No automotive marque is more rooted in the enthusiast car culture than Lotus, the sports-car and race-car brand of Lotus Cars. Originally a British manufacturer, Lotus is now based in Malaysia, but production continues at its plant in Hethel, Norfolk U.K. Inseparably linked to the racing successes of founder Colin Chapman, the brand is known for trim and nimble sports cars that may sacrifice some comfort and convenience in the quest for precise handling and crisp performance.
- Founded : 1952
- Founder : Colin Chapman
- Headquarters : Hethel, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom
- Website : http://www.lotuscars.com
The Lotus Seven was introduced at about the same time. Sold mainly in kit form it provided entry to club racing for cash-limited enthusiasts. It was produced in several variations until 1973, at which time manufacturing rights were transferred to Caterham Cars Ltd. You can still buy a Caterham Seven today.
In the 1960s, Lotus added the powerful, more sophisticated Elan and Elan Plus 2 models to the line. The company followed up in the 1970s with the Esprit. The sleek Esprit was an aesthetic success, it developed into Lotus' first supercar, and it turned heads in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.
The brand's performance image was enhanced by the company's success in Formula 1. Stirling Moss was the first Lotus winner, claiming victory in the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix. In 1963, Jim Clark earned Lotus a Formula 1 world championship. In 1963, with a second-place finish in the Indianapolis 500, Clark and Lotus showed U.S. open-wheel racers that a mid-engine design was the future.
By the 1970s Lotus production cars had become bigger and more expensive. Soon the brand was competing with high-end exotic sports cars rather than providing an inexpensive alternative. The competition proved too stiff and the segment too troubled, and Lotus sales suffered. After changing hands several times, Lotus was sold to a Malaysian firm.
The introduction of the Elise in 1996 brought some light at the end of the tunnel. In 2004 a version that met U.S. standards was imported stateside. With outstanding handling and crisp performance, the lightweight machine is coveted by hardcore sports-car enthusiasts, and its price is favorable relative to the competition. Today, Lotus remains a non-conformist in this world of me-too automobiles, but that's exactly why it has a dedicated following.