This time round we present our first guest blog from the highly entertaining and pleasantly nutty Major Barking-Squiff - Anon..............
Those blessed with being creative usually have more than their fair share of perceived flaws to those who expect civility, objectiveness and compliance. Of course, to have a vehicle designer that is devoid of creative spirit could end up with a Morgan 4.
The mark of greatness can be the ability to attract immense talent, rather than to be the talent. As such Henry Ford was a very driven person, with an eye for talent beyond his own ability along with legendary organisation skills. The parts system used by Ford to this day owes its structure to the system laid down by Henry Ford. Given what has happened to the company and indeed the world over the past century, that is quite an achievement.
Colin Chapman is surrounded by stories, yet he remained elusive. His skill was to be a sufficiently good enough engineer to recognise brilliance in others, and a total commitment to motor sport. Everything else from aircraft to boats were ultimately a means to an end. The company to this day continues this approach, unsurprising given it is located so far away from any other automotive industry.
One person who arrived at Lotus was Oliver Winterbottom. He had been educated via an apprenticeship at Jaguar, and was enthralled by Lotus – so much so he quit the company twice but worked for it three times. Mr Winterbottom’s talent was deep. Not just a car designer, but a capable engineer too. That was and still is relatively rare. His achievements include contributions to the Europa, the Lotus Elite II and Eclat. He also assisted Ital Design in finishing the Esprit I, before going to TVR and creating the Tasmin.
The third phase of Mr Winterbottom’s career was critical to Lotus fortunes. By this stage GM had commissioned a huge series of airbag testing, which meant each vehicle was prepared in Hethel before impact at Millbrook proving ground (which was owned at the time by Lotus). The programme was complex, difficult and repetitive – but very profitable.
The team had arrived late at Woburn, which was reasonably close to Millbrook, ready for the following day. As usual the staff at Hethel had made the arrangements. The team checked into the hotel they had been allocated – but where was Mr Winterbottom? Well, he had arrived, didn’t like the cut of the place and booked into a suitably plusher establishment. One wonders if Woburn Abbey had been approached (‘Lady Tavistock, is that you-hoo?’).
We can see the issue both ways – it’s incredibly boring to be in a hotel almost every week, yet this employee apparently had little regard for allowable costs. Mr Winterbottom had legendary ability to drink (‘quaffing with Ollie’), and enjoyed hospitality greatly – yet, the same person was very aware of the welfare of his team, and would do everything he could to ensure they got the correct type of support especially when working away from home. Running battles with the Hethel based team were not infrequent. That’s why his colleagues loved the man.
Oliver Winterbottom passed away in 2020. He made a huge contribution to the automotive world, was a considerate leader and a fine human too.
What do a few quirks matter when one is this great?
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