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Is it a Lotus? ....5 minute argument


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Just started to touch on this in the Lipscomb thread...but worthy of its own I reckon.

So what is a true Lotus - which models count and which dont. I've heard all kinds of stuff (bo****ks??) over the years. My own take is that if its got a Lotus type number, its a Lotus, and if it hasn't, it aint. So the William Taylor or Anthony Pritchard books might provide a good reference for me. But some say

The Carlton's not a Lotus, its a Vauxhall

The Sunbeam's not a Lotus, its a Talbot (Chrysler whatever)

The Cortina's not a Lotus, its a Ford

The early types aren't Lotus, they're Austins

The M100 Elan isn't a true Lotus cos its front wheel drive

The bulk/early Lotus's are really kit cars based on Fords with some help from Costain/Duckworth and some tuning/chassis mods.

The '70s Esprit/Eclat/Excel/Elite era weren't real Lotus cos they never had a factory race programme/type

Nothing designed/produced after Dec 16 1982 is a real Lotus cos only cars the great man had a hand in count

....and so on. What do you think??

Mike :D

Loving Lionel and Eleanor......missing Charlie and Sonny

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lol, i think none of them are lotus if you go on that, as all lotus's have bits off other cars. ALL fake LMAO


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I think the best people to judge this are the people who made the car. If it's a 'Lotus xxx' then it's a Lotus as they didn't put their name to just anything.

Is the VX220 a Lotus as it was built at the factory? No, it's a Vauxhall and is badged appropriately.

The Carlton et al were deemed by Lotus to be worthy of the badge and for a reason, who are we to argue.

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A (non-racecar and non-numbered!) Lotus has a name beginning with E and would be purchased through a Lotus dealer.

A fast Ford would normally be bought by the customer writing out a cheque to Ford (via the Ford dealer).

Parts bin arguments don't really come into the equation. That's just simple economics and it works for other larger manufacturers too.

I used to run a Lotus Carlton as an everyday car for 6 or 7 years. My rose tinted specs tell me it was probably the best real world car I've ever owned. I would defend it's Lotus DNA to the bottom if it's rusty wheelarches (even though that piece of spin hadn't been coined back then!) however, despite the homologation department at Hethel giving the car it's 104 Type Approval number (even thought they were reluctant to - they wanted the Tech department at Russelheim to have responsibilty of the car but Russelheim got cold feet about about homologating items such as the brakes without being involved in their testing/development) I am under no illusion that it was a fast Vauxhall that Lotus had improved by an unimaginable amount.

It was a fabulously re-engineered Vauxhall. But it was a Vauxhall. It even said Vauxhall on the V5 (log book/pink slip etc). It had a Griffin on the bonnet and the supplying dealer held a Vauxhall franchise. The sevice book and warranty cards all had Vauxhall written on them.

It was a Vauxhall, a much modified Vauxhall.

Lotus did a spectacular job with the car. Tony (Shute not Pinky!) and his gang are almost god-like in their abilities. I think only the rear view mirrors and the back lights weren't fiddled with in some way! It went round corners like a heavy Esprit SE, but all your mates could come along for the ride, too! It was easy to park, easy to see out of, easy to drive at a gazzillion miles an hour. (Louise once managed 130 on the A34 on a trip up to Combe....) But it was a Vauxhall. Maybe that should read, because it was a Vauxhall.

Isuzu Piazza Turbo. That had the Lotus name on it. In reality it was just fitted with springs and dampers specced by the factory. Was it a Lotus?

Proton Satria GTi. Splendid little car. Chuckable like my old Renault 5 turbo. We even borrowed one from the factory for a month or so. Lots of Lotus stickers on that too. Was it a Lotus?

The VX220. A Vauxhall? A Lotus? No question about it's design and engineering history. What does it say on the V5? Where would you buy one from?

Who did Lotus sell them to? Did Lotus sell them to the general public or to another company (whose input to the project was supplying a van load of badges and then complaining about how things were nailed together!) to sell on? It's called a Vauxhall VX220. Not a Lotus VX220.

This is just the relatively modern stuff. Lotus Cortina? Or an engineering project commissioned by a company who wanted a halo product to go racing in? That company preferred to call the car Ford Cortina Lotus. The cars were bulit up (at Cheshunt) in a fashion later copied by the Carlton/Omega project. Ford supplied the cars and then Lotus threw away all the crap bits and made them go round corners.

Talbot Sunbeam Lotus. Chrysler had great fun at the 1980 World Rally Championship with this. But again, although it had been Lotusised (I've just made that up :) ) and is a brilliant little car in it's own right, it's not a Lotus.

It has connections sure, and it's always great to see one going sideways at stupid miles an hour, however, like all the others of it's ilk it's not a member of the immediate family of Esprits and Elans etc. More of a distant cousin that you only get to see a weddings. It's great seeing them and you would defend their honour if any of those Germans at the other end of the bar started slating them, but you wouldn't want them to get too close to the Bride.... :D

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all becuse silly lotus badged the wrong car lol, vx220 is actually a better car i hear, same handling but way way faster, my friends old vx turbo was ridiculous fast. beat everything on/off track


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Yup VX220 has a 2 litre turbo iirc, they are certainly faster but as with most turbo vs NA cars it's the power delivery which the NA has, what you lose in straight line you gain in control in corners with a more linear and controllable throttle which was demonstrated to me again this morning by my car :D

I've already argued the Carlton's case on the other thread, it's assembly line was Lotus Cars, Hethel and all the VIN plates have it as a Lotus Carlton/Omega - plus the Type #104.

Dunno enough about the others to comment although this is seriously splitting hairs.

IMO everything that has the livery and a type number is a Lotus car. There are 2 version of the Elise now running around made by Tesla and Vauxhall and that is the same difference, anyone recal the KIA Elan ?

This reminds me of the G vs S car argument thread...

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A (non-racecar and non-numbered!) Lotus has a name beginning with E and would be purchased through a Lotus dealer.

Parts bin arguments don't really come into the equation.

I suppose the 340R is a number...but surely not what you not a Lotus?

Parts bin arguments seem to be at he heart of this to me, and where all the controvesy lies.

I've not heard anyone argue for the Isuzu Piazza Turbo or Proton Satria GTi being Lotus. No type number, no "Lotus" in the name, just an extra badge to get some kudos for some of the enginering consultancy purchased much like a "Cosworth" badge if they worked on the head.

But the The VX220 is tougher for me. Agreed its not a Lotus - no type number - but actually it just seems to be GM rebadging a Lotus and pretending its a Vauxhall. The griffin badge is just about all GM contributed to that project.

....and M100 Elan is a real Lotus then :D ....even with its GM ownership, Isuzu engine and FWD ... but obviously not the Kia version. :)

Loving Lionel and Eleanor......missing Charlie and Sonny

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Would that be the Lotus Elise 340R? To give it it's full name....

The Carlton,Sunbeam and Cortina were re-engineered examples of existing models supplied by other manufacturers. THIS is the fundamental difference between them and say, an Esprit.

Type numbers notwithstanding, especially in the Carlton's case as it was an in-house political decision to have it Type Approved by Lotus after much wrangling between Hethel and GM.

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I agree with Graham that, if it was sold to the public by Lotus, it's a Lotus. If not, it isn't. The Carlton, Sunbeam, Cortina, etc. didn't have their architecture or performance targets or cost targets or market postiion set by Lotus. Elans (RWD and FWD), Elites (old and new) Europas, Esprits, Eclats, Excels, Elises, Exiges, 6 and 7 were Lotuses.

The 220 is more blurred but fails on the main targets for the car being set by an outside company.

By the way, Mike. I don't think Costain had much to do with Lotus, unless they built Hethel. :huh: It was Mike Costin who was there from nearly the start and became technical director until he moved to Cosworth on 1962. I think the early Lotus had more than "some" help from him. Probably wouldn't have happened at all without him.

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If its in here its a Lotus :)


Of course the pre-December 16 1982 cars are the most Lotus Lotuses B)

Followed by:-

The BCA Lotuses :D

The Toyota Lotuses :(

The GM Lotuses :D

The Buggati Lotuses :D

and of course the Proton Lotuses :D

Edited by WayneB
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Where does that leave the original Elan with a Lotus twin-cam engine which used a Ford bottom end? Is that a Lotus engine or not? The car is certainly a Lotus.

What about the racing cars which nearly always had a non-Lotus engine?

To most peope, Lotus DNA is a all about a brilliant ride-handling compromise and lightness. The engine is a small contributor to the overall Lotusness.

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There's much history behind this.

The Cortina Mk1 called a "Lotus Ford Cortina" with much input from the factory, in Mk2 guise Colin Chapman lost interest and it was called the "Ford Cortina Lotus" as it had much less input from the factory. I would say that notwithstanding they are different makes, it could be argued that this is the same type of difference as between the M100 and the Piazza, one was a full engineering exercise the other was the addition of spec'd parts.

Sunbeam Lotus (my pet subject), Type 81, suspension layout & geometry, exhaust inc. manifold design and the 910,911 & 912 engines all designed and engineered by Lotus, AND assembled at the factory from bodyshells provided by Chrysler/Talbot

I like to think that anything the factory deemed worthy enough to have a Type number should be given full recognition. Certainly in the case of the Sunbeam the mechanical elements bear little resemblance to the other models in the range.

Plus they go like stink (even now) and should be celebrated for what they are. Vive la difference (or something like that!).



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For me a Lotus is the chassis - the dynamics so instilled by the old man and carried on.

Would beg to dffer re no works race team - Esprit had ol George H-C's Lotus GT-1 if you recall.. albeit late in the car's life cycle.

as engines go Lotus has expertise certainly but it was always secondary to the chassis and as such often bought in engine tech to put in the chassis. For me a Lotus must have had its chassis and pref bodywork designed at Hethnel and signed off as Lotus. Other gr8 cars such as te Lotus Cortina are Fords breathed on by Lotus imho. All the better for it but Fords first Lotus second.. ditto Vauxhall.. as per the Calrton debate above.

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well, to me...

if the engine is not "LOTUS", it is just another KIT CAR (but by LOTUS engineering)

I am happy that my Esprit comes with a LOTUS engine

If you drive a 4 cyl Esprit, think again. AFAIK, the v8's were the only motor that Lotus has designed and installed in their cars. So, from that piece of info, one can only assume that the Esprit v8's were the only true Lotus's made. :D

Edited by actwon



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Well, we're about as far from concensus as I thought we'd be! Excellent! Whats more, we've all got a rational for our positions - which makes them plausible if a little flakey at the margins.

MPx/Bibs/Wayne/Sunbeam Fanatic seem to be tight on "if its got a type number" rationale.....we might win on weight of numbers, but if pushed we'd probably be a bit uncomfortable with the Mk2 Cortina (sort of 28) and maybe the VX220 without one.

For Esprithk its all about the engine, which works well for some Esprits, but not much else. Lotus had a fairly big influence over a number of engines in their cars - so if they count as Lotus engines, then some developments of the early Climax/Kent/TwinCam might be in as well as the Isuzu 1588 (Elan) and GM3.6 Carlton. But if the Esprit 4 pot could rule in the Jensen Healey which would be a surprise, and of course it would makes the K-Series powered Elise definitely non-Lotus.

MBlur is chassis man - and clearly Lotus cars have all been about their handling. But this is obviously only part of the picture and what Lotus sell more of to others than anything else. So chassis/handling alone can't consistently define the Lotus eg what about the VX220...and all those other "handling by Lotus" claims. (BTW Trevor sorry about ignoring the X180/GT1 stuff - I had in mind the Chapman philosophy change with the 70's generation Lotus's to become purveyor of upmarket supercars rather than kitcar/racers which some of the original fan base found hard to stomach!)

GKP/USAndretti42 are resolute on if it name starts with E or type number and its sold by Lotus. You guys probably win on strength of feeling. The rationale seems to hold up well looking back if you're prepared to dis some fine (otherwise) Lotus cars but you're no doubt getting nervous looking fwd. There must be an evens chance of Proton putting out a Lotus "Eastern" or similar and selling it through its Lotus dealerships - and then where will you be...... :lol: (...and Jon I love the idea of Mr Cost(a)in :D building the factory in his spare time - Chapman would probably have expected him to do it too!)

So there we have it, a real Lotus defined.... :D

Loving Lionel and Eleanor......missing Charlie and Sonny

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Erm, if it has a Lotus badge on the bonnet? :)

Its a fair position MZ ... but which does that leave in and knock out? I suspect it puts you in the camp of those that dont count the "saloons" (Cortina, Sunbeam, Carlton, etc) that tended to wear their Lotus badges on the front wings, boot, steering wheel, owners manual, etc. - but you may also be thinking of some others? :D

Loving Lionel and Eleanor......missing Charlie and Sonny

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Yep, basically that's my thinking MPx.

Take the Europa S2 kit for instance; it may have a Renault engine, MGB door handles and be built by a geography teacher and his son in Liverpool BUT, it's still most definately a Lotus! If, on the other hand a mate told you he'd just bought himself a Lotus and you hot-footed it round to his place for a demo you'd be slightly miffed to see a Carlton saloon sitting in his drive yes?

I've nothing against other maker's cars wearing Lotus badging I just wouldn't ever consider calling them a Lotus. The cars that spring first to my mind when I hear the word Lotus are the Eclat, Elite, Esprit & Excel - i.e. exciting cars with flat noses! ..that's probably due to my age though, I should think a younger man would first think of the Elise! :D

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You are quite new to the site so I'll forgive you your trespass in stating the last comment. :)

A well known Lotus personage who's initials are MJK stated in a recent article, that Kimbers quoted here that when they produce a new "Hot Hatch" it will be a "True Lotus". In being asked how he can justify that statement the reply went something like this.......

"The difference between a Lotus and a car developed by Lotus is in the DNA. If the car has more inherant Lotus DNA than it's originators DNA then it would be a Lotus and badged as such. This has only been true of several cars in the past, the Cortina, Sunbeam and Carlton have all been badged and called "Lotus Cortina, Sunbeam and Carlton". Yet other cars we have worked on such as several Isuzu models, Vauxhalls even the original Proton Satria GTi were all badged as the original brand with a "Handling by Lotus" motif.

As far as all of the collaboration cars go most, if not all, were more Lotus than many Lotus's ever were! For example, the changes we made to the Sunbeam were so extensive that virtually nothing was left of the original cars except the body shell (and possibly the Chassis though we altered that as well!) and that was modified. Hence some could actually say that the Sunbeam was more Lotus than an Elise (with it's Toyota Engine etc etc).

Lotus DNA is what makes a Lotus and this means that anything with a Lotus badge on it is a True Lotus. We will only brand something with our name if we believe Colin would have been proud of it and there are just a few of us left who knew him well enough to judge that!"

I think that last bit might have been aimed at doubters that think Lotus may sell out if they produce a new Proton Collaboration, but I for one relish a return to some amazing, performance cars created from decidedly average cars that I can hear the Clarksons of the world say "This is just truely amazing....look what they've done!!"

In summary. Anything with a Lotus badge on IS a true Lotus. If MJK says so I believe it. After all he was instrumental in all those cars you mentioned AND the Sunbeam, Carlton et al. :D

And if my mate bought a Lotus Carlton I would be the first queueing up for a drive and congratulate him on buying a car, not only 15 years ahead of it's time in performance, but one of the best and most exciting cars I have ever personally lived with day to day.

Edited by Skidz
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Yup, new to the forum but not cars(!) - you expect MJK to be objective? He's flogging them! :D

Ok ok so you like the Carlton - I meant no offence (as I tried to imply) but for me it will always be a Vauxhall. Incidentally I have actually been for a white-knuckle ride in one myself and I do realise how un-Vauxhall they are! :)

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