Lotus Cars

From Academic Kids

Lotus Logo

Lotus Cars is a British manufacturer of sports cars and racing cars based in Hethel, Norfolk, formed as Lotus Engineering Ltd. by the engineer Colin Chapman in 1952. Lotus was active and competitive in Formula One racing from 1958 to 1994.

Chapman died in 1982, leaving behind the messy financial scandal of the De Lorean project, for which it is likely he would have been convicted.

In 1986 the company was bought by General Motors. On August 27, 1993, GM sold the company for 30 million to ACBN Holdings S.A. of Luxembourg, a company controlled by Italian businessman Romano Artioli who also owned Bugatti Automobili SpA. In 1996 a majority share in Lotus was sold to Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd (Proton), the state-owned Malaysian car company.

The company also acts as an engineering consultancy, performing development, particularly of suspension, for other car manufacturers.

As of 2005, the Malaysian company Proton organized Lotus as Group Lotus divided into Lotus Cars and Lotus Engineering. A Formula One team is in the works according to rumour.


Formula One

Missing image
Hot Rod magazine cover showing Lotus Turbine Indy car

The company encouraged its customers to race its cars, and itself entered Formula One as a team in 1958. Major success came in 1963 with the Lotus 25, which - with Jim Clark driving - won Lotus its first World Championship. Clark's early death - he crashed driving a Formula Two Lotus 48 in March 1968 - was a severe blow to the team and to Formula One. He was the dominant driver in the dominant car, and remains inseparable from Lotus's early years. That year's championship was won by Clark's team-mate, Graham Hill.

Several drivers were to perish in Lotus cars, partially due to Chapman's concept of the perfect race car being one which fell to pieces immediately after crossing the finishing line. Light weight was the be all and end all, earning Chapman the nickname of Chunky - his design genius was such that he would see a drawing of a part, and note that 'we could have a chunk out here, and a chunk out there', in order to save an extra pound or two.

Until the mid-1980s, Lotus was still a major player in Formula One. Ayrton Senna drove for the Lotus team from 1985 to 1987, winning twice in each year and achieving 17 pole positions. By the company's last Formula One race in 1994 the cars were very uncompetitive. Lotus won a total of 79 Grand Prix races.

Formula One driver's world championships:

Lotus models


Missing image
Cover of Road & Track magazine, showing Lotus Eleven Mk XI
  • Lotus Eclat - (1975-1982) Fastback version of the Elite. The rear roof line of the Elite was sloped down into a sporty fastback.
  • Lotus Elite - The Lotus Elite was an ultra-light 2-seater coupe, produced from 1958 to 1963. Its most unusual feature was its fiberglass unibody construction. Unlike the Corvette, which used fiberglass for exterior bodywork, the Elite actually used this glass-reinforced plastic material for the entire load-bearing structure of the car.
  • Lotus Elan - Two generations of Elan were produced, both extremely innovative for their time. The first, in the 1960s, was a small light roadster that made use of the Lotus-trademark steel backbone frame, coupled with a fiberglass body. This car was the design inspiration for the 1990 Mazda Miata.
  • Lotus Europa - 1970s mid-engine sports car, one of the first mid-engined cars ever produced.
  • Lotus Elan - The second Elan, released in 1989, was a technical tour de force but one that also defied Lotus 'performance through light weight' tradition, to its detriment. The idea of a front-drive Lotus, powered by a turbocharged engine, was a brave concept and its cornering performance was undeniable. But the handling was negatively compared to the original Elan by some Lotus loyalists, and its relatively high price (vs. e.g. the Mazda Miata) meant it was not a sales success.
  • Lotus Esprit - A mid-engined sports car, launched in the early 1970s. The Esprit shocked many at its launch - its geometric, laser-cut lines seemed far more futuristic than anything on the road - or on the movie screen, for that matter (the car prominently featured in the 1977 Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me and briefly in For Your Eyes Only; it also appeared in the 1990 movie Pretty Woman; two Esprit's raced each other in Basic Instinct). The styling was by Italian designer Giugiaro. The Esprit started with a light, high-strung 4-cylinder design, which went through several iterations of turbocharging and electronic upgrades, before finally being replaced by a highly advanced V8. The last Lotus Esprit rolled off the line on 20 February, 2004 after 28 years in production. A total of 10,675 Esprits were built since production began in 1976.


  • Lotus Elise - The Elise incorporates many engineering innovations, such as an aluminum extrusion frame and a composite body shell. The Elise has also spawned several racing variants, including an exotic limited series called the 340R, which had an open-body design echoing the famed Seven. Recently introduced into the US with a Toyota engine to pass emissions specifications
  • Lotus Exige - A road-legal version of the Lotus Sport Elise racing car.


Lotus also produces the Vauxhall VX220 / Opel Speedster for General Motors, based on the same aluminium chassis design as the Lotus Elise.

Many classic Lotus cars feature the 2.2 L 16-valve engine which was closely based on Vauxhall's Slant Four.


Further reading

  • Gerard ('Jabby') Crombac, Colin Chapman: The Man and His Cars (Patrick Stephens, Wellingborough, 1986)
  • Ian H. Smith, The Story of Lotus: 1947-1960 Birth of a Legend (republished Motor Racing Publications, Chiswick, 1972)
  • Doug Nye, The Story of Lotus: 1961-1971 Growth of a Legend (Motor Racing Publications, Chiswick, 1972)
  • Robin Read, Colin Chapman's Lotus: The early years, the Elite and the origins of the Elan (Haynes, Sparkford, 1989)
  • Anthony Pritchard, Lotus: All The Cars (Aston Publications, Bourne End, 1990)
  • Doug Nye, Theme Lotus: 1956-1986 (Motor Racing Publications, Croydon, 1986)
  • Peter Ross, Lotus - The Early Years 1951-54 (Coterie Press, Luton, 2004)

External links

de:Lotus (Auto) es:Lotus Cars it:LotusF1 ja:ロータス (自動車) no:Lotus sv:Lotus (bil) fr:Lotus (automobile)


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