"We can’t think of another car that looks even vaguely like the Lotus Europa S1. It’s kind of bread van-ish. It’s kind of otherworldly. And its look owes everything to a collision between Colin Chapman’s obsession "
Our Five Favourite Lotus Cars
Lotus Elite 1974 (type 75)
This is the only Lotus I currently own. It’s a pain to work on. It’s not even a runner at the moment and I’m spending a fortune on repairing the fibreglass. In fact, it’s sitting there in the garage winking at me, one pop-up lamp glaring accusingly. But one day, it will be restored to its mustard and black plastic glory, and it will recall the testosterone fuelled, shooting brake-ish days of futurist sophistication for which it was designed. This was Lotus’s only real attempt to build a proper production saloon – and check out wikipedia – they call it a station wagon! It’s ugly-beautiful, and all the more appealing for that.
Lotus Europa S1
Back in the early seventies I presumed the mid-engined Europa S1 was a mythical hotwheels-type creation. Until I finally saw one drive past my primary school. Freudian memories are still evoked by the otherworldly design. The first series came with less rear visibility than a Countach and less power than a souped up Mk 3 Cortina – but these things were offset by trick Chapman suspension, structure and consequentially a lightness that gave the car incredibly fluid handling. This car exemplifies to this day what we love about Lotus.
Lotus Cortina Mk2
Ok, the editor made me include the Mk2 version of the Lotus-Ford legend because his granddad owned one back in the seventies, but we can live with this box-tastic version of a collaboration made in Essex’s version of heaven – otherwise known as Dagenham. The Mk2 was more reliable and more powerful than the Mk1 too – and was actually constructed in the Ford plant. True Britgrit credentials there, then. Purists will scoff that this makes it much more of a Ford than a Lotus, but we don’t care. The high point in performance motoring for the masses, we reckon.
These cars were revolutionarily slippery, light and low slung -with a Frank Costin designed fluid shell swathed beautifully over Chapman’s structurally ingenious steel frame. Originally designed to be fitted with a 1500cc Coventry Climax engine, the car was incredibly successful, wining races at Le Mans and Sebring. Weighing in at only a shade under half a metric tonne, a cowled version manned by Sterling Moss was driven around Monza at a record breaking average of 143 MPH – how’s that for some bang for bucks? But ultimately we love this thing for its looks. Something about it screams DRIVE ME HARD AND FAST.
Lotus Exige S
I had the privilage of belting round Silverstone in one of these for a few hours recently (the 240HP version, not the mentalist V6 Supercharged version they announced at Frankfurt last year). Believe me, if you’re unconvinced of the point of pure trackday cars ( as I was a bit), then I urge you to do the same. It’s stickier than a sticky thing and funner than a boxful of mowgwais on mushrooms. Driving this thing came as close to the thrill of a fairground ride than any driving experience I’ve had to date. The Toyota power means its super reliable and though you might look a little ridiculous down at Asda, think of what happens when you get on some clear tarmac. We love it.
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