Lotus Cars ‘larger than life’ designer dies aged 76

Former car designer, Oliver Winterbottom, pictured with memorabilia at his desk.

Former car designer, Oliver Winterbottom - Credit: ANTONY KELLY/ARCHANT 2017

A former Lotus Cars designer from Norfolk has died at his home at the age of 76.

Oliver Winterbottom, of Wymondham, found fame during his time at Lotus but it was an engineering apprenticeship with Jaguar that kick-started his career. 

Oliver Winterbottom with a green 'wedge' car.

Oliver Winterbottom, has died at his home in Wymondham, aged 76 - Credit: Veloce Publishing

During his three stints at Lotus, he became most well known for his skills. 

From 1971, he designed the Type 75 Elite, the Type 76 Éclat, and helped bring Giorgetto Giugiaro’s concept into reality with the Esprit - a car which featured in the James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me.

He returned from 1980 when he led the Toyota-powered M90/X100 project. And finally, from 1986, he worked as project general manager within the vehicle, body, and safety systems engineering group. 

Drawings of the Lotus M90 by former car designer, Oliver Winterbottom.

Former car designer, Oliver Winterbottom's drawings for the Lotus M90 - Credit: ANTONY KELLY/ARCHANT 2017

Drawings for the Lotus M80 by former car designer, Oliver Winterbottom.

Drawings for the Lotus M80 by former car designer, Oliver Winterbottom - Credit: ANTONY KELLY/ARCHANT 2017

In tribute to Mr Winterbottom, the author of A Life in Car Design, a Lotus Cars spokesperson said: “We are extremely saddened to hear of [his] passing.

“He was one of the most innovative and visionary designers of his generation.

“Totally dedicated and committed Lotus ‘larger than life’ character.”

Mr Winterbottom was a guest speaker and “familiar face” at many Lotus owners and club events. He was also a VIP guest at the Hethel-based company’s 70th-anniversary celebrations in September 2018.

Oliver Winterbottom pictured with a yellow 'wedge' car.

Former car designer, Oliver Winterbottom - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

During his career, Mr Winterbottom worked for TVR during Martin Lilley’s tenure and designed the long-running Tasmin. He went on to become one of the founding fathers of the British ‘wedge’ design.

He worked directly with Colin Chapman, owner of luxury boat company JCL Marine, on the last project Mr Chapman oversaw - the M90.

He also formed his own consultancy company, Norfolk Automotive Limited, in 1998 and worked internationally with a number of Chinese car companies, including Geely. United States-based General Motors, in Detroit, was another employer on his extensive resume.

Pictured is former car designer, Oliver Winterbottom's book cover A Life in Car Design

Former car designer, Oliver Winterbottom's book cover A Life in Car Design - Credit: ANTONY KELLY/ARCHANT 2017

His daughter, Jane Talbot, 46, described him as a “fun character” who was passionate about driving and loved architecture, history, and art and design.

She said: “He always had a story to tell. And he could navigate his way around England by the pubs.

“He had this big social circle of friends too.”

Oliver Winterbottom, who died at home in Wymondham, aged 76, pictured with his wife Wendy, who died in 2014, outside a...

Oliver Winterbottom, who died aged 76, with his wife Wendy - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Oliver Winterbottom, who died at home in Wymondham, aged 76, is pictured with his family at home during Christmas.

Oliver Winterbottom, who died at home in Wymondham aged 76, pictured with his family - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Mr Winterbottom, whose wife Wendy passed away in 2014, died from a long-running illness on November 6, leaving behind two daughters, Jane and Anne, and two grandchildren, Nia and Che. He was also brother to Sara and uncle to Duncan.

The funeral will take place at Wymondham Abbey on Thursday, December 3, at noon. The funeral procession will travel through the town centre prior.

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