STROKE SURVIVOR – by making my own Lotus 11 !

In 2001 I had a stroke.  A rare vascular brain tumor that was slowly bleeding into my brain caused this.  The tumor was situated in the “Communication” area of my brain and life saving neuro-surgery was carried out to remove it and I survived.  Unfortunately the tumor had caused considerable damage.  I could not see to the right in both eyes.  I could not understand what people were saying and wrong words came out of my mouth.  I could not read or write and had no understanding of names and numbers.  I had no idea how to dress or keep myself clean.  My right arm and leg did not work too well either.  During my four-month rehabilitation in hospital I learnt to do most things again.  But reading, writing, numbers and speech difficulties did not improve.  My vision improved slightly, but the top right of both eyes do not ‘work.’  I can drive but not on the open road.

Ken' replica Eleven, seen at the Donington Lotus Show, 2004.When I came home I was determined to get back to how I used to be.  With the help of my wife by my side every second of the day, it was just like being a 4 year old at school.  I would practice reading, writing and speaking.  After doing this continually for 12 months, I had had enough; I was beginning to get bored.  My ‘school’ had no teachers or other learners.  I did not want to resort to sitting down in front of the television, which would be a killer! I wanted a challenge.  I decided to do something that I had always wanted to do since my youth, when I used to work for my father during school holidays.  My father had a clock and watch repair shop very near to Colin Chapman’s workshop in North London. 

In 1955-56 I used to see the development and making of the Lotus 11 and I fell in love with it.  Throughout my life I wanted to buy that car.  In 1988 I bought the book The Lotus 11 by Dennis Ortenburger and realised that I wanted to make my own.  I had a degree in Engineering and a working background with Rolls Royce, Rover Gas turbines, Honeywell control systems and fluidic designs.  I have also been a director of a highly technical engineering company.  Although since the late 70s I had gone back to clock restoration, I still maintained my research and design skills.  After my stroke a close friend of mine who knew of my life long love of the Lotus 11, took me to his workshop and presented me with a Coventry Climax fire pump.  He knew that if I had the engine, there would be a very good chance of me making my very own Lotus 11.

Interior of Kew Newson's replica Eleven.It took me 18 months to finish the Lotus 11.  The enjoyment, effort and difficulties from making the car has helped me understand and re-develop my ability to get back to my life.  Little things that you take for granted like making a telephone call, talking and understanding what people are saying; reading catalogues, calculating measurements and writing off for orders; using my hands creatively and moving all parts of my body.   A truly wonderful feeling!

Making the Lotus 11 has been so successful that my wife and I are helping other stroke survivors.  Being positive, focusing and continually working at something special does help enormously to get your life back.

Enormous thanks to Victor Thomas (HLR), Mike Brotherwood, Richard Coles (Holbay) for their incredible support and patience.  Without them it would not have been possible.

Ken Newson

Sudbury Suffolk, England


[Editor's Note:  For anyone who knows what goes into building an Eleven, even a replica, Ken Newson's achievement is miraculous.  This car is a fact, and testimony to the triumph of the human spirit.]