TEAM LOTUS, RACING LEGEND
Driven initially by his passion for motor racing, Colin Chapman would have had no idea of the enormous impact that he and the brand he created, would have on the automotive world.
Starting out as a ‘David’ in the automotive world, Lotus would defy the ‘Goliaths’ and become highly influential in both the international racing scene and the design and production of road cars; well beyond what could have been imagined by the young Chapman.
Over more than 60 years in the making, Lotus has become both a class-leading manufacturer of sports cars and a globally respected automotive engineering consultancy, working with many of the world’s most prestigious car manufacturers.
From humble beginnings, when Chapman built his first trials car in a lock-up in 1948, motorsport was the driving force; indeed it was Chapman’s desire to create competitive race cars that drove him to produce road cars in order to finance his racing ambitions! The motorsport influence has continued throughout the company’s evolution and led to a continuous thread of innovation and pioneering firsts. The link between Lotus race cars and road cars is a critical and powerful one.
It was obviously a winning tactic, because the racing team Chapman formed, Team Lotus, went on to win seven Formula One Constructors’ Championships and six Drivers’ Championship titles, and a string of other titles and conquests.
The motorsport heritage remains at the heart of Lotus today and the strategic link to developing cars which offer superlative handling and performance for driving on the race track or on the road.
Team Lotus – some key milestones
- 7 F1 Constructors Championships
- 6 F1 Driver’s Championships
- 1 Indianapolis 500 win
- 3 Class wins at Le Mans
- 1 World Rally Championship
Driven by some of the world’s most famous drivers including: Stirling Moss, John Surtees, Ronnie Peterson, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Jochen Rindt, Nelson Piquet, Graham Hill, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jim Clark, Mario Andretti to name but a few…
1954 Team Lotus is set up
The team comes into being. With the Mark 8, with which they could enter international motor racing, they become an overnight success. On the racing scene, Chapman’s tendency to seek out loopholes in the regulations and to innovate begins, and this will later lead him to become known as both a maverick and a genius.
1955 Early production
The Mark 6 was much in demand, but after the manufacture of over 100 cars, orders for the pure sports racing cars took priority. Chapman gave up his job to become fully employed with the production of Lotus cars at the Hornsey factory. The Mark 8 became even more popular and Lotus was pressed for supply in both the larger and smaller engine capacities.
The company went on to develop the very agile Mark 9 and the more powerful Mark 10, and was accepted by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders as a member, allowing them to display their cars at the Earls Court Motor Show for the first time.
1956 The Lotus Eleven
After a busy 1955, Chapman decided to focus development for the ensuing year on one basic model. Developed as a descendant of the Mark 9, the Lotus Eleven (Chapman’s new chosen name and the start of the Lotus ‘E’ name tradition) comes in three basic models to suit varying customer requirements. From hereon the models are referred as types rather than marks.
1957 Lotus Seven & Le Mans
The Lotus Seven was launched as a ‘no-frills’ sports car. The car was available as a fully built car or as a kit, and delivered exceptional performance at a relatively low cost.
Production of the Seven continued at Lotus until 1973, when the rights were passed to Caterham, who still produce a form of the car today.
At the Earls Court Motor Show the Type 14 Elite (the number 13 was not used as it is considered unlucky) was shown for the first time to great acclaim. This fixed head coupe is still considered by many to be one of the best proportioned cars ever built. This was the FIRST Lotus to carry a glass fibre composite body that also acted as the chassis.
Also in 1957 the Eleven proved highly successful on the race track, and achieved a historic win in the 750cc Class of the Index of Performance at Le Mans.
1958 Group Lotus PLC
This is the year Chapman established Group Lotus.
Despite having been designed for Formula 2, the performance of the Lotus 12 meant that it became the FIRST Lotus to enter Formula 1 managing a highly credible fourth place at Spa.
The Type 15 (based on the Eleven), and Type 16 Formula 1 and 2 racing cars were developed. As one of the FIRST engineering consultancy roles, Chapman also had a hand in developing the Vanwall Grand Prix car for Tony Vandervell; the car going on to win the 1958 Constructors Championship.
1959 The move to Cheshunt
The factory moves from the original showroom next door to the Railway Inn on Tottenham Lane, Hornsey on the outskirts of London, to a new purpose-built facility at Cheshunt.
Following the great success of the Lotus Eleven, a new small capacity sports racer labelled the Type 17, was developed. This extremely lightweight car weighed just 341 kg, but this innovation proved not to be successful on track and Chapman was forced to go back to the drawing board.
1960 The mid-engine principle and Lotus’ first GP win
Focused on winning, Chapman adopted and improved upon the mid-engined layout of the successful Cooper race cars. A much simpler car than the Type 16, The Type 18 was so competitive in both Formula 1 and 2 that it was emulated by the majority of cars in those formulae. Racing with the Type 18 in Monte Carlo, Stirling Moss drove to victory at the first of many championship Grand Prix wins as driver for the Rob Walker team.
Chapman said he regarded the Type 18 as the first true Formula 1 car he had designed and built, his previous front-engined efforts being merely dabbling.
The Type 19 large capacity sports racer was developed from the basis of the Type 18 and went on to dominate its class in the USA.
1961 The Lotus 20 & 21
Keen to maintain Lotus’ pre-eminence in Junior racing, Chapman developed the Type 20. Using the majority of parts from the Type 18 packed into a smaller body, the Type 20 mades an immediate impression on the track.
1st Demonstrating the typical ‘can do’ attitude of Team Lotus, in only 6 weeks the Type 21 was designed and built to compete in the 1961 Formula One season. The Type 21 was the FIRST F1 car to use a reclining driving position. It was also the FIRST Team Lotus car to win a world Championship Grand Prix, with Innes Ireland taking first place at Watkins Glen, USA.
1962 One road car and four racers
Lotus introduced the Type 24 with a conventional chassis at the start of the ’62 Formula One season, but it was soon eclipsed by the radical Type 25.
1st Abandoning all the existing conventions, the 25 was the first F1 car to use a revolutionary fully stressed ‘monocoque’ chassis design, reinforcing Chapman’s reputation as a brilliant engineer. Winning four Formula 1 races in its first year, at the hands of the talented Jim Clark, just missing out on the Championship in the final race.
The Type 26 Lotus Elan was introduced and rapidly became a class leader by which other sportscars were measured. The car continued in production for 11 years due to it’s excellent design and subsequent popularity.
1963 The year of the Cortina and F1 success
Chapman developed his first Indianapolis car, the Type 29. With a power to weight ratio of over 800bhp per ton Lotus proclaimed it to be one of the most, if not the most potent piece of racing machinery ever built. After leading the Indy 500 for 28 laps, Jim Clark finished in second place.
Lotus assisted Ford in winning the British Saloon Car Championship by developing and building the Type 28 Lotus Cortina.
Win: With Jim Clark at the wheel of the Type 25, Lotus secured its FIRST Formula One Constructors’ Championship, and the Drivers title; this was also the first Drivers’ World Championship for Clark, winning seven out of ten races. Both titles were won with an astonishing maximum points.
1964 The Type 33
Lotus developed the Type 30, their first car designed for Group 7 racing.
The Type 31, 32, and 33 were developed. These new cars were built for Formula 3, 2 and Tasman, and 1 respectively. The Type 33 was an evolution of the monocoque structure Type 25.
1965 More F1 Success and Indy 500
Win: Again the brilliant Jim Clark brought home another double for Team Lotus, winning both constructors’ and drivers F1 championships, this time at the wheel of the Type 33.
Clark also won the famous Indy 500 race in the USA in the new Type 38 having lead virtually from the start, averaging 150.686mph – a new record.
On the road, the Type 36 Lotus Elan fixed head coupe made its debut, the first ‘luxury’ Lotus Coupe.
After the idea of racing the Type 7 with independent rear suspension became popular, Lotus developed the semi-official Type Three-7. This project was conceived as the new generation Clubman’s racer for the 1965 season.
1966 Move to Hethel, Norfolk.
It was in this year that Lotus moved to a purpose-built factory based in Hethel, Norfolk. Built on a former US Air Force base, covering 55 acres, the old runways were converted into a 2.5 mile test track which, over the years, saw the inaugural drives of some of the worlds’s finest road and race cars at the hands of some of the world’s most famous racing drivers.
The enhanced Type 45 Elan S3 drophead made its debut, followed by the mid-engined Europa (Type 46) road car, whose handling received considerable praise in the press. Soon after the Europa went into production, work began on the Type 47, a Cosworth-Ford powered racing version. Jim Clark went on to be placed 2nd in the Indy 500 despite suffering from handling problems with the Type 47.
1st The Type 43 made its debut at Reims. It was the first F1 car to use the engine as a structural member. However, the car suffered from problems with the BRM H16 engine, with only one F1 win at Watkins Glen in the USA.
1967 The legendary Cosworth-Ford DFV V8
The Type 49 Formula 1 racer became the FIRST car to be powered by the legendary Cosworth-Ford DFV V8 engine, a motor which went on to dominate the Formula 1 scene for over a decade. Jim Clark won the Dutch Grand Prix in the 49, and took pole position In the following 11 Grand Prix races.
The more spacious Type 50 Elan +2 went into production, with a longer chassis and different bodywork, enabling two children to be carried in the rear seats.
1968 The loss of Jim ClarkTragedy: 1968 proved to be a tragic year for Team Lotus. They were to lose the heroic and talented Jim Clark in a Formula 2 race at Hockenheim on 7th April. The racing world were devastated. The black badge was introduced onto Lotus cars leaving the factory
following his death as a sign
Win: Graham Hill drove to victory winning the Constructors’ and Drivers’ titles for Lotus again.
Double 1st This is the year when Chapman, ever the keen business man, introduced commercial sponsorship onto the Formula One scene, and the Type 49 debuts the famous Gold Leaf livery of red, white and gold.
The 49 was also the FIRST use of Aerofoil wings in F1.
Lotus also launched the S2 Europa.
1969 The Seven S4 & Lotus’ entry into US market
The new Seven S4 began production. Vastly different from its predecessor, the S4 was designed to be sold to a much wider public through an all-new dealer network. The Seven S4 is designated Type 60 and used a chassis fabricated from tubular steel with welded steel sides.
Following Europa’s success in the UK, Chapman decided to market the car in the US, meaning the car had to meet federal standards.
1st The Type 63 became the first F1 car to use the wedge shaped front.
1970 The Elan Sprint and more F1 wins
In the January the famous Elan Sprint was introduced with the new 126bhp ‘Big Valve’ engine.
Double 1st Team Lotus unveils the innovative Type 72 Formula One Car that went on to achieve twenty Grand Prix wins. With inboard brakes, torsion bar springs and the FIRST use of mid-mounted, side radiators it was possible to create a car with a flat aerodynamic nose. It was also the FIRST car to use a multi element rear wing.
Win: Austrian driver Jochen Rindt passed Jack Brabham on the last lap to win the 1970 British GP at Brands Hatch in the new Type 72. Victory came again in both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ championships. Tragedy: Rindt is tragically killed at Monza before the season’s end.
1971 A new engine
Europa went on to realise it’s full potential with a change of engine and improvements to the handling, cabin space and styling. It became one of the world’s quickest production sports cars.
The Type 907 road engine was developed by Lotus and sold to Jensen for use in the Jensen-Healey.
1972 The Lotus Type 72
Win: Another successful year for Team Lotus. In the Type 72, now sporting the famous John Player Special livery, Emerson Fittipaldi won both Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championship.
The success of Team Lotus was reflected in the black and gold (JPS) colour scheme available for the newly announced Europa Special.
The Lotus Esprit concept, designed by Ital Design, is shown for the first time.
1973 The ‘Texaco Star’
Lotus causes confusion by naming its next race car the Type 74, a type number already given to the Europa. However, due to the sponsorship scheme on the car, the car becomes more commonly known as the ‘Texaco Star’.
Win: Lotus won the Constructors Championship for the sixth time, and Emerson Fittipaldi comes second in the Drivers’ Championship with Ronnie Peterson coming third.
1974 The Lotus 2+2 Elite
Lotus’ first 4 seater car was launched, the attractively shaped Type 75 Elite. Though more luxurious than any previous Lotus, the Elite still uses the company’s trademark backbone chassis and is very much a sports car.The Elite’s glass fibre composite body used a Vacuum-Assisted Resin Injection (VARI) technology, demonstrating Chapman’s ceaseless search for technical innovation, and the transfer of knowledge from pit-lane to production.
This year also saw the construction of the Type 76 Formula One car dubbed the John Player Special Mark 1.
1975 Accolade of Awards
An important year for Lotus. The Elite was awarded the DON Safety Trophy by the UK Minister of Transport: The citation reads:
‘The panel felt the successful use of GRP body construction plus the wide margin by which the Elite meets the US and European Legal Safety Requirements, and the emphasis placed on the reduction of the risk of fire in the case of collision, allied to the good fuel economy and low emission of pollutants, added up to a substantial improvement of both primary and secondary safety in a high performance car’.
At Paris Motor Show Lotus stunned the world with the premier of the dramatic Guigiaro-styled Esprit (Type 79). The car was to reappear shortly afterwards at the London show, in company with the new 2+2 Eclat (Type 76). Both cars had glass fibre composite bodywork, steel backbone chassis, and were powered by the 2.0-litre type 907 engine.Lotus received a trio of coachwork medals at the London show – gold for the Esprit and Eclat, silver (in the unlimited price class) for the Elite. The Elite was also approved for exhibition in the Design Centre, London, by the Design Council.
1976 Back to winning
Lotus is honoured with a royal visit in March – HRH, Duke of Kent.
In November the company celebrated 10 years at the Hethel site.
The new Type 77 John Player Special Mark 2 was unveiled, the first car to incorporate adjustable suspension.
After a gap of two years without F1 wins, Lotus returned to its dominant and winning ways with Mario Andretti taking the chequered flag in the rain at the Japanese Grand Prix at the end of the season.
This was the start of a phenomenal winning streak for Lotus over the next two years.
1977 The Spy Who Loved Me
‘The name’s Bond, James Bond…’ Britain’s favourite spy, 007, had a fantastic new company car in the wedge shaped Esprit. The Esprit was the mechanical star of the Bond movie ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, firing missiles and doing a memorable submarine impression. HRH Princess Anne attended the movie’s London premier.It was a good year for the Esprit; the Design Council Car Assessment Committee declared it eligible for exhibition in the Design Centre in London.
1st Lotus continued its winning streak in Formula One with the introduction Type 78, the first car to manage airflow under the car including ground effects. Driven by Mario Andretti, Gunnar Nilsson and at the end of the season by Ronnie Peterson. With five wins in 1977, Lotus settled for second place in the Constructors’ Championship.
1978 Formula 1 Dominance
Win: Team Lotus dominated Formula One – achieving 12 pole positions, and 8 wins, and yet another Constructors’ and Drivers’ double act with Mario Andretti doing the honours in the driver’s seat.
Andretti’s steed for the majority of the season, the Type 79 (or JPS Mk IV as it was also known), again proved Chapman’s genius for finding innovative engineering solutions. The car was a development of the Type 78, which pioneered ‘ground effect’ on Grand Prix cars, harnessing the airflow under the car to literally suck it to the ground. To mark this victory, Lotus produced 100 limited edition versions of the new Esprit S2 (launched earlier in the year), suitably liveried in JPS colours.
Lotus’ talents were much in demand; in December Chrysler UK (Talbot) called in the Lotus Engineering to help develop a high performance version of the Chrysler Sunbeam. The rally derivative of the Talbot Sunbeam (the Type 81) won the World Rally Championship in 1981.
1979 Wingless Wonder
Another Royal visit – HRH Duke of Edinburgh visited the Hethel factory.
The Type 80 “Wingless Wonder” F1 race car is introduced, to be driven by Mario Andretti and Carlos Reutemann.
The Type 80 was a development of the World Championship winning Type 79, and took the Ground Effect concept to the another level by maximising the underwing area of the car and not having the drag inducing topside mounted wings. However, following a number of poor results, it was retired from competition and the Type 79 was raced for the remainder of the season.
1980 Party Time
The awesome Esprit Turbo was launched in tremendous style at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The party also celebrated Team Lotus’ new sponsor, Essex Petroleum; the first 100 Esprit Turbos were to be built in Team Essex Lotus racing livery.
Looking even more outrageous than the normally aspirated version, the (Type 82) Esprit Turbo boasted a new galvanised chassis, new suspension, and a 210bhp 16-valve turbocharged 2.2-litre engine. Its performance took it straight into the supercar league – 150mph+ and 0-60mph in 5.5 seconds.
Following the Esprit Turbo’s introduction, the other models were updated with the latest 2.2-litre Lotus engine and a galvanised chassis, with the Elite and Eclat also benefiting from new interiors, instrumentation and switchgear. The Lotus line-up is now: Elite S2, Eclat S2, Esprit S2.2 (an interim model developed from the S2), and the Turbo.
On the racing front, the skirts on ‘ground effect’ F1 cars pioneered by Team Lotus (introduced on the Type 78) were banned by the sport’s governing body; Chapman and the Team Lotus engineers once more had to apply some lateral thinking. Setting up a race car’s suspension for the best aerodynamic effect meant that the driver wasn’t sufficiently protected from road shocks, but a softer suspension compromised the aerodynamics.
To resolve this, the Lotus Type 86 began development, with two separate chassis and two separate suspension systems. The car was a prototype and technology demonstrator and was tested extensively during the 1980 season.
During this season Lotus competed in the Type 81 Formula One race car.
1981 For Your Eyes Only
By incorporating the chassis and suspension of the Turbo into the non-turbo Esprit S3, Lotus was able to save costs on both models and passed this saving on to the customer.
In July the Esprit Turbo shot to stardom, featuring strongly in the new Bond movie ‘For Your Eyes Only,’ which received another Royal Premier.
1st The Lotus Type 88 Twin Chassis Formula One car was developed for the season, the FIRST car designed with a carbon fibre monocoque, and two chassis – one in which the driver sat which was softly sprung, and the other (where the skirts etc.,) sat was stiffly sprung. This was far less punishing on the driver, but was eventually outlawed from competition by the governing body.
The Type 87 replaced it, and Nigel Mansell, who had recently joined Team Lotus, raced it alongside Elio de Angelis.
1982 Tragedy strikes
The 2+2 (Type 89) Excel was launched in October, replacing the Eclat. It was neatly styled, powered by a 160bhp 2.2-litre Lotus twin-cam engine, and handled superbly.
With Elio de Angelis at the wheel, the Lotus Type 91 won its first Grand Prix Formula One race at the Austrian Grand Prix; this was to be the last win for Lotus in the Cosworth DFV engine.
Tragedy: The year ends in tragedy. On Thursday December 16, Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman, founder and chairman, died suddenly from a heart attack at only 54 years of age.
1983 The show must go on
Chapman was greatly missed, but the spirit he imparted to his team and his colleagues lived on.
In May the Lotus Active Suspension System was announced. It used a pioneering system of computers to control the hydraulic suspension, to maintain the car’s balance throughout cornering, accelerating, braking, or traversing a bumpy surface. An early experimental version of the Active Suspension system was tested on the Type 92 Formula One car, driven by Mansell.
At the request of Lotus, Toyota acquired a 16.5% stake in Lotus. The two companies had been in a mutual collaboration relationship with respect to technology since 1980. Over the following few years, Toyota would increase its shareholding in Lotus to 21.5%.
An updated Excel and Esprit Turbo made their debut at the London Motorfair later in the year.
1984 Strength to strength
In a bold step to demonstrate its commitment to becoming a major automotive engineering consultancy, Lotus invested £500,000 and opened two of the most sophisticated computer-controlled engine test cells in Europe.
The Hethel factory reached another milestone – 30,000 cars had been produced at the Norfolk factory since 1966.
The V8-powered Etna concept car, designed by Giugiaro, was shown at the British International Motor Show in Birmingham. The engine was Lotus’ own design, a 4.0-litre V8 developing 320bhp. Projected performance for the Etna was 0-60mph in 4.3secs, with a top speed of 180mph.
1st As proof that Team Lotus had become a breeding ground for young talent, Ayrton Senna replaced the departing Nigel Mansell. In this first season, driving the Type 97T, the FIRST car to have aerodynamic barge boards, Senna won in Portugal (despite fearsomely wet conditions), and again at Spa.
Chrysler Corporation USA contracted with Lotus Engineering to develop a family of high performance 16-valve engines for its future range of passenger cars.
There was a massive leap in work-in-hand, from £3 million in June 1984 to £31 million in June 1985, thanks mainly to growth of contract work for clients worldwide. Floor space at the Hethel site was increased by 45 per cent to cope with the extra work and staff numbers rose to more than 600.
To round off the year nicely the Excel SE is announced at the London Motor Show. Among a package of all-round refinements is a new 180bhp high compression version of the Lotus 2.2-litre 16-valve engine.
1986 Change of ownership
Lotus marked 20 years at the Hethel site.General Motors acquired 100% shareholding of Group Lotus plc.
At the Motor show Lotus launches a new high compression version of the Esprit Turbo and an automatic version of the Excel.
1987 Camel colours
Camel became Team Lotus’ new major sponsor, and Honda the new engine supplier.
1st Ayrton Senna remained the team’s number one driver, and notched up wins at Monaco and Detroit in the Type 99T. This was the FIRST Lotus to adopt the computer controlled ‘active’ suspension, which had been under development at Lotus for some years; Senna proved its worth not just through his victories, but through 25,000 miles of rigorous testing and racing.
At the London Motorfair the new Esprit Turbo made it’s debut; restyled by designer, Peter Stevens, both inside and out. Stevens managed to give the car a more aggressive appearance, but retain its iconic stance. A normally aspirated model joined the line-up.
1988 40th Anniversary
In celebration of the company’s 40th anniversary, a limited edition Esprit Turbo was produced; available only in fashionable pearlescent white with blue leather and suede interior.
Formula One World Champion, Nelson Piquet joined Lotus, following Ayrton Senna’s departure. The 1988 Lotus Type 100T proudly wore the Number One of the reigning world champion.
1989 Launch of Elan
This year saw the launch of the most powerful Lotus to date; the 264bhp, 164mph Esprit Turbo SE, with a 0- 60mph speed from standstill of 4.7secs.
In the October Lotus launched the (Type 100) Elan roadster at the London Motorfair. Designed in-house (with Peter Stevens in charge), the Elan broke with Lotus tradition by being front-wheel drive. This was the FIRST car to use the patented ‘Interactive Wishbone’ front suspension set-up, it handled superbly and had exceptional levels of road holding.
The Lotus Type 101 introduced the normally aspirated 3.5 litre Judd V8 engine, the car being driven by Nelson Piquet and Satoru Nakajima during the ’89 season.
1990 The Lotus Carlton
The legendary Lotus Carlton (Lotus Omega outside the UK) was launched; essentially a Carlton/Omega GSi completely stripped and rebuilt by Lotus, to become one of the quickest saloon cars in the world.
Its specification was simply awesome. Power was from a 3.6-litre straight-six with 24 valves, two turbochargers, producing 377bhp and 419lb ft of torque. In magazine tests the Lotus Carlton pulled around 174mph; and would also run to 60mph in 5.2secs and 100mph in just 11.5secs.
In the USA, a works-supported team of three Esprit Turbo SEs entered the ‘Showroom Stock’ race series. In just nine races the team achieved four victories, six pole positions, six fastest laps, and second place in the Manufacturers’ Championship.On the engineering side of the business, the Rt. Hon. Cecil Parkinson, Secretary of State for Transport, opened a new £2 million semi-anechoic chamber and the Hethel factory.
1991 Elan wins award
The Elan received the British Design Council award.
Team Lotus became privately owned by a new management consortium led by Peter Wright and Peter Collins, the latter having been a former team manager with both Benetton and Williams. Team drivers were Julian Bailey and Mika Hakkinen, with Johnny Herbert retained as official test driver.
The actor Paul Newman drove one of the three new ’91-spec race Esprit’s for the Showroom Stock series in the States.
The M200, a futuristic concept car based on the Elan caused a stir at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, and the following month a revised Esprit range was unveiled.
1992 Go for Gold
Chris Boardman won the 4000m Pursuit Gold Medal at the Barcelona Olympics; he was riding the revolutionary lightweight and aerodynamic carbon-composite monocoque bicycle developed by Lotus. Later he rode the Lotus ‘superbike’ to smash the World 5000m Pursuit record by more than 8.0secs.
Other sporting achievements included Doc Bundy, driving the Sport Esprit X180R, taking the Drivers’ title in the Sports Car Club of America World Challenge for ‘street-legal’ cars. The X180R was produced as a strictly limited edition in the US to make it eligible for competition – later that year it formed the basis of the Esprit Sport 300, the quickest Lotus to date. The car became available in UK and EU only.
Lotus Engineering remained busy with the extraordinary ‘SID’ (Structure Isolation Dynamics) research vehicle, used to demonstrate some of the company’s experimental technology. Some of that technology, ‘Lotus Active’ suspension, was fitted to an Alvis Scorpion tank – coupled with a track-tensioning device, this allows the Scorpion to travel at high speed while keeping its gun steady and not shaking its crew to pieces.
1993 Bugatti ownership
Bugatti International of Italy, a relatively new company that had been formed in 1990, bought Group Lotus from General Motors. This company had only the name in common with the original Bugatti company formed by Ettore Bugatti in 1924. Romano Artioli held a 20% share in Bugatti International with the remainder of shares held by a Luxembourg holding company, ACBN Holdings S.A. Artioli became acting CEO of Group Lotus.
The Esprit S4 had a minor facelift and a range of mechanical refinements including power-steering as standard. In May, the Esprit Sport 300 went into production, and the following month a pair of them competed in the Le Mans 24-hour race – it was the first works-supported entry for more than 30 years.
A contract to design a new family of car engines for the Taiwanese government gave Lotus Engineering cause for celebration.
The new Lotus Sport 110 road bike made its debut with Team ONCE on the grueling Tour de France.
1994 Elan S2
The Elan S2 was launched at the Geneva Motor Show. Featuring a new 16inch wheel and tyre package and some further suspension enhancements. The Elan S2 was to be built in a limited run of just 800 units.
There was a fresh Esprit derivative, too, the S4S, complete with 300bhp (224 kW; 304 PS) , new wheels and tyres, and revised suspension settings.
An Esprit S4 ‘Police Car’ was produced, demonstrating that there was no point running from the law.
The first Lotus Sport 110 production carbon-composite bicycle was auctioned at Sotheby’s to raise funds for the UK’s Transport Trust. And it was a busy year for the bike. In June, Boardman rode a Lotus Sport 110 to win a 30km stage of the Tour de Suisse, then in July set a new record average speed on the Prologue of the Tour de France.To nicely round off his season, Boardman won the 4km Pursuit and the 30km Road Race at the World Championships in Sicily.
Out on the race track, an Esprit Sport 300, driven by Thorkild Thyrring, won the British National GT series.
1995 Team Lotus disbanded
Spiraling costs led to the disbanding of Team Lotus at the start of the F1 season, closing an important chapter in Lotus history.
In February, the Lotus GT race programme was brought in-house in preparation for an all-out assault on UK sports car endurance racing. Drivers Alessandro Zanardi and Alex Portman had a mixed season in the highly competitive GT2 category, but the Esprit proved a worthy contender. In wet conditions at the Silverstone British Empire Trophy four-hour race, the team managed to take class honours and crossed the finish line fourth overall.Lotus produced its 50,000th car in the March, and in celebration donated the car, an Elan S2, to Prince Charles’ Princes Trust charity; with the help of former Lotus driver and film star, Britt Ekland, and an English newspaper. The Elan S2 raised £65,000. Production of the limited edition S2 ceased in August 1995.Lotus was the featured marque at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races in California, USA. Lotus enthusiasts from around the world attended the famous event, to see a glittering display of Lotus F1, Indy, sports and road cars.
The most significant event of the year was the unveiling of the Elise, (named after the granddaughter of Chairman, Romano Artioli), at the Frankfurt Auto Show. To the obvious delight of the press and public the Elise was not only pretty, it was technically advanced and super-light. Its composite and energy absorbing chassis was made from epoxy-bonded aluminium extrusions, a world FIRST, as were its extruded aluminium suspension uprights and aluminium metal-matrix brake discs. It promised breathtaking performance (0-60mph in 5.8secs) for a price of less than £20,000.
1996 Proton majority shareholder
Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd (Proton) announced it had acquired an 80% majority shareholding in Group Lotus plc from ACBN Holdings S.A. (the holding company of Bugatti International). The acquisition was regarded by Proton as providing mutual benefits, with Lotus’expertise in product development and engineering, and its exclusive patents, and Proton’s manufacturing capability.
The all-new Esprit GT1 racer was unveiled at the Paul Ricard circuit in France on 1 March, the still-secret Lotus V8 lurking under its engine cover. Four days later the secret was out, when the 175mph Esprit V8 road car made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show.
The all-new Lotus-designed and extremely compact 3.5-litre V8 had twin turbos; not only did it develop an impressive 350bhp, it had a whopping 400Nm of peak torque and a very flat torque curve. As well as this new power plant, the Esprit benefited from upgraded brakes, featuring a new ABS controller and a new vacuum servo system.
At the Geneva Motorshow the Esprit S4 GT3 was well received by both public and press. It was propelled by a turbocharged and charge-cooled 2.0-litre unit pumping out 240bhp. The lightweight GT3 could do 0-60mph in 5.1secs and reached 164mph.
The Elise became the darling of the world’s motoring press, picking up countless awards and trophies for the brilliance of its handling and design. It was also a finalist in the 1996 Prince of Wales Award for Innovation – fitting recognition for the talented team who designed the car.
Lotus Engineering continued to expand with HRH Prince of Wales officially opening a new £3.5 million engine test cell block in late November.
Lotus staff create the ‘Living logo’ in the grounds of Ketteringham Hall, owned by Chapman and used by Team Lotus as a base for the development of racing cars.
1997 1000th Elise
The Elise proved more of a hit than even Lotus expected – the 1000th Elise rolled off the production line in the middle of May. This forced a rethink on production volumes, which were raised to 2500 units a year from the 800 originally planned.
Two intriguing Elise versions were also unveiled. The first was a research project, powered by two Zytec electric motors, the second was the awesome Sport 190, designed as a track day powerhouse.
Lotus announced that it was investing £7.5 million in 19 new state-of-the-art test cells (raising the total at the Hethel site to 42), to accommodate major new engine build and development programmes. A further £1.5 million was spent on a new paintshop facility, opened in the July by the King and Queen of Malaysia.
At the London Motorshow, the Esprit V8 was treated to a new interior, and gearbox and clutch improvements. A pared-down version of the Esprit was launched, the V8 GT.
1998 50th Celebrations
The Elise was chosen by the Design Council as a prestigious ‘Millennium Product’, and Group Lotus was among the first companies in Europe to achieve QS9000 certification, one of the most stringent quality management systems in the world.
In September Lotus hosted its 50th anniversary celebrations with a party at Hethel. More than 12,000 staff, dealers, club members and Lotus owners from all over the world enjoyed a superb day out, and over 2,000 Lotus cars were parked on the test track.
There’s more cause for celebration at the Birmingham Motor Show in October, as Lotus revealed the stunning 340R as a concept car.
The lightweight and big-braked Esprit Sport 350 was released as a dramatic limited edition model, and the Elise Sport 135 also took a bow – although just 50 examples were built by the factory, all its components could be bought through the company’s aftermarket outlets.
In an important collaborative venture, Lotus joined the ELEVATE consortium – the title stood for European Low Emission V4 Automotive Two-stroke Engine. Funded by the EU, the ELEVATE consortium was a research project to develop a small, compact, light weight and efficient two-stroke engine – with the potential for super-low fuel economy and emissions, unrivalled in its class.
Reduced fuel economy and low emissions are also the goal of the Dual-Fuel Elise, shown at the Powershift Conference at the end of October. The car has both a conventional petrol tank and a separate tank for CNG (Compressed Natural Gas). Clever packaging ensures that the CNG tank steals neither cabin nor boot space, and the system switched between fuel sources without the driver being aware. Performance and range mirror that of a standard 1.8-litre Elise.
To round off this special year Lotus launched a 50th Anniversary edition of the Elise in November.
1999 Back into motorsport
Lotus launched the Elise 111S at Geneva Motor Show in March. Powered by a 145PS version of the 1.8-litre K series VVC engine, this sporty new derivative had a close-ratio gearbox and enhanced handling. The Opel Speedster/ VX220 concept was shown, and the car went on to be built at the Lotus factory in Hethel.
Lotus also revealed that the 340R was to become a production model (with a run of just 340).
The news that Lotus was to return to motorsport was widely welcomed, with its own innovative one-make race series based on the Motorsport-developed Sport Elise.
To coincide with a comprehensive redesign of the test track at Lotus’ Hethel headquarters, the Lotus Driver Training Experience wais launched in August. This was also the month that Proton unveiled its impressive Satria GTi hot hatch – Lotus had played a significant role in making this one of the best-handling cars in its class.
1999 also saw the company reveal an all-new mini-supercar concept that fits into the range between the Elise and Esprit. Called Project M250, the car had a 250hp, 3 litre V6 engine.
The London show was used as the platform to announce that the Opel Speedster/Vauxhall VX220 would be built on behalf of General Motors by Lotus, at Hethel. Manufacturing was to take place in a new facility, which would give Lotus the capacity to produce 10,000 cars annually.
2000 Exige is here
Lotus Engineering continued to rapidly expand, acquiring testing and development facilities in the USA, and Lotus Engineering Inc. in Ann Arbor, Michigan was established. This represented a crucial in-road to the important American market for the automotive consultancy business.
On the eve of the inaugural round of the Autobytel Lotus Championship race series at Brands Hatch, Lotus thrilled the crowds by unveiling the new Exige. Styled on the Sport Elise racer, the Exige was an exhilarating yet well mannered road car, with the soul of a track car.
In response to enthusiasts demand for even more performance Lotus responded with the introduction of the Sport 160. An awesome performer that makes a big impression with the track day crowd.
However, by far the most significant event of the year was the launch of the new generation Elise with improved performance, styling, handling and quality.
The car was immediately labeled by the press ‘The best just got better’, and enforced Lotus’ position at the forefront of vehicle design technology.
The new bespoke Research and Development Centre at Hethel opened in July, and Lotus Design was the first department to move in.
The first 340R’s are delivered to customers.
Lotus, famous for taking things to extremes, provided support to Coventry University design student, Ted Mannerfelt. Ted’s Extreme concept design study complemented the Lotus design ethos – it was light, quick, innovative, agile, and was influenced by the worlds of aerospace, motorbikes and powerboats. The Extreme had two powerplants – a 100bhp 700cc motorbike engine running on natural gas, and a 20bhp electric motor – producing 0-60mph in 5.0secs, and yet returned 110mpg.
2001 Engineering operations in Malaysia
The first year of the new millennium saw Lotus building more cars than ever before in its 53 year history and soon after being voted ‘Britain’s Best Driver’s Car’ by Autocar Magazine.
Lotus announced its new Engineering Operations Centre in Technology Park Malaysia (TPM) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The favourable and fast moving ASEAN economy had prompted Lotus to develop a greater presence in this region and in particular in Malaysia. As a ‘corporate neighbour’ to some of the worlds leading car manufacturers, Lotus was able to offer a number of benefits to its customers including improved communications with its clients and the ability to stay in tune with the ASEAN market.
2002 Queens award for enterprise
The Esprit, unveiled in 1972 as a concept at the Turin Motorshow, entered production in the mid 1970’s, and was accepted as being one of the world’s finest supercars. To celebrate 30 years of this performance car, Lotus gave the Esprit an up-to-date facelift.
Lotus unveiled an addition to the Elise range with the 156hp Elise 111S
PROTON acquired the remaining shares from ACBN Holdings and so become 100% shareholders in Lotus Group International Ltd.
Lotus Cars were awarded the Queens Award for Enterprise, for contribution to International Trade, one of just 85 companies receiving recognition in that category in 2002.
2003 The end of an era
Late 2003 also saw the last Lotus Esprit roll off the production line marking the end of over 27 years of production.
In addition to announcing that the Elise will be on sale in US for 2004, it is also announced that it will also go on sale in Mexico and Russia.
Lotus also announced it would be introducing a new Lotus Exige in 2004.
Lotus became the short sponsor for Norwich City Football team, ‘the Canaries’, reinforcing links with the local community and a popular sport.
2004 20,000th Elise
At the 2004 Geneva Show, Lotus presented the new Lotus Exige on the world stage. At the same event Lotus also launched a track version, the Lotus Exige Series 2.
At the end of January, Lotus launched the new 189hp Lotus Elise 111R.
The new Lotus Elise 111R is awarded Best Sportscar 2004 by BBC Top Gear.
bringing the total number of awards to over 50 since the cars debut in 1995
In America, the Elise goes on sale and was star of the Show at the Los Angeles Motorshow.
In November, Kim Ogaard-Nielsen is appointed as CEO of Group Lotus plc.
20 000th Lotus Elise Drives Off The Production Line, making it the most popular Lotus ever
2005 Growth, expansion and success
The new Elise set a new one-year sales record in the USA, firmly re-establishing Lotus as the pure sports car brand for the U.S. market.
Over 2,300 cars were delivered, establishing the Elise as the most successful model in Lotus’ 57-year history.
The Lotus Sport Exige, the 400bhp 850kg GT2 specification race car debuted in 2005 and built by Lotus Sport, Hethel, UK, won the Petronas Primax 3 Merdeka Millennium 12 Hour Endurance race trophy at the International Sepang circuit, Malaysia on Sunday 27th August.
Lotus Engineering reveals its Versatile Vehicle Architecture (VVA) concept.
2006 New plans announced
Mike Kimberley rejoins Lotus as CEO.
At the Geneva motor show Lotus Engineering unveiled APX (‘Aluminium Performance Crossover’) vehicle, a fully running concept prototype embodying many of the technological philosophies Lotus had been following in its R&D programmes.
Engineering produce the Biofuel Exige 265E. a factory-built Exige S optimized to run on E85 fuel, which is 85% ethanol. The higher octane of this biofuel enables a higher compression ratio and/or more supercharger boost. This was an exploratory concept only.
The Sport Exige GT3 secures victory in the 2006 British GT Manufacturers Championship, driven by George Mackinstosh and Sam Blogg.
The Type 1 Lotus watch appears on the market and proves hugely popular.
The new Europa S Tourer goes on sale. The Europa had a more luxurious interior than its sister models Elise and Exige and was more touring orientated.
Lotus Group International Limited (LGIL) holding company of Group Lotus, announces its intention to launch two additional new models over the next three years. This is in addition to the new Esprit.
Lotus Engineering will become the lead engineering and development consultant for Jinhua Youngman Automobile Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (Youngman) which is launching a new range of cars under a new brand name over the next five years.
2007 Group Lotus recapitalised
Group Lotus announced that its debt capitalisation was completed on 31st March 2007, with the support of shareholder, Proton Holdings Berhad. The arrangement secured the restructuring of approximately £45m of loans to equity, returning the company to a positive balance sheet.
In January Lotus went into the Guinness Book of Records for the biggest meet of any marque when 311 Lotus cars turned up at Brands Hatch and formed a nose to tail lap.
The 2 Eleven is launched at Geneva Motorshow, promising exceptional performance coupled with high levels of usability. 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.
2008 Evora Launch
The all new Evora is unveiled – the first all-new car to be launched by Lotus since the Elise made its debut in 1995. The only mid-engined 2+2 on the market, the Evora is powered by a Lotus-tuned 3.5-litre V6 engine producing 280 PS, and weighing just 1382 kg.
Group Lotus plc, announced the creation of Lotus Lightweight Structures, following the acquisition of Holden Lightweight Structures Limited, securing the supply of aluminium fabrications for use on Lotus production, and to support client projects.
The ClarkType 25 was launched as a limited edition to celebrate his genius as a driver.
Lotus celebrates its 60th anniversary with a celebratory event at Hethel. The event was opened by the late Colin Chapman’s wife, Hazel and son, Clive.
The Eco Elise was shown at the London International Motor Show; an eco-friendly concept car using sustainable materials to create an Elise that has better environmental credentials throughout its entire lifecycle.
Lotus Engineering celebrated being awarded ‘The Engineer Technology + Innovation Award of 2008’ with another environmentally focused project.
The winning project, Project HOTFIRE, developed a gasoline direct injection (GDI) engine concept that reduced fuel consumption by 15% and was named the leading academic collaborative project in the automotive sector.
The Lotus Sport 2-Eleven GT4 Supersport race car asserted itself at the pinnacle of the 2-Eleven range, combining race winning pedigree with unparalleled handling and balance.
I Mike Kimberley, retires as CEO.
In September, Dany Bahar became CEO of Group Lotus, formerly Bahar was Senior Vice President, Commercial & Brand for Ferrari SpA
Evora wins a multitude of awards, including the prestigious Top Gear Magazine’s ‘Sportscar of the Year, Car Magazine’s ‘Performance Car of the Year’, EVO Magazine’s ‘Car of the Year’, and Autocar’s ‘Britiain’s Best Driver’s Car’.
Lotus announces the appointments of Claudio Berro as Director of Motorsport, and Donato Coco as Director of Design for Group Lotus.
The Lotus 2-Eleven GT4 Supersport made a strong debut at the Dubai International 24 hour endurance race.
Lotus Engineering, unveiled the Range Extender engine at the Frankfurt International Motor Show. In a series hybrid vehicle. The Range Extender engine was attached to an electricity generator and provides a highly efficient source of energy to power the electric motor directly or charges the vehicles battery. The battery could also power the electric motor which enables the design of a drivetrain that has low emissions, optimised performance and acceptable range.
The Lotus Evora Type 124 Endurance Racecar was developed from the award-winning Evora road car and is built to FIA regulations and safety standards. The Type 124 (pronounced One Twenty Four) Endurance Racecar is the next step in the evolution of the Evora
In October Lotus is honoured to welcome the King and Queen of Malaysia to Hethel.
The Evora Cup is announced.
Lotus Engineering welcomes a new Director of Lotus Engineering, Dr Robert Hentschel.
In January Andreas Prillmann is appointed as CCO of Lotus Cars, and Donato Coco as Director of Design, both formerly of Ferrari.
At the International Geneva Motor Show Lotus Engineering unveiled the Lotus Evora 414E Hybrid concept, a high performance technology demonstrator with a plug-in series hybrid drive system and new technologies for enhanced driver involvement.
Model Naomi Campbell and Lotus joined forces to raise money to help victims of the Haiti disaster by producing a limited edition. The cars were auctioned and raised over £300,000.
2010 Lotus has entered into a new technical and commercial partnership with established IndyCar competitors KV Racing Technology to run in the 2010 IndyCar Series. The Lotus IndyCar will use the classic Racing Green and Yellow livery used on Lotus Racing cars in the 1950s and 1960s and this new livery will debut at the first USA round of the IndyCar Series. Driving the Lotus IndyCar was the former F1 driver Takuma Sato.
Lotus announced the new 2011 MY Lotus Elise which has a emission figure of of 149g of CO2 / km which represents a significant reduction over the previous Lotus Elise S.
With thanks to Group Lotus for the articles and pictures.