Lotus Timeline

Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman (1928-1982) - (the ACBC monogram is incorporated in the Lotus badge) built and raced his first competition car in November 1948. So successful was this and his subsequent designs that in 1955 he formed Lotus Cars Limited operating from small premises in London.

Lotus Production 1957 - The Lotus Seven
The Lotus Seven was conceived as a no-frills, low-cost, simple sports car, which delivered staggering performance. Produced mainly in kit form, it enabled many enthusiasts to own a dual purpose road/racing sports car at a reasonable price. Four basic variants were produced by Lotus until 1973, when the rights to manufacture were taken by Caterham Cars Ltd, which still produces the Caterham Seven today.

1957 - The Lotus Elite - Type 14
The Lotus Elite was the first closed passenger car to carry the Lotus badge. It featured a unique advanced glass fibre monocoque structure comprising eight moulded sections reinforced with steel tubling and plates. The original Elite is still judged to be one of the most beautiful cars ever produced. Road versions were powered by the famous 1216cc Coventry Climax engine. The model ran until 1962 when it was replaced by the Lotus Eland.

In June the factory moved from Hornsey to Delamare Road, Cheshunt, into a new purpose-built facility.

1962 - The Lotus Elan
This classic sportscar featured neatly styled glassfibre bodywork on a steel backbone chassis, pop-up headlamps and a new Lotus engine. The engine was based on a Ford 1500cc block, bored to 1588cc. It sported a Lotus twin overhead cam cylinder head equipped with two twinchoke Weber carburetors, and produced 105 bhp at 5500 rpm. Through the years the engine was progressively developed to the Big Valve form by Tony Rudd and the power increased to 126 bhp with surprising economy and flexibility. During its 11 years' production run, the Elan became a legend; it was a sports car by which other were judged

1966 Drophead Elan Coupe introduced - known as the Elan S3.
The Lotus Europa was introduced with the Renault 16 engine, and was initially marketed in Europe. The design of the car featured a mid-engined layout similar to racing practice. It was one of the first mid-engined coupes available on the market.

The Company moved from Cheshunt to present purpose-built home in Norfolk, which was originally one of the many wartime airfield; USAF B24 bombers were based here - 389 Bombgroup, 8th Air Force.

1967 Elan +2 launched
A full 2+2 seat coupe utilising the 1588cc twin-cam engine developing 118 bhp.

Lotus Cars Limited went public

In this year Tony Rudd left BRM to join Lotus as engineering director. He assumed responsibility for the development of the Twin-cam and the new 16-valve 2-litre type 907 Lotus engine.

In April the first deliveries took place of the new +2S model. This was luxurious update of the existing Elan +2, featuring cast wheels and the 115 bhp Special Equipment engine. The Plus Two range dropped the Elan name, kit cars being dropped from the range simultaneously. In June the Lotus Europa was launched on the British market.

In October the Elan won a gold model for coachwork at the London Motor Show for the second year running.

In December, ACB Chapman was awarded the CBE for "Services to Esport". 1970 The Elan Sprint was introduced with the new 126 bhp Big Valve engine. The Big Valve engine was also utilised in the +2S which was redesignated the Lotus +2 S130.

Road version of the LV 220 2-litre engine announced. The new engine (Type 907), though derived from the earlier LV series racing engines, was specifically developed for road use and to meet the stringent emission laws already enforced or proposed. Based on a light alloy block, with four linered cylinders, the 907 had a 16 valve cylinder head with twin overhead camshafts and a displacement of 1973cc. Despite a fairly modest compression ration of 8.7:1, power output was 140 bhp. The engines were sold to Jensen for use in the Jensen-Healey. It was no secret, however, that one day Lotus would utilise it in a road car of its own.

The Europa was derived and appeared as the Europa Twin-Cam. The new bodyshell incorporated cut-away rear fins to increase three-quarter visio, and modified seats plus a lower floor pan contributed to a better driving position.

The engine was the 105 bhp Lotus Twin-Cam unit as opposed to the Renault preciously used. This boost of power transformed the Europa into one of the world's quickest cars. A well driven Europa Twin-Cam was almost uncatchable along a winding road.

Lotus was already an engine manufacturer and in 1972 produced its own 5-speed gearbox as well, based on proprietary gear-clusters. It was produced to cater for long distances, on major roads and allowed cruising speeds in excess of 100 mph. At 70 mph a car fitted with a five-speed gearbox would need little more than 3000 rpm.

The new gearbox was offered as an option on the +2 S130 and a 5-speed was introduced on the newly announced Europa Special. The Special differed from its predecessor in minor details and was also fitted with the 126 Big Valve engine. The bodywork featured a spoiler under the nose and gold coachlining.

The middle of the year saw two very sad occasions for Lotus enthusiasts. The Lotus Seven and Lotus Elan were dropped from production. Their combined production time was 27 years and yet they still remained well ahead of the opposition in performance and handling. The majority of these cars were sold in kit form and with the introduction of VAT, kit-car building was no longer a money-saving exercise. Happily, however, the Seven lives on: its limited manufacture having been transferred to Caterham Cars Limited.

1974 - Elite awarded DON Safety Trophy by Minister of Transport
Award Citation:
"Whilst recognizing the limited clientele for the Elite owing to its price and the sporting type of vehicle it represents, the Panel nevertheless felt the successful use of GRP body construction plus the wide margin by which the Elite meets the US and European Legal Safety Requirements and the emphasis placed on reduction of the risk of fire in the case of a collision, allied to the good fuel economy and low emission of pollutants, added up to a substantial improvement in terms of both primary and secondary safety in a high performance car."

October: Paris preview release of new mid-engined Esprit, styled by Giorgetto Guigiaro.

Worldwide launch of Esprit and Eclat (2+2) at Earls Court London International Motor Show. Both new models incorporated GRP coachwork on a steel backbone chassis and the Lotus 2-litre 16-valve 907 engine. Lotus received coachwork medals at the Motor Show: Esprit - Gold; Eclat - Gold; Elite - Silver (unlimited price class). The Elite was approved for exhibition in the Design Centre, London, by the Design Council.

March: Royal visit tot Lotus by HRH Duke of Kent.

November: Lotus celebrated 10 years of operation at its Hethel factory, Norfolk.

February: Launch of Eclat Sprint option pack model. Available only in white with black body lining: specification included black interior trim, "E" cam version of the Lotus 907 engine, oil cooler, alloy wheels.

July: The James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me" was premiered in the presence of HRH Princess Anne, the mechanical star of the film being 007's Lotus Esprit.

The Design Council Car Assessment Committee examined the Lotus Esprit and declared the model eligible for exhibiton in the Design Centre.

August: Release of S2 Lotus Esprit

October: Launch of Limited Edition Esprit S2 to celebrate the Team Lotus World Championship. Only 100 of this model built for each of our three markets, each car being numbered in gold script on the exterior of the car from001 to 100. Available only in black with gold coachlining and insignia, specification included radio/cassette, competition steering wheel and commemorative plaque.

November: An agreement was reached between the De Lorean Motor Company and Lotus Cars Limited whereby Lotus would co-operate in the completion of the design and development of DMC-12 sports car to be produced in Northern Ireland for the American market.

December: Chrysler United Kingdom (Talbot) and Lotus Cars Limited signed a contract to co-operate in the production of a high performance version of the Chrysler Sunbeam to be known as the Talbot Sunbeam Lotus. The rally version went on to win the World Rally Championship in 1981, using a 2,2 litre version of the 907 engine.

January: Lotus Cars Limited took over the marketing of its products in North America from its four independent distributors and proceeded to stabilize the market and re-evaluate the dealer strength. Following this move a facility was established at Costa Mesa in Southern California.

September: An arrangement was negotiated with Rolls-Royce Motors Inc., to distribute Lotus products in the USA through a Lotus/Rolls-Royce dealer network.

October: Royal visit to Lotus by HRH Duke of Edinburgh.

February: Essex Lotus Turbo Esprit launched at spectacular Essex Petroleum party at Royal Albert Hall, London. First 100 units in Team Essex Lotus racing livery. Modified competition-based body shape. New galvanized chassis, new suspension and 2.2-litre 210 bhp 16-valve turbocharged engine. 150+ mph 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds.

May: Introduction of 1980 model range: Eclat Series 2.2 - Esprit Series 2.2

All models updated with 2.2-litre Lotus engines. The entire model range, including the Esprit Turbo, incorporate galvanized chassis - guaranteed for five years.

October: Announcement of formation of Lotus Engineering and Technology unit made at Motor Show.

April: Release of Lotus Esprit Series 3 incorporating chassis and suspension of Esprit Turbo allowing rationalization of components between S3 Esprit and Esprit Turbo thus permitting a considerable price saving on both models to be passed on to the market place.

June: Press statement announcing term engineering and manufacturing co-operation between Lotus Cars Limited and Toyota Motor Corporation.

July: Royal Premiere of the James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only" featuring the Lotus Esprit Turbo.

August: Visit to Norwich by the Prime Minister, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, to have a close look at the Lotus road and racing car activities.

October: Launch of Lotus Excel 2+2 at Paris and UK Motor Shows. Replacing the Eclat, the Excel had a softer body shape, new chassis and suspension.

December: ANTHONY COLIN BRUCE CHAPMAN, Founder and Chairman, died on Thursday 16 December, aged 54.

December: Formation of Lotus Performance Cars to import and distribute Lotus products throughout North America.

May: Lotus Active Suspension System was announced and demonstrated to the press.

June: Completion of refinancing package for Group Lotus Car Companies. At end 1985 holdings were as follows:
British Car Auctions 29%
Toyota Motor Corporation 20%
JCB 18%
SchrŲder Wagg 10%

October: Motorfair, London. Introduction of updated 1984 Excel and Turbo Esprit. December: Mr. David Wickins, Chairman and founder of British Car Auctions, elected Chairman, Group Lotus Car Companies.

April: Completion of two of the most sophisticated computer controlled engine test cells in Europe at a cost of £500,000.

May: Completion of the 30,000th Lotus car from the Norfolk factory during 1966-1984

October: Worldwide accolade for Etna, Giugiaro-styled V8 concept car shown at the British International Motor Show in Birmingham, featuring the prototype Lotus four-litre type 909 V8 engine.

The Lotus Excel was displayed with major body styling changes resulting in a sleeker and smoother-looking car.

March: Announcement that the Chrysler Corporation USA had signed a contract with Lotus Cars to develop and engineer a family of high performance 16-valve engines for future passenger cars.

June: Announced at annual general meeting that work-in-hand had jumped from £3 million. In June 1984 to £31 million in June 1985. The massive growth of contract work (96 per cent export) from clients worldwide resulted in a major factory expansion plan to increase floorspace by 45 per cent.

One new factory of 28,500 sq ft had been completed, and occupied. Another 28,500 sq. ft was completed early 1986. By then the total increase in factory floor space was 87,000 sq. ft.

Group Lotus Car Companies name change to Group Lotus plc. Staff numbers had grown to over 600.

January: Announcement that General Motors had acquired a majority shareholding in Group Lotus plc, with subsequent formation of new Group Lotus plc board in May.

October: Launch of Esprit Turbo HC (High Compression), at Motor Show. A limited Edition version of the Esprit Turbo also shown to mark 20th year in Norfolk. Also announced was a four-speed automatic Excel option designated the Lotus Excel SA.

January: Group Lotus acquired control of its USA importer and established a new importation and distribution operation, Lotus Cars USA Inc., based in Atlanta Georgia.

March: Team Lotus announce new Type 99 F1 car fitted with Lotus Active suspension. Ayrton Senna wins two races and demonstrated 25,000 miles of race & test durability.

April: group Lotus acquired the Millbrook Proving Ground for £7.5 million. Located in Bedfordshire the 700-acre site contains 30 miles of test tracts and surfaces including a two-mile high-speed bowl. With its emission laboratories, HYGE sled and crash-testing facilities, Millbrook is the mist advanced, independent test and validation facility in Europe.

October: Launch at Motorfair of a new Esprit Turbo. Styled in-house, the entirely new body featured a smoother more rounded appearance. A more modern interior completed the package. A normally aspirated version of the new Esprit was shown at the same time.

October: Limited edition of the Esprit Turbo announced to commemorate the company's 40th anniversary. Available only in pearlescent white, it featured a rear spoiler and came with a blue leather and suede interior and comprehensive in-car entertainment system including a CD player.

May: Esprit Turbo SE announced, the most powerful and quickest road-going Lotus to date. It is powered by a 264 bhp charge-cooled version of the Lotus 2.2-litre engine giving a top speed of 164 mph and a 0-60 mph time of 4.7 secís.

Detailed chassis changes further improved the Esprit's ride and handling, while specially developed Goodyear Eagle tires were specified as standard equipment.

External changes included a deeper front bib, side sills and a boot-mounted spoiler to achieve neutral balance throughout the speed range.

Standard equipment included full leather interior, air-conditioning and tilt/removable glass sunroof.

October: London Motorfair. The new Lotus Elan two-seat convertible sports car was unveiled to universal acclaim. Lotus first front-wheel drive car, it featured unique, patented "Interactive Wishbone" front suspension.

February: Vauxhall/Opel announced the Lotus Carlton (Lotus Omega outside UK) - the ultra-high-performance production four-door saloon car developed and built by Lotus Engineering. Featuring a 3.6 litre, 24-valve twin-turbocharged six cylinder engine giving 477 bhp at 5200 rpm and 419 lbs-ft of torque at 4200 rpm, the Carlton is the "fastest four-door saloon" with 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds, 0-100 mph in 11,5 seconds and a top speed of over 175 mph.

May: £2 million semi-anechoic chamber opened by Rt. Hon. Cecil Parkinson, then Secretary of State for Transport.

1990 also saw the return to the race-track for Lotus sports cars. A works supported team of 3 Lotus Esprit Turbo SE's were entered in a "Showroom Stock" series in the USA, contesting 9 races. The team took 4 victories, 6 pole positions, 6 fastest laps and 2nd place in the Manufacturer's Championship.

March: Lotus Elan wins British Design Council Award.

Team Lotus, still privately-owned, reforms under new management led by Peter Collins and Peter Wright. The new Lotus 102B F1 car reaffirms the Lotus tradition of elegance and efficiency, and carries heritage-inspired green and yellow racing colors.

In USA, Lotus Engineering supports Lotusport Inc with 3 new '91-spec race Espritís for a revised driver lineup which includes film star Paul Newman.

June: Lotus announce development of "Sound Synthesis" - the addition of computer-generated engine sound through the ICE, which follows the development of Antinoise.

August: Lotus Engineering's Design Analysis Group commission Cray supercomputer to accelerate customer service. 300 jobs go as recession bites in Lotus Cars.

September: Lotus reveals '92 Esprit range with significant customer-inspired improvement for more passenger room, better access, and improved rear visibility. Alan Curtis, Group Lotus Chairman, retires, to be succeeded by Michael J Kimberley, (previous Group CEO).

January: Lotus Engineering exhibits "SID" Dynamics Research vehicle, and 'JEWEL" (lightweight high-efficiency engine concept) at SAE Show in Detroit. Lotus Cars announces further job losses.

March: Due to unprecedented worldwide recession, Lotus halts all production for 5 weeks to control stock levels.

April: Forthcoming emission legislation forces cessation of Lotus Excel 2+2 production.

May: Lotus Engineering reveals Alvis Scorpion tank fitted with Lotus Active suspension featuring high-bandwidth energy-saving control of corner bogies. Carried out in conjunction with UK & US defense departments, work is ongoing.

June 15: Lotus Cars announces cessation of Elan production with loss of 300 jobs, after total build of 3857 cars. Worldwide recession and introduction of USA "luxury tax" is blamed.

July 29: Chris Boardman takes Olympic 4000m Gold Medal on epoch-making "Lotus Sport" carbon-composite monocoque bicycle.

August 22: Boardman and the Lotus "superbike" smash World 5km pursuit record by over 8 seconds. Boardman's unofficial Olympic 4km record is ratified also

October: Doc Bundy, driving the Lotus Sport Esprit X180R, takes the driver's title in USA national sports car series. Tom Langeberg wins Dutch Production Car Series in Lotus Esprit.

Launch at NEX of Esprit Sport 300 - the highest performance Lotus so far. Based on the X180R, the Sport 300 blends racetrack performance with road manners in a dramatic variant of the classic Lotus Esprit shape.

January: Lotus Esprit S4 introduced - new elegant bodyshell encloses dynamic improvements such as power steering (standard).

March: Lotus Engineering wins major contract with Taiwanese government to design new family of engines.

May: Lotus Esprit Sport 300 goes into production.

June: Two Lotus Esprit Sport 300's race at Le Mans - first works-supported entry for over 30 years.

July: New Lotus Sport 110 road bike debuts on Tour de France with Team ONCE.

August 27th - Bugatti buys Group Lotus from General Motors; Romano Artioli of Bugatti Industries named Chairman, Group Lotus Limited. (Millbrook Proving Ground retained by GM)

September: Lotus reveals E-Auto concept in model form at Frankfurt Auto Show. E-Auto is proposal developed by European consortium for practical 4-seat saloon with minimum fuel consumption - computer simulation predicts 140mpg.

January 27: First Lotus Sport 110 production carbon bicycle sold at Sotheby's to raise funds for Transport Trust.

March: Elan S2 shown at Geneva Show. Featuring new 16" wheel/tyre package and other improvements, car will enter production in Jine for mimited run of 800 units only.

June 19: Chris Boardman is re-united with a Lotus bicycle (the new Lotus Sport 110) for the first time since the 1992 Olympics and wins 30 km stage of Tour de Suisse.

July 2nd: Boardman is set new record average speed on the Prologue of the Tour de France, riding the Lotus Sport 110. He keeps the "yellow jersey" as Tour leader for two further days.

September: Lotus Esprit Sport 300 driven by Thorkild Thyrring wins British National GT series.

Chris Boardman wins World Championship in Sicily, in 4 km Pursuit and 30 km Road Race both on Lotus Sport 110, proving his and its competitiveness and versatility.

October 18: Lotus S4S announced at Birmingham Motor Show - 300 bhp peak power in S4-based body, with new wheels, Michelin tyres and revised suspension settings to suit increased performance. Lotus Esprit Police Car turns heads too !

December: Group Lotus announces £12 million turnaround to profitability after first year under Bugatti ownership.

January: Sad day motorsport enthusiast as Team Lotus (not part of Group Lotus since 1986, except in name and spirit) lays off all its staff and finally joins forces with Pacific Racing. A sad end to an illustrious and unforgettable period of motorsport which saw Team Lotus win the F1 World Championship seven times, Indianapolis once, and many other formula victories including class wins at Le Mans. Its success was a tribute to one man - Colin Chapman.

February: Lotus GT program comes in-house in preparation for an all-out assault on sportscar racing in 1996 - outright victory in the top GT1 category is the goal.

The GAN team, featuring Chris Boardman, takes delivery of nineteen Lotus Sport 110 frames for use in all its time-trial events during the year.

March 24: Lotus celebrates the completion of the 50,000th car since the birth of the marque in 1948. The car, a Lotus Elan S2, is donated to a major national charity with the help of former Lotus driver Britt Ekland. With the help of the "Sun" newspaper, over £65,000 is raised through competition to win the unique car.

May 8: Lotus GT car, driven by Allessandro Zanardi and Alex Portman, stunts spectators at Donington, leading the GT2 class by over a lap and running up to third overall. Only a transmission fault five minutes before the end of the four-hour race prevents the team taking a fairy-tale result.

July: Lotus Esprit sales worldwide buck static market, recording 11% increase in first six months against previous year.

August 19/20: Lotus is featured marque at Monterey Historic Automobile Races in California, USA. Hazel Chapman attends as Guest of Honour. Unique collection of Lotus F1, Indy, sports and road cars on display; Lotus enthusiasts attend from around the world.

August 25: Last ever Lotus Eland is completed. Car 799 goes to long-time Lotus dealer; car 800 is retained by Lotus as "the last:" for display.

September 12: Lotus Elise is unveiled at Frankfurt Motor Show. Immediately billed as "star of the Show", Elise is superlight at 675 kg with advanced chassis of epoxy-bonded aluminium extrusions - a world's first. Other "firsts" include extruded aluminium suspension uprights and aluminium metal matrix brake discs. Promising breathtaking performance (0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds) at a price "under £20,000" with stunning looks, Elise earns praise from onlookers, and many advance orders are taken. First deliveries are expected mid 1996.

September 17: Works Lotus Esprit GT2 car driven by Zanardi and Portman takes superb class victory and fourth overall at Silverstone, after four hours' grueling racing against international field.

October 16: Building work starts on Lotus Engineering's new £3.5 million engine test facility, comprising ten state-of-the-art dynamometers with full computer control and data analysis. The facility will come on stream in July 1997.

October 25: HRH Duke of Kent visits Lotus as Chairman of British Overseas Trade Board.

February 1: Lotus hands over new minibus to Prince's Trust Volunteers group in Sudbury, Suffolk - first fruits of ongoing three-year fundraising programme for Prince's Trust in UK.

March 1: All-new Lotus Esprit GT1 car (type number 114) unveiled at Paul Richard circuit for first race of 1996 GT series. The new racer features the still-secret Lotus V8 engine, a new six-speed racing transmission, F1-style aerodynamics, carbon brakes, and is down to the 900 kg minimum weight limit. After showing promise, retires due to fractured exhaust. Dutchman Jan Lammers enthuses about car's potential.

March 5: At Geneva Show, the Lotus Esprit V8 is unveiled. The all-new Lotus-designed 3.5 litre twin-turbo V8 delivers 350 bhp and 400 NM of torque with a very flat torque curve. Unit is very compact and meets 1997 regulations world wide. Detail changes to the car include improvements to the brake system with a new Kelsey-Hates ABS controller and a new vacuum servo system. Top speed increase to 178 mph. Lotus Engineering also announces technical partnership with design software house Concentra, to develop and market the revolutionary Concept Car Designer expert system.

March 24: At Monza, Lotus GT team enters two cars. Driver line-up is Lammers with British driver Perry McCarthy, Alex Portman with Mike Hezemans. Team's steep learning curve continuous.

March 25: Lotus Elise si finalist in 1996 Prince of Wales Award for Innovation - positive recognition of an exciting new product with far-reaching implications.

April 14: At Jarama, GT1 car's potential is unleashed. Lammers gets second place on grid and leads McLarens etc. for four laps before a driveshaft problem slows car.

April 18: GT team announce their return to Le Mans will take place in 1997. The BPR-run International GT series is priority for 1996.

May 12: Lotus GT team returns to Silverstone for next round of BPR series.