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Lotus needs your help finding its very first car – Roadshow

Have you seen this car? Please call the number on the back of this milk carton.

Lotus / The Colin Chapman Foundation

As the glam-metal band Cinderella put it, you don't know what you've got till it's gone. Lotus must be playing that song on repeat right now, because it needs to find a very important piece of Lotus history, and it needs your help.

Yes, you. Lotus put out a press release asking everybody, anybody for any information that might help the automaker find the Lotus Mark I, the very first Lotus that founder Colin Chapman built in a London garage in the late 1940s, based on an Austin Seven. Lotus included a picture of the car, with Colin's girlfriend-then-wife Hazel in the driver's seat, in case you weren't sure what it looked like. (Hint: It looks nothing like a modern Lotus.)

Lotus said that after Chapman built the Mark I, he successfully ran it in several motorsports events with Hazel's help. He eventually got lost in developing its follow-up, the Mark II. The Mark I was reportedly sold in late 1950, and after that... poof. Gone. Off the map. "Its whereabouts have never been established," Lotus said, which means this is a case for a serious automotive sleuth.

Even Colin Chapman's son, Clive, is getting in on the search. "The Mark I is the holy grail of Lotus' history," Clive said in a statement. "To locate this landmark Lotus, as we celebrate the 70th anniversary, would be a monumental achievement. It's even possible that the Mark I was shipped from the UK, and we'd love to know if it survives in another country."

There is, of course, the horrible chance that the Lotus Mark I no longer exists. Cars of varying importance have been shelved, mothballed or otherwise left to the forces of nature for decades on end, languishing in some long-forgotten and overgrown barn or garage. Some are retrieved and restored to their former glory, but many just disappear to time. Here's hoping that the Mark I is safe and sound, and that Lotus can find out about it before the automaker's 70th anniversary becomes the 71st.