13 December, 2017

Britain's Greatest Manufacturer Spotlight - Lotus

The final manufacturer in our series to determine who is Britain's greatest car manufacturer is Lotus who changed the game with lightweight cars.

Innovative Founder - Colin Chapman 

Read time 6-7 mins

Founded by Colin Chapman in 1952, Lotus would go onto re-define elegance and the importance of lightness. Chapman had met his wife in 1944 who helped champion him to his eventual decision to start Lotus. They would later marry in 1954. 

"Simplify, then add lightness". - Colin Chapman

These were the words which epitomise what Lotus is today. Daring and innovating, Lotus have forced their way into the history books with classics such as the Elise, Exige and the performance busting 3-Eleven. Lotus continue to stay true to their roots which compliment their heritage.

The Motorsport Heritage of Lotus

Chapman was a keen racer and saw oversaw Lotus's  major successes in motorsport with:

  • 13 FIA F1 Championships (7 Constructors' Championships and 6 Drivers' Championships).
  • An Indianapolis 500 win in 1965.

Lotus raced in Le Mans from 1955 - 62. There was another entry in 1967 and they pulled out from the 2014 race.

Other ventures in Motorsport are the Lotus Cup Series which is a one-make competition where Lotus owners can race their Elise, Exige, Evoras and 2-Elevens can race.

Pioneering Designs from Lotus

Chapman, in 1962 with his Lotus MK24, is credited with creating a pioneering innovation which is now called the Monocoque (the engine and framework are integrated with the body).

Further innovations at the time were called "ground effects" (now called downforce) which is the aerodynamic design of the car creating a downward thrust so when air travels under the car, it plants it to the ground. This enables the driver to get greater traction and thus can drive faster.

The Racing Philosophy of Lotus

Lotus have their own driving academy which was initially launched in 1999 but re-launched in 2009 with new courses and more to help produce talent with the philosophy of Lotus inside.

Lotus Engineering

Lotus also provide services to third parties through their Lotus Engineering division who operate worldwide and utilise their vast knowledge obtained from their rich history in the automotive sector.

Famous Lotus Cars

Lotus has produced an array of cars which have since become iconic. Here we chart the history of Lotus's well-known models.

  • Austin 7: 57-72 (bought by Caterham in 72).
  • Lotus Xi 56-58 ( the inspiration behind Westfield cars).
  • Elan in production for 13 years 1962-75.
  • Espirit series I, in production from 1975 - 04.
  • Elise - considered the saviour of Lotus.

The Periods of Uncertainty for Lotus

1986 - Lotus went through a series of losses in the 80's which resulted in them going through a series of ownership changes starting with their acquisition by General Motors (GM) in 1986 for $32m.

1993 - GM sold Lotus to Bugatti.

1996 - Just three years later, Proton would later buy Lotus from Bugatti.

2017 - Proton sold a 51% stake of Lotus to Geely in 2017 for $130m along with 49.9% of their main proton business.

What Car Saved Lotus?

The Lotus Elise is one of Lotus's famous cars. Produced in the mid 90's and still today, it changed the fortunes of the company from their troubled times and also became the embodiment of their philosophy. Autocar credited it as being the car which revolutionised small sports-car design. The Elise also inspired the Exige which is a high-performance version of the Elise. 

If the Elise were music, it would be blues. Raw, emotional, stripped back and pared-down. - review of the Lotus Elise

Chapman's Legacy Lives on

Lotus has had a history of many lives which was synonymous with their owner who was credited as living 3 lives whereby he was an engineer, businessman and team owner. Lotus has changed the way many people view the handling and the nimbleness of a car and has so far stood the test of time and inspired other manufacturers like Caterham and Westfield Cars to use that concept to turn their cars into icons.  

Britain's greatest car manufacturer Lotus
Britain's greatest car manufacturer Lotus
Britain's greatest car manufacturer Lotus
Britain's greatest car manufacturer Lotus
Britain's greatest car manufacturer Lotus
Britain's greatest car manufacturer Lotus
Britain's greatest car manufacturer Lotus
Britain's greatest car manufacturer Lotus