The History of Lotus Cars

Lotus Elise Series 1

The history of Lotus is one of the most unique of any automaker in the world. Dating back to their beginnings in the late 1940s, Lotus cars have always stood out. Like a winding highway, the history of Lotus has taken many turns. Today, Lotus remains iconic for its many timeless sportscars.

Currently, Lotus has reached a turning point. The upcoming Emira will be the last Lotus with an internal combustion engine. Like many automakers, Lotus is now putting an increased emphasis on electric models. With that in mind, now is a good time to look back and the brand’s legacy. This is the history of Lotus Cars.

Lotus Mark IV


In 1948, Lotus founder Colin Chapman was a student at University College, London. Chapman had previously spent time in the Royal Airforce Reserves and had a background in engineering. While still a student, Chapman built his first racecar. He modified an Aston 7 which only had 15 horsepower but still saw success in local trial racing.

After four years of modifying racecars, Chapman teamed up with Colin Dare to form Lotus Engineering. Their first vehicle is the Lotus mark IV, another car made for trial racing, a type of endurance contest. Within just a couple of years, Team Lotus split from Lotus Engineering to handle the brand’s racing needs.

The 7

For Lotus, the car that changed everything was the Mark VII. More commonly known as the 7, this car was a road vehicle that had the engineering of a formula car. This model gained a quick reputation for its outstanding performance. As a result, it remains one of Lotus’ most iconic and storied models.

By today’s standards, the 7’s specs don’t stand out. The top speed was only 81 miles per hour. However, the handling was among the best of its era. It was simple but effective and served as the catalyst for the popularity of Lotus. In fact, Caterham took over the rights to the 7 and continue to make a modified version.

Lotus Mark VII S1

1960’s: A Decade of Innovation

Now with more financial resources thanks to the 7’s success, Lotus was ready to create more production models. Throughout the following decade, Lotus repeatedly introduced new vehicles. It began with the Elite, an extremely light coupe that won its class at Le Mans six times. The Elan roadster then follows the Elite in 1962, becoming Lotu’s first dedicated road car. In 1966, the Europa came along as Lotus’ first mid-engine vehicle. Finally, in 1967, Lotus unveils the Elan +2, a version of the Elan with rear seating.

Branching Out

Over the final 30 years of the 20th century, Lotus experimented with different types of production vehicles. Their 1974 hatchback, the Elite, had a 2.0 L 140 horsepower engine. The vehicle had remarkable capabilities for its class but only saw limited commercial success. However, its successor the Eclat was lower-priced and became a hit among drivers.

The late 1980s and ’90s saw Lotus change hands multiple times. General Motors took control in 1986, but it was then sold to Romano Artiolio. Then, Artioli, who also owned Bugatti, sold a majority share to Proton, a Malaysian automaker in 1996.

Lotus Type 72

Racing Dominance

While Lotus Cars had its struggles, Lotus Racing enjoyed phenomenal success. They created ground-breaking racecars and became a perennial favorite in Formula 1. The Type 72, which Lotus introduced in 1970 set a standard for a design that is still used in modern F1 racing. In fact, Type 72 won the championship in its first year.

Team Lotus won seven Constructors’ Championships and six Drivers’ Championships between 1963 and 1978. With 74 victories, 165 podiums, and 65 fastest laps, Lotus was one of the most dominant teams of its era. Team Lotus entered its final race in 1994, only returning briefly in the early 2010s.

A New Century

As the 21st century began to come into view, Lotus needed a lineup overhaul. In 1996, the Lotus Elise began production. This mid-engine convertible was a return to the company’s origins. It was the brand’s most successful release in years and helped give the company new life.

The Elise would be in production for the next 25 years. Lotus then released another long-running model to begin the new millennium. Along with the Elise, the Exige became a staple of the Lotus lineup. Both the Exige and Elise saw several special editions over in the years that followed.

Throughout most of the last decade, The Elise and Exige formed two-thirds of Lotus’ lineup. Their next all-new car, the Evora, began production in 2009. Several different Evora variations hit the road as well, including the 414E Hybrid in 2012. The Evora GT which was unveiled in 2017 became the fastest road-legal Lotus ever and had a 0-60 time of 3.9 seconds. In combination, Elise, Exige, and Evora proved Lotus could still make some of the world’s best sportscars.

Lotus Elise Series 1

A Lasting Legacy

Lotus exists in an elite class of automakers. Their sports cars have always had a reputation as some of the most fun to drive in the world. Their classic models have made a lasting impact on the industry. Furthermore, their success on the racetrack has their name forever etched in the history books.

For as long as Lotus has made cars, they have stuck to a single philosophy. They make simple, lightweight cars that give drivers results. The calling card of a Lotus sports car is an outstanding power-to-weight ratio. Lotus’ innovations have set new standards both on the streets and the track.

Eyes Toward the Future

Today, Lotus is preparing to take their auto lineup in another new direction. They are discontinuing their current models and introducing two exciting new vehicles. These will set the direction of the brand for the next decades to come. Both vehicles feature intriguing new technology but still pay homage to the history of Lotus.

The first of the two new models is the Lotus Evija. Hitting the streets soon, it will be Lotus’ first electric vehicle. This will give the Evija a world of new possibilities. It features blistering fast acceleration and groundbreaking aerodynamics. The second of the new models is the Emira, which will be unveiled on July 6, 2021.

Lotus Evija

Lotus NJ

To learn more about Lotus, its current lineup, and upcoming models, Visit Lotus North Jersey. Our helpful staff can get you behind the wheel of a brand-new Lotus sportscar. Experience the outstanding driving capabilities for yourself. We are a factory-licensed dealer with many resources including financing and maintenance. Find the right Lotus for you and contact Lotus North Jersey today.

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