideas). More importantly however, the book doesn’t attempt to whitewash Colin Chapman as a person. His flaws are laid bare and eloquently explained with first-hand accounts.”
Book of the Month, CAR

“Karl Ludvigsen is undoubtedly one of the best-known international authors of automotive literature. Many of his books deal with the Porsche brand. However, his interests extend far beyond this. He is currently providing impressive proof of this with his latest publication. He extensively researched the life and work of Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman, the founder and long-time head of Lotus Cars. Originally published in 2010, the book Colin Chapman – Inside the Innovator is now available in a revised and partially expanded new edition. Not only the individual chapters on Colin Chapman’s technical understanding are worth reading, but also the foreword. This was written by former Formula 1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi.”

“More than a decade since it was first published, Karl Ludvigsen’s Colin Chapman: Inside the Innovator remains the standard work on the Lotus founder’s role as engineer-designer and the legacy of his innovations.”
The Automobile

“This comprehensive look at his machines and how he was pushing for the ‘unfair advantage’ is accompanied by many diagrams and illustrations… It certainly isn’t just a look at the positives, as Chapman’s short fuse, high demands and complex character are laid bare… it paints Chapman as a flawed genius, willing to push himself, those who worked for him and his cars to the very limit.”

“Acclaimed motoring and motor sport author Karl Ludvigsen sets out the technical side of Chapman’s vision and engineering skills, with in-depth chapters dealing with all the areas he was so involved with, such as aerodynamics, downforce, suspension and transmission.”
Best of British

“It goes further than any previous title to explore some of Chapman’s influences and how he influenced and revolutionised concepts in many forms of motor racing, which translated to road cars too. In addition to the technical subjects, the ‘meat of the bone’ for many readers, are the various interesting discussions about Chapman’s relationships… Altogether this book is a complete source of information on one of the icons of our sport.”
Racing Spirit

“By breaking down Chapman’s complex world into individual facets, from transmissions to man management, this book succeeds in getting to grips with the depth and breadth of the abilities of this extraordinary man. There’s a superb selection of sketches and technical drawings to explain the lateral thinking and some great candid photos from inside the Lotus world. This is a detailed and thorough piece of work that students of the subject will pore over.”

“Nowhere else will you find this many first-person accounts nor, obviously, the wide arc of analysis that only an author with Ludvigsen’s auto industry background and research/writing chops has on tap. In fact, the whole reason so many of Chapman’s associates were willing to tell their stories to him was because it was he who asked… Ludvigsen has taken on the challenge of separating genius from junk, truth from fiction… Highly recommended!”


“This is a great book! It’s not only extremely interesting for Lotus owners and sports-car maniacs in general, no, all car enthusiasts who have an ounce of interest in automotive technology should read it. It needs a technical writer of Ludvigsen’s calibre, with great knowledge and excellent contacts, to succeed in encompassing and analysing all aspects of the earthly person Colin Chapman. An indescribably fascinating book for all of us, but especially for those who are interested in engines, chassis development, suspension and other automotive design elements.”
Lennart Haajanen, SVKG-Bulletinen

“This being a Ludvigsen production, it’s well-reasoned right down to such matters as to the origin of the ‘wobbly web’ wheel. The vastly experienced author has tapped his extensive contacts book to speak to many of the central players in in Lotus lore and those who knew ‘Chunky’ in an important, if peripheral, sense. Among the latter, American genius Bill Milliken is highly entertaining.”

“Ludvigsen organises his tribute to Chapman by topic — each of the chapters focuses on one of the major parts of a modern race car. Ludvigsen covers each topic in great detail with a combination of thorough research and entertaining quotes taken from personal interviews and other sources. The choice of photos and drawings is excellent, including numerous portraits that capture Chapman’s many facial expressions.
Doug Milliken and Sabu Advani, Speed Readers

“Not a biography, this analyses Chapman’s engineering talents by looking at separate areas of his cars and at wider subjects such as man-management and driver dealings. Ludvigsen is good on engineering background. Illustrations include not only technical diagrams but also Chapman’s hastily scribbled drawings. This portrait of one of our greatest engineers is fascinating.”
Gordon Cruickshank, Motor Sport

“Karl Ludvigsen’s breadth of knowledge and depth of insight make this an authoritative study as well as a highly readable one. With lots of quotes from many who were involved and plenty of photographs in its 400 pages, it should be essential reading for enthusiasts of the man and the marque.”
Classic Cars

“Karl Ludvigsen has a long and storied automotive career, with time at the biggest auto companies as well as the publications that cover them. His meticulous research plus plenty of original interviews create a fact-filled look at Chapman’s legacy. Ludvigsen’s take on the career of Colin Chapman gives you the sense that today’s events are an apt metaphor for the history of the man and the company he built. It’s a fully realised, smart look at one of the most important men in the history of racing.”
Mark Wigginton, Sports Car Market

“The author asks a lot of questions and his hunger for the answers has given rise to a momentous analysis of F1’s greatest innovator and maverick.  He neatly avoids sensationalism over Chapman the man, but all the ‘character’ you need is laid bare in the chapter on Chapman the strategist. With a wonderful array of photos and illustration, a foreword by Emerson Fittipaldi and quotes from key players, this 400-page hardback is phenomenal value and essential reading for fans and detractors alike.”
Book of the Month, Classic & Sports Car

“Now comes the dean of automotive writers, Karl Ludvigsen, to give us a measure of the man’s impact on the automotive world. Ludvigsen gets to the heart of the matter. He’s unsparing when Chapman took credit for others’ work and he’s full of praise when Chapman was truly an innovator. Ludvigsen’s fairness extends to an unvarnished look at Chapman’s failures, his undeveloped or aborted ideas, ideas that may yet show promise. I’m a confirmed Lotus fan, and on almost every page, nearly every paragraph, I learned something new about the company and the man. This will become a standard reference on Chapman and his career.
Ronnie Schreiber, The Truth About Cars

“When it came to design, Chapman was never exactly a team player. Neither was he a lone genius. Instead, his life and work embodied a bit of both. Ludvigsen has done a masterful job of reconciling the two, shedding light on the nature of Chapman’s inventive thought and how he transformed his ideas into reality, whether they led to a chequered flag or an ignoble DNF. Readers familiar with Ludvigsen’s past work will not be surprised that he has once again produced a book for a popular audience that is nevertheless probing, thoroughly researched and fully deserving of a place on scholars’ shelves.”
David Lucsko, Technology and Culture

“This is a remarkable book about a remarkable person. In 400 densely packed and lavishly illustrated pages, Karl Ludvigsen has traced Chapman’s meteoric learning curve right through to his premature death, brilliantly capturing the essence of the man, warts and all. Only an exceptionally talented author could have done this. Above all it needs somebody with a superb reference library and the diligence to exploit it fully. This book, I think, is the definitive account of Colin Chapman’s career. Don’t wait for a better one to come along. It is unlikely it will be ever be written or even attempted.
Charles Bulmer, The Automobile