22 Feb 2012
THE IRON LADY AND THE LOTUS
Friend Roger Putnam sent me this interesting photo from his personal archives . Roger is standing on the left . It shows British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher,being shown the latest formula 1 Lotus by Lotus chief Colin Chapman in 1982 .If Margaret Thatcher had known at the time that Colin Chapman was (allegedly) involved with John DeLorean in defrauding the British Government of millions of pounds she definitely would not have been sitting there.
The DeLorean car project was largely bankrolled by the British government to the tune of over $100m in a desperate attempt to alleviate chronic unemployment in Belfast in Ulster ( N Ireland) --see previous post .
The DeLorean DMC-12 car was a total dud despite the involvement of Lotus in the engineering -its only real legacy is its key role in the film Back to the Future.John DeLorean, the mastermind behind the project, was arrested on drug trafficking charges when he was attempting to sell drugs to raise money to save the company,the DeLorean company went bankrupt ,the workers in Belfast were back unemployed and very disappointed , the British taxpayers lost a mountain of money, the Lotus chairman at the time, Fred Bushell,was later convicted and sent to jail for his involvement in the fraud and the stress killed Colin Chapman who died of a heart attack late in1982 before he was charged with any wrongdoing.
A very messy affair all round and a sad end to a brilliant career for Chapman .And a strange and uncharacteristic lapse of judgement by Margaret Thatcher in becoming involved in what was obviously a very bad idea putting lots of public money into a start up car company making an unproven product but the troubles in Ulster at the time were very serious and anything which could alleviate unemployment would have been seen as worth a try.
I was in a small group who had lunch with Margaret Thatcher in Sydney in 1994 four years after she had been deposed as British PM . She was still bitter about her ousting and she was very dogmatic and domineering through the lunch .A very weird and unforgettable experience.Meryll Streep has her down to the smallest gesture in The Iron Lady -- well worth seeing .