John Standen: Norfolk engineer was key member of Lotus team

OBIT John Standen

OBIT John Standen - Credit: Archant

An influential automotive engineer, John Standen, who has died peacefully aged 82 in Norwich, was a key member of Colin Chapman's Lotus car business.

An original member of Team Lotus, he became the first full-time employee although he had joined the inspirational Colin Chapman's Lotus Engineering Company as an unpaid and spare time enthusiast.

An idea floated at an informal directors' meeting to discuss future plans for the company's already highly successful racing campaigns was to transform the business. His suggestion of incorporating frame, fuel tanks, body and engine into a single unit inspired Colin Chapman to develop what became the outstanding Monocoque Lotus 25 Formula 1 car.

It took the motor racing industry by storm and led to a string of grand prix successes and built the reputation of Lotus.

In his career, spanning almost a quarter of a century, he became a director of Lotus Cars, and had moved to Hethel, near Wymondham, in 1966. Five years later, he was seconded to the boat building business acquired by Mr Chapman, and spent six years in different roles with Moonraker and JCL. Then in 1978, he left Lotus and a year later started a new business.


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John Edward Standen, who was born on April 7, 1931 in Edmondton, was evacuated from London at the outbreak of the Second World War with his younger sister. He passed his entrance exams to grammar school becoming the only child from two local schools to do so.

He left school in April 1946 and started a five-year apprenticeship and qualified with a first class City & Guilds in motor vehicle technology.

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He did two years' National Service in the Royal Air Force, initially as a motor mechanic and then driver, before starting two years with the National Vehicle Distributor.

When he joined Lotus Engineering Company in 1954, he helped to make the first Mark 6 models. He had already built his own Austin special, which led to an introduction to Colin Chapman. As he lived at Hornsey in north London, he visited the nearby Lotus workshops in the evenings and at weekends.

In May 1955, he was formally employed as 'stores boss' and his first desk was a door over some beer barrels. When Lotus took its first stand at that year's London Motor Show, the firm's staff succumbed to flu. He was the only man left on the company's stand.

When Lotus moved to Cheshunt, he became group purchasing director, responsible for liaison between production and design office for new models. His advance knowledge of Ford's plans for the new Cortina led to the introduction of the new Lotus twin cam engine as the power unit. The Lotus Cortina was born.

He was one of the company's intrepid aviators and was also a member of the British Racing Drivers' Club.

In his second career, he invested in the now Wymondham-based BBC Fire Protection business in 1979 as a start-up investor and was executive director. The company, which now employs about 100 staff, started in Cyprus Street, Norwich, and then moved to Diamond Road.

It also won national contracts fitting systems to the Bank of England and Downing Street as well as winning a Royal Warrant from the Queen for work at Sandringham.

A keen sportsman, he enjoyed water skiing and shooting.

As president of the Norfolk branch of the Royal Life Saving Society, he was also involved in teaching and examination of live saving. In later years, he enjoyed art and photography.

Married for 47 years, he leaves a widow, Rosemary, daughter Rosalynne, son Jonathan and grandchildren, JJ, Dylan and Ophelia. A funeral service took place yesterday at St Faith's Crematorium.

Michael Pollitt

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