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Manufacturers / U.K. / Lotus


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Lotus vehicles


1950


11
Lotus 11   (1956)

Colin Chapman (1928 - 1981), started his business as a racing car tuner. When he was still studying engineering in university, he bought an old Austin 7 and tuned it to race. Perhaps he was a man born to win, his first attempt rewarded by winning a few small races. In 1951, while he had graduated, his third car, Mk 3, stormed the 750cc formula class. Unlike other cars in this class, it used spaceframe tubes in construction so that rigidity and lightness out-performed others. Many other teams queued to buy this car and the Lotus Engineering Company was established in 1952. Since then Chapman began his full time automotive engineering career.

Obviously, Chapman is a pure racing car engineer heart and bone. To fund his ambitious racing project, he started building road cars. In 1957, the Mk 6 race car was transformed to the first-ever Lotus road car - Mk 7. The car is renowned for lightness and good handling. It is still building by Caterham today under license. At the same year he unveiled the Elite which employed a revolutionary composite monocoque body.


1960


Elite
Lotus Elite S2  (1960)

The Elan of 1962 was the peak of Lotus. Having learned from the lesson of Elite, Chapman designed a cheaper steel backbone chassis for the new roadster. Power came from Fordís twin cam engine. The pretty roadster ran as fast as it sold. A total production of 12,000 cars set the companyís all-time record.

After Elan is the first mid-engined sports car, Europa, which also sold well. Since the 60ís, Lotusís business expanded to engineering consultation to other car makers, such as developing the chassis for DeTomaso Mangusta and DeLorean, the tuning of Lotus (Ford) Cortina, Lotus Sunbeam, Lotus (Opel) Omega and developed the engine for Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. The engineering business became more and more important as the car production slumped from the 70ís to the early 90ís. As a result, Lotus Engineering departed from the road car division, just like Team Lotus did in the 50ís.

The decline of car sales was due to the neglect to the road car division. Chapman concentrated on his F1 challenge and left the road cars to be handled by others.


1970


Seven
Lotus Seven S4  (1970)

The Esprit of 1976 was designed to be a mid-engined supercar challenging Ferrari and Porsche, but the self-developed four cylinder 907 engine was not considered to worth the price, even in turbocharged form. The production quality and the completeness of design were never the companyís strength, so attacking the supercar market was simply a wrong decision. In addition to the oil crisis, new supercars without established brand image suffered the most.


1980


81
Lotus 81   (1980)

In 1981, Colin Chapman died suddenly due to heart attack. Lotus got into financial trouble and sold 25% stocks to Toyota in 1984. Since then the Japanese giant learned the multi-valve engine technology and put it into mass production. 4 years later, Toyota left and Lotus was completely took over by GM.

GM spent some 40 million dollars to the development of the new Elan Mk II, hoping it to pump the volume to 3,000 cars annually. However, the little roadster went to the wrong direction - a front-wheel-drive configuration, a small capacity turbo engine and an overweight body. All of these conflict with Chapmanís philosophy. Most important is that the little Lotus was very expensive compare with the Japanese competitors, most notably is Mazda MX-5.


1990


Elan
Lotus Elan   (1990)

The car sold poorly, thus GM pulled out in 1993 and sold Lotus to Italian tycoon Romano Artioli who had already revived Bugatti.

The white-hair man did little to help Lotus. He did approved the Elise project and donated this name after his grand daughter. However, everybody would have approved this low cost project under such financial condition. The Elise was proved to be a great success, thanks to its aluminium chassis and conformation to Chapmanís principle - enhance performance through lightness. However, Artioli got into financial trouble as his Bugatti bankrupted. He sold majority shares to Malaysian car maker Proton in 1996.



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