Lotus Cars is a British manufacturer of sports and racing cars based at Hethel, Norfolk, England. The company is famous for designing and building landmark race and production automobiles of extremely light weight and possessing legendary handling characteristics.
The company is based about 10 miles (16 km) South of Norwich, in East Anglia and was originally formed as Lotus Engineering Ltd. by the influential engineer Colin Chapman, in 1952. The Company's first factory was in old stables behind the Railway Hotel in Hornsey. Team Lotus was active and competitive in Formula One racing from 1958 to 1994. Since the 1960s the company has occupied a modern factory and road test facility at Hethel, near Wymondham. This site is an old RAF base and the test track uses sections of the old runway.
Chapman died of a heart attack in 1982, at the age of 54, having begun life an inn-keeper's son and ended a multi-millionaire industrialist in post-war Britain. The carmaker built tens of thousands of successful racing and road cars and won the Formula One World Championship seven times.
In 1986 the company was bought by General Motors. On August 27, 1993, GM sold the company, for £30 million, to A.C.B.N. 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), a Malaysian car company listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange.
The company also acts as an engineering consultancy, providing engineering development - particularly of suspension - for other car manufacturers. The lesser known Powertrain department is responsible for the design and development of the 4 cylinder engine found in many of GM's Vauxhall, Opel, Saab, and possibly some Saturn cars.
The company is organised as Group Lotus, which is divided into Lotus Cars and Lotus Engineering. Contrary to some rumours, there are no plans to create a Formula One Team. This is more likely to be due to the massive financial input required over and above any of the company's wishes.
Mr. Michael J Kimberley ("Mike"), takes over as Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Company and its Group from may 2006. Mike currently chairs the Executive Committee of Lotus Group International Limited ("LGIL") established in February 2006, with Syed Zainal Abidin (Managing Director of Proton Holdings Berhad) and Badrul Feisal (non-executive director of Proton Holdings Berhad). LGIL is the holding company of Lotus Group Plc. Two of his major achievements were the rejuvenation of Group Lotus Plc following the tragic loss of its founder, Colin Chapman in 1982 and the revival of the Italian supercar maker, Automobili Lamborghini SPA, in 1994.
The company encouraged its customers to race its cars, and itself entered Formula One as a team in 1958. A Lotus Formula One car driven by Stirling Moss won the first Grand Prix for the marque in 1960. Major success came in 1963 with the Lotus 25, which - with Jim Clark driving - won Lotus its first F1 World Championship. Clark's untimely death - he crashed driving a Formula Two Lotus 48 in March 1968 after his rear tyre failed in a turn - was a severe blow to the team and to Formula One. He was the dominant driver in the dominant car, and remains an inseparable part of Lotus's early years. That year's championship was won by Clark's Lotus team-mate, Graham Hill.
Lotus is credited with establishing the mid-engine configuration as the best design for Formula 1 and Indy cars, with developing the first monocoque Formula 1 chassis, and the integration of the engine and transaxle as chassis components. Lotus also was first with adding wings to Formula 1 cars to add downforce, as well as moving radiators to the sides in F1 cars to aid in aerodynamic performance, and inventing active suspension.
Even after Chapman's death, until the late 1980s, Lotus continued to be 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. However, by the company's last Formula One race in 1994 the cars were no longer very competitive. During the Formula 1 years Lotus won a total of 79 Grand Prix races. During his lifetime Chapman saw Lotus beat Ferrari as the first team to achieve 50 Grand Prix victories, despite Ferrari having won their first Formula 1 race nine years before Lotus won their own first GP victory.
Formula One driver's world championships:
* 1963: Jim Clark
* 1965: Jim Clark
* 1968: Graham Hill
* 1970: Jochen Rindt - the only posthumous world champion
* 1972: Emerson Fittipaldi
* 1973: Formula One World Championship for Manufacturer's Only (Drivers Championship to Tyrrell)
* 1978: Mario Andretti
* Lotus Mk1 - 1948-1948 Austin 7 based trials car
* Lotus Mk2 - 1949-1950 Ford powered trials car
* Lotus Mk3 - 1951-1951 750 cc formula car
* Lotus Mk4 - 1952-1952 Trials car
* Lotus Mk5 - 1952-1952 750 cc formula car - never built
* Lotus 6 - 1953-1955 The first 'production' racer - about 100 built
* Lotus Seven - 1957-1970 Classic open sports car, a minimalist machine designed to maneuver a racing circuit and nothing else. The rights to the Seven were sold in 1973 to Caterham Cars, who continue to produce it today. Updated versions of this 1957 design are also produced by other specialty firms, including Westfield Cars and Donkervoort.
* Lotus Eight - 1954-1954 sports racer
* Lotus Nine - 1955-1955 sports racer, based on Eight
* Lotus Ten - 1955-1955 sports racer, a more powerful Eight
* Lotus Eleven - 1956-1957 sports racer
* Lotus Twelve - Formula 2 and Formula 1 racecar (1956-1957)
* Lotus 13 - Designation not used
* Lotus 14 - 1957-1963 First production street car - the 'Elite'
* Lotus 15 - 1958-1958 Sports racer - successor to the Eleven
* Lotus 16 - 1958-1959 F1/F2 car based on the Twelve
* Lotus 17 - 1959-1959 Sports racer update of the 15 - not successful
* Lotus 18 - 1960-1961 First mid-engined Lotus single seater - Formula Junior/F2/F1
* Lotus 19 - 1960-1962 Mid-engined sports racer - AKA 'Monte Carlo'
* Lotus 20 - 1961-1961 Formula Junior
* Lotus 21 - 1961-1961 Formula 1
* Lotus 22 - 1962-1965 Formula Junior/F3
* Lotus 23 - 1962-1966 Small displacement mid-engined sports racer
* Lotus 24 - 1962-1962 Formula 1
* Lotus 25 - 1962-1964 Formula 1 World Champion
* Lotus 26 - 1962-1971 Production street sports car - the original Elan.
* Lotus 27 - 1963-1963 Formula Junior
* Lotus 28 - 1963-1966 Lotus version of the Ford Cortina street/racer
* Lotus 29 - 1963-1963 Indy car - Ford stock block
* Lotus 30 - 1964-1964 Large displacement sports racer (Ford V8)
* Lotus 31 - 1964-1966 Formula 3 space frame racer
* Lotus 32 - 1964-1965 Monocoque F2 and Tasman Cup racer
* Lotus 33 - 1964-1965 Formula 1 World Champion
* Lotus 34 - 1964-1964 Indy car - DOHC Ford
* Lotus 35 - 1965-1965 F2/F3/FB
* Lotus 36 - 1965-1968 Street sports car - "Elan'
* Lotus 37 - 1965-1965 a one-off Seven with IRS - AKA the "Three Seven"
* Lotus 38 - 1965-1965 Indy winning mid-engined car
* Lotus 39 - 1965-1966 Tasman Cup formula car
* Lotus 40 - 1965-1965 Improved(?) version of the 30
* Lotus 41 - 1965-1968 Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula B
* Lotus 42 - 1967-1967 Indy car - raced with Ford V8
* Lotus 43 - 1966-1966 Formula 1
* Lotus 44 - 1967-1967 Formula 2
* Lotus 45 - 1966-1974 Convertible (Drop Head Coupe) version of the 'Elan'
* Lotus 46 - 1966-1968 Original Renault-engined Europa
* Lotus 47 - 1966-1970 Racing version of Europa
* Lotus 48 - 1967-1967 Formula 2
* Lotus 49 - 1967-1969 Formula 1 World Champion
* Lotus 50 - 1967-1974 Four-seat 'Elan +2' production car
* Lotus 51 - 1967-1969 Formula Ford
* Lotus 52 - 1968-1968 Prototype 'Europa' twincam
* Lotus 53 - 1968-1968 Small displacement sports racer - never built
* Lotus 54 - 1968-1970 Series 2 'Europa' production car.
* Lotus 55 - 1968-1968 F3
* Lotus 56 - 1968-1971 Indy turbine wedge/F1 turbine (56B)
* Lotus 57 - 1968-1968 F2 design study
* Lotus 58 - 1968-1968 F1 design study
* Lotus 59 - 1969-1970 F2/F3/Formula Ford
* Lotus 60 - 1970-1973 Greatly modifed version of the Seven - AKA Seven S4
* Lotus 61 - 1969-1969 Formula ford wedge
* Lotus 62 - 1969-1969 (prototype Europa racer)
* Lotus 63 - 1969-1969 4-wheel drive F1
* Lotus 64 - 1969-1969 4-wheel drive Indy cars - did not compete
* Lotus 65 - 1969-1971 ("Federalized" Europa S2)
* Lotus 66 - designation not used
* Lotus 67 - 1970-1970 Proposed Tasman Cup car - never built
* Lotus 68 - 1969-1969 F5000 prototype
* Lotus 69 - 1970-1970 F2/F3/Formula Ford
* Lotus 70 - 1970-1970 F5000/Formula A
* Lotus 71 - Undisclosed design study
* Lotus 72 - 1970-1972 Formula 1 World Champion
* Lotus 73 - 1973-1973 F3
* Lotus 74 - 1971-1975 Europa Twin Cam production cars
* Lotus 75 - 1974-1982 Luxury 4 seat GT - 'Elite II'
* Lotus 76 - 1975-1982 Fastback version of Elite II - 'Eclat S1' - also 1974 F1
* Lotus 77 - 1976-1976 F1
* Lotus 78 - 1977-1978 F1 'ground effects' car
* Lotus 79 - 1978-1979 Formula 1 World Champion - also street GT 'Esprit' (1975-1980)
* Lotus 80 - 1979-1979 F1
* Lotus 81 - 1980-1981 F1 - designation also used for Sunbeam Talbot rally car
* Lotus 82 - 1982-current Turbo Esprit street GT car
* Lotus 83 - 1980-1980 Elite series 2
* Lotus 84 - 1980-1982 Eclat series 2
* Lotus 85 - 1980-1980 Esprit series 3
* Lotus 86 - 1980-1983 F1 'dual chassis' - never raced
* Lotus 87 - 1980-1982 F1
* Lotus 88 - 1981-1981 F1 'dual chassis' car - banned
* Lotus 89 - 1982-1992 Lotus Excel GT - re-engineered Eclat
* Lotus 90 - Unreleased Elan/Toyota
* Lotus 91 - 1982-1982 F1
* Lotus 92 - 1983-1983 F1
* Lotus 93T - 1983-1983 F1 Turbo
* Lotus 94T - 1983-1983 F1 Turbo
* Lotus 95T - 1984-1984 F1 Turbo
* Lotus 96 - 1984-1984 Indy car project - abandoned
* Lotus 97T - 1985-1986 F1 Turbo
* Lotus 99T - 1987-1987 F1 Turbo - last Lotus F1 winner
* Lotus 100T - 1988-1988 F1 Turbo
* Lotus M100 - 1989-1995 Front-drive convertible 'Elan'
* Lotus 101 - 1989-1989 F1
* Lotus 102 - 1990-1991 F1
* Lotus 103 - 1990-1990 F1 - not produced
* Lotus 105 - 1990-1990
* Lotus 106 - 1991-1991
* Lotus 107 - 1992-1994
* Lotus 108 - 1992 - 1992 a bicycle - gold medal Barcelona Olympics
* Lotus 109 - 1994-1994
* Lotus 112 - 1995-1995
* Lotus 114 - 1995-1995
* Lotus 115 - 1997-1997
* Lotus Carlton - 1990-1992 Tuned version of the standard Vauxhall saloon (designated Lotus 104).
* Lotus Excel - 1985-1992
* 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 fibre glass unibody construction. Unlike the Corvette, which used fibre glass 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 fibre glass body. This car was the design inspiration for the 1990 Mazda MX-5 / Miata. The second Elan was an innovative front-drive sports-convertible.
* Lotus Europa - 1966-1975 mid-engine sports car, the first affordable mid-engined road car 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 turbo-charged 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 MX-5) meant that 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 cinema screen, for that matter (the car prominently featured in the 1977 Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me and briefly in For Your Eyes Only; later versions of the Esprit featured in the 1990 film Pretty Woman and in Basic Instinct). The styling was by Italian designer Giorgetto Giugiaro. The Esprit started with a light, high-strung 4-cylinder design, which went through several iterations of turbo-charging and electronic upgrades, before finally being replaced by a highly-advanced V8. The last Lotus Esprit rolled off the production 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 has an open-body design echoing the famed Seven. The Elise was recently introduced into the U.S., with a Toyota engine, in order to pass strict U.S. emissions laws. The 1ZZ & 2ZZ Toyota engines used have a Lotus ECU with their own fuel mapping. Also see the related Tesla Roadster below.
* Lotus Exige - A version of the Lotus Elise with a redesigned body to provide additional downforce (100lbs at 100mph). Additionally, the following Elise Sport Pack and Hardtop options are standard on the Exige. The car is street legal and the base 2006 model was available for $50,990. Lotus is plans to replace the Exige with the Exige S in 2007.
* Lotus Exige S - An Exige with a supercharged engine providing 220 hp. The non-S Exige and Elise have 190 hp.
* Lotus Europa S - The new Grand Tourer (GT)-inspired two-seater provides Lotus customers with a spectacular sports car, with significantly enhanced levels of touring and cruising capability. It provides drivers with higher levels of practicality and refinement to complement the simplicity of the Lotus Elise and Exige models.
The Lotus Europa S follows the core Lotus philosophy of performance through light weight, obtained through the clever use of advanced and high-technology materials, including an extruded and bonded aluminium chassis, composite body panels and a very advanced composite energy-absorbing front crash structure.
* Lotus Esprit - Currently, Lotus Cars is designing a new version of the Esprit that is expected to go on sale in late 2007. It is expectid to be powered by a BMW V8 engine similar to that used in BMW's 650i. The new Esprit will be released into the market as a competitor for the Porsche 911.