The Lotus Elan was launched in October 1962 at the British Motorshow, just as the Sixties started swinging. Jaguar had launched the E-Type the previous year, and AC had the Cobra and Ferrari the GTO. Big, expensive, powerful muscles cars. The Lotus Elan was very different, and typically Lotus - ultra modern, lightweight, rapid and huge fun.
It summed up the Sixties: a playful topless two-seat ticket to freedom, it was technically innovative with the first backbone tube chassis of any road car, a fiberglass body, four-wheel independent suspension, 670kg with a peachy power-to-weight ratio, bang up-to-date styling beloved by Kings Road cruisers, and a liberating, rock n' roll attitude.
It came with luxuries that were a rarity at the time, like electric windows, carpets, a heater, and in vogue wooden fascia, but it was still light enough on the scales to outrun other automotive competition - not to mention groupies.
The Lotus Elan Sprint, a more powerful 1973 alternative, could hit 60mph in 6.6 seconds, which even now would be considered respectably fast. Back then it was Neil Armstrong territory.
Its pop-up headlights could wink at admirers. It turned heads on Carnaby Street, where the Swinging Sixties embraced cool new design. As well as its turn on TV, defeating baddies and complimenting Diana Rigg's risqué wardrobe, it found its way onto a magazine cover with Jimi Hendrix posing on the bonnet, and even inspired the lyrics to The Beatles' A Day In The Life.
The Lotus Europa or Lotus Europe, a two door mid-engined GT coupé built by Lotus Cars from 1966 to 1975.
The original Lotus Europa used Lotus founder Colin Chapman's minimalist steel backbone chassis that was first used in the Lotus Elan, while also relying on its fibreglass moulded body for structural strength. The Europa was the first mass-produced mid-engine road car and was based on a prototype built to compete for Henry Ford II's contract to build a Le Mans race car in the early 1960s.
The Lotus Europa was designed and built to be an embodiment of Chapman's oft-stated philosophy of automotive design: "Simplify, then add lightness."
The 4-wheel independent suspension was typical of Chapman's thinking; the rear suspension consisted of two relatively large trailing arms, one lower locating link per side, and the axles were used as upper locating links; very similar to Formula racing car designs of that era. Aside from the doors, bonnet (hood), and trunk (boot), the body was cast as a single unit of fibreglass.
The car's handling prompted automotive writers to describe the Europa as the nearest thing to a Formula car for the road.
The Series 1 or S1 Europa (also known as Lotus Type 46) was announced for sale to European markets on December 20, 1966. The first cars were delivered in France in February 1967, sold as Lotus Europe. The S1 was fitted with a modified Renault 16 1470 cc engine and a 4-speed gearbox. The engine was a special 82 hp (61 kW) version (as opposed to the 52 hp (39 kW) generated in standard form). Lotus turned the engine and gearbox through 180° to accommodate the Europa's longitudinal mid-engined layout, inverting the gearbox's crown wheel and its pinion gear to avoid having four reverse gears. The S1 weighed 686 kg (1512 lb), had a top speed of 110 mph (180 km/h), and did 0-60 mph in 10 seconds. Of particular note, nearly 0.9 g (8 m/s²) lateral acceleration was achieved on road tires of that era.
Lotus Esprit Concept (1972)
Lotus Exige 265E Concept
Lotus Engineering, the engineering consultancy division of Group Lotus Plc has developed a bio-ethanol E85 version of the Lotus Exige. The research vehicle is a true Lotus (it weighs just 930 kg unladen) and is called the Lotus Exige 265E.
The Lotus philosophy is all about performance through light weight. The Lotus Exige 265E is built to the lightest specification possible without resorting to expensive and rare materials normally found in the rarefied environment of Formula One or Aerospace Industries where weight reduction is often considered more important than cost. The performance improvements of using bio ethanol have been made through increasing the power of the engine without increasing the weight of the engine and therefore the overall weight of the car.
The heart of the Lotus Exige 265E is a Roots-type supercharger (with a sealed-for-life internal mechanism meaning that it does not require the use of the engine's oil) and air to air intercooler attached to the tried and tested 4-cylinder, 1.8 litre 2ZZ-GE VVTL-i engine. Using a development of the supercharger and intercooler package from the Lotus Exige S, the Lotus Exige 265E has peak power of 264 hp (197 kW, 268 PS) at 8000 rpm, 184 lbft (249 Nm) of torque (at 5500 rpm) up by 46 hp (34 kW, 47 PS) or 21% and 25 lbft (34 Nm) or 16% over the standard gasoline Exige S. Maximum engine speed is 8000 rpm (8500 rpm transient for up to 2 seconds).
Launched at the 77th annual Geneva International Motor Show in 2007, the Lotus 2-Eleven is aimed at the true track day enthusiast, taking Colin Chapman's philosophy of "Performance Through Light Weight" to its most extreme level yet. Weighing in at just 670 kg (1,477 lbs) - dry weight with base specification - 745 kg (1639 lbs) kerb weight, fully loaded and with 255 PS (252 bhp / 188 kw) on tap courtesy of its supercharged and intercooled 1796 cc engine, the Lotus 2-Eleven boasts a power to weight ratio similar to that of a 1960's Formula One car.
Designed with the most serious of track day enthusiasts in mind, the Lotus 2-Eleven offers race car levels of performance coupled with legendary Lotus Ride and Handling to deliver a truly outstanding track day car. Said Mike Kimberley, Chief Executive Officer for Group Lotus plc: "The Lotus 2-Eleven takes our core brand values to the extreme. It is the ultimate track day vehicle - not only phenomenally quick, but also very user-friendly. In short, the Lotus 2-Eleven delivers everything that the modern track day warrior and clubman racer demands, and more." Production of the Lotus 2-Eleven is scheduled to commence in April 2007 at the awardwinning and world-class Lotus manufacturing facility at Lotus Headquarters in Hethel, Norfolk, UK. The Lotus 2-Eleven build will be completed in dedicated Lotus Sport workshops and each vehicle will be given a Lotus Sport build plate. The Lotus 2-Eleven is initially available in Launch Edition specification only, which boasts a dynamic and unique three-way Lotus Sport colour scheme complete with decal pack. The Launch Edition is available in two versions - Road Going Version (UK Single Vehicle Approval) fitted with front and rear lights, exhaust catalyst, single plane rear wing and other items to achieve compliance with UK road legal requirements and Track Only Version with an enhanced aerodynamics package including high downforce single plane carbon fibre rear wing, high downforce front splitter, brake lights and rear indicators and FIA approved driver's race seat. The recommended selling price (incl UK VAT) of the Lotus 2-Eleven Launch Edition will be £39,995. In the UK, the SVA version (Single Vehicle Type Approval) which includes delivery, Pre Delivery Inspection, first service, number plates, first registration fee, valet, 12 months' Road Fund Licence, a full tank of fuel and SVA test costs an additional £1,100. The Lotus 2-Eleven is only available as a track-only option outside of the UK at 49,575 excluding local tax in mainland Europe. Pricing in Japan, South Africa and Lotus other international markets will be announced shortly.
Lotus Elise R (2007)
Lotus Elise S
Lotus is back with an entry level Lotus Elise that is set to propel the Hethel based sports car manufacturer further up the sales charts. The loss of the K series engine had temporarily created a hole in Lotus' portfolio and its disappearance from the range was not good news for Pure sportscar lovers right across the globe. The challenge of 'plugging the gap' has now been spectacularly addressed with the launch of the new Lotus Elise S - a sub 6 second 0 - 60mph sportscar, available at a stunning sub £24K 'on the road' price. Lotus has shoehorned in a high technology 1.8-litre 134 hp Variable Valve Timing Toyota engine, which perfectly complements the phenomenal handling characteristics of the Lotus Elise. This delivers a cracking new entry-level car, capable of taking you from 0 - 60 mph in just 5.8 grin-inducing seconds (0 - 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds) and onto a top speed of 127 mph (205 km/h), law permitting! As the new entry-level car, the Lotus Elise S may not be the fastest or quickest Elise in the range, but the acceleration, performance and handling is class leading in its price bracket and belies the cost and real substance engineered into the new vehicle - what other sub-£24,000 roadster can reach 60 mph in less than 6.0 seconds? For the sake of comparison, a 2.0-litre Mazda MX-5 reaches the same speed in 7.9 seconds. Add this to one of the lowest depreciation rates of any car in the market and the purchase of the new Lotus Elise S becomes one of the soundest retail propositions to be found. The Lotus Elise S is built around the revolutionary and award winning extruded and bonded aluminium chassis, with a lightweight steel rear subframe. The chassis itself weighs just 68 kg (150 lbs) and has a stiffness of 9,500 Nm per degree. The body design remains unchanged from the classic 190 hp Lotus Elise R - why change the award-winning aerodynamic package and an elegant Lotus design just for the sake of it?
Lotus Exige S
The Lotus Exige S is the latest addition to the Lotus Exige range and is a real sportscar that redefines the term "Extreme Performance". With 90.5 kW / litre (121.4 hp / litre, 123 PS / litre), it is one of most powerful production cars in the world for its engine size but most importantly it has full type approval for all the markets in which it will be sold. The Lotus Exige S is not a limited edition, nor is it an aftermarket special - it is manufactured from start to finish in the world leading and award winning Lotus Manufacturing facility at Hethel, Norfolk. Because the basic car is so immensely strong but lightweight (935 kg, 2057 lbs), giving a power to weight ratio of 173.8 kW/tonne (233.2 hp/tonne, 236.4 PS/tonne), performance is phenomenal, with 100 km/h being reached from a standing start in 4.3 seconds (0 - 60 mph in 4.1 seconds) and 160 km/h (100 mph) being reached in 9.98 seconds (estimate) before topping out at 238 km/h (148 mph). Inspite of this phenomenal performance the fuel economy is impressive with an official combined figure of 9.1 litres / 100 km (31.0 mpg) - extra urban is an impressive 7.2 litres / 100 km (39.2 mpg). Lotus believes that there is no car on sale anywhere in the world that has such good performance combined with such good fuel economy! Not that many customers will be buying this car principally for its fuel economy!
Being a Lotus, straight-line performance is not the most important factor, but every day driving on normal roads, or around a circuit is. There are very few cars on sale today that can match the speed, agility and safety of the Lotus Exige S in both day to day and track or circuit driving. However the Lotus Exige S is not just a track day warrior. It is a sportscar that would be at home on the backroads, freeways and autobahns, as well as on city streets. With an extremely "torquey" engine and the classic Lotus suspension set-up of soft compliant springs and firm controllable dampers, the driving experience is an uncanny combination of telepathic-like handling with a taught and comfortable ride. There is really no car that handles quite like a Lotus. Clive Dopson, Managing Director of Lotus Cars says, "The Lotus Exige S represents the ultimate "extreme" production Lotus, with performance that trumps other supercars costing twice or even three times as much. That it does so with the fuel economy of a family hatchback, stands as a testament to the Lotus concept of performance through light weight. Its an unbeatable package and an unbeatable drive."
Lotus Hot Wheels Concept (2007)
Lotus Elise SC (2008)