Lotus Cars is a British manufacturer of sports and racing cars based in Hethel, Norfolk, formed as Lotus Engineering Ltd. by the engineer Colin Chapman (1928-1982) in 1952.
The company encouraged its customers to race its cars, and itself entered Formula 1 as a team in 1958. Major success came in 1963 with the Lotus 25, which - with Jim Clark driving - won Lotus its first World Championship. Clark's early death - he crashed driving a Formula 2 Lotus 48 in March 1968 - was a severe blow to the team and to Formula 1. He was the dominant driver in the dominant car, and remains inseparable from Lotus's early years. That year's championship was won by Clark's team-mate, Graham Hill.
Chapman died in 1982, leaving behind the messy financial scandal of the De Lorean project, for which it is likely he would have been convicted.
Until the mid-1980s, Lotus was still a major player in Formula 1. Ayrton Senna drove for the Lotus from 1985 to 1987, winning twice in each year and achieving 17 pole positions. By the company's last Formula 1 race in 1994 the cars were very uncompetitive. Lotus won a total of 79 Grand Prix races.
In 1986 the company was bought by General Motors. On August 27, 1993 GM sold the company for £30 million to ACBN Holdings S.A. of Luxembourg, a company controlled by Italian businessman Romano Artioli who also owned Bugatti Automobili SpA. Both the Lotus and Bugatti operations went bankrupt and in 1996 Lotus was sold to Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Bhd (Proton), the state-owned Malaysian car company.
The company now also acts as an engineering consultancy, performing development, particularly of suspension, for other car manufacturers.
Lotus Seven (and Super Seven) - The Lotus Seven is a classic open sports car, a minimalist machine designed to maneuver around a race track - and do nothing else. Amazingly, this 1957 design is still widely produced by a number of small British specialty firms, including Caterham Cars.
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 fiberglass unibody construction. Unlike the Corvette, which used fiberglass 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 1960's, was a small light roadster that made use of the Lotus-trademark steel backbone frame, coupled with a fiberglass body. This car was the design inspiration for the 1990 Mazda Miata.
Lotus Elan - The second Elan, released in 1989, was a technical tour de force but one that also defied tradition, to its detriment. The idea of a front-drive Lotus, powered by a turbocharged Isuzu engine, might have been a great concept on the drawing board, and even on the test track. But this car was not loved by Lotus loyalists, and its price/performance ratio didn't win it any friends in the general public either.
Lotus Esprit - A mid-engine sports car, born in the early 1970's. The Esprit shocked everyone at launch - its geometric, laser-cut lines seemed far more futuristic than anything on the road - or on the movie screen, for that matter (the car prominently featured in the Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me). The styling was by Italian designer Giugiaro. The Esprit started with a light, high-strung 4-cylinder design, which went through several iterations of turbocharging and electronic upgrades, before finally being replaced by a highly advanced V8. The last Lotus Esprit rolled off the 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 had an open-body design echoing the famed Seven.