The Land Rover Writer

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Fear For Interesting Cars

I fear that another interesting car might disappear from the automotive landscape. Lotus Cars, now owned by a Malaysian company called Proton, again faces financial problems as the Malaysian government looks to sell its stake in Proton. That might mean shedding Lotus - which in turn means it could go the way of Saab.

Lotus, founded by Colin Chapman in the 1950's, began as the manufacturer of "club racing" kits, lightweight cars with terrific balance, excellent suspensions, and easily available engines from Ford, Coventry Climax, and later Rover and Toyota.

The Lotus Seven could be purchased as a kit or as an assembled car. This model still continues today as the Caterham, the name of a former dealership that bought the rights to the Seven model.

The "achingly pretty" Lotus Elite moved Lotus away from the space frame chassis to the "central backbone" chassis with a bonded fiberglass body. The car's lines seduced many buyers who overlooked the questionable build quality in favor of its fabulous handling. Electrical gremlins were common as fiberglass makes for lousy electrical grounds.

When "The Avengers" captivated American television viewers in the late 1960's, Diana Riggs' Emma Peel tooled around in a Lotus Elan, the first convertible model since the Lotus Seven.

Lotus then jumped aboard the mid-engine bandwagon, using a Renault engine, with the Europa - the first car really designed for a world-wide market.

Lotus would join the "wedge" revolution in the 80's, using Oliver Winterbottom's radical designs [even a 4-seater!], and then continue into the 21rst century with the Exige. All the Lotus cars have kept light weight and superb handling as their focus. Drivers love them and enthusiasts admire the laser-like orientation of the Hethel, Norfolk, UK company.

These are exciting cars that offer something really different in the automotive market. There needs to be a place for these automobiles - don't let Lotus go the way of Saab!


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