Oliver Winterbottom, the former Jaguar, TVR and Lotus designer, sadly passed away on November 6 at the age of 76.
Born in Ashford, Kent, Winterbottom served his engineering apprenticeship with Jaguar and spent a decade with the firm, but is best known for his three stints with Lotus. The first was from 1971, where he designed the Type 75 Elite, the Type 76 Eclat and helped make Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Esprit concept a reality, until founder Colin Chapman took him off cars and put him on to the boat design team at Ketteringham Hall, where a later disagreement led to his departure.
A short freelance spell led to Oliver Winterbottom working for TVR during Martin Lilley’s tenure, designing the wedge-shaped Tasmin, before a return to Lotus in 1980. Here he led the Toyota-powered M90/X100 project, which was the last project Chapman oversaw and was to become the new Lotus Elan, before financial problems after Chapman’s death in 1982 meant the project stalled. Winterbottom left for Detroit in 1985 as a project manager for General Motors on two low-volume vehicles, but returned for a third spell at Hethel in 1986, working as Project General Manager within the vehicle, body and safety systems engineering group.
He stayed at Lotus until 1998 when he left and set up his own design consultancy, Norfolk Automotive, which he ran for 10 years with a long spell working and living in China, before retiring at 65 to a modest self-designed house in Norfolk. He will be remembered as one of the most innovative and visionary designers of his generation.