The Let's Play Archive

Need for Speed: Most Wanted

by Olive Branch

Part 10: The History of Lotus; About the Lotus Elise

The History of Lotus

British automobile maker Lotus Cars designs and builds race and production automobiles of light weight and fine handling characteristics. The company was formed as Lotus Engineering Ltd. by engineer Colin Chapman, a graduate of University College, London, in 1952. Team Lotus, which was split off from Lotus Engineering in 1954, was active and competitive in Formula One racing from 1958 to 1994. The Lotus Group of Companies was formed in 1959. This was made up of Lotus Cars Limited and Lotus Components Limited, which focused on road cars and customer competition car production, respectively. Lotus Components Limited became Lotus Racing Limited in 1971 but the newly renamed entity ceased operation in the same year.

By 1982 the company was experiencing severe financial difficulties and Chapman sought additional capital from outside sources. The crisis was basically to blame for the low sale of Lotus cars in general, even with the US being its biggest market. Joe Bianco, a law professor and investment banking consultant, created a separate sales company for Lotus in the US and managed to save Lotus from bankruptcy by literally offering investors a personalized Lotus Turbo Esprit as a gift. In 1986, the company was bought by General Motors. On 27 August 1993, GM sold the company, for £30 million, to A.C.B.N. Holdings S.A. of Luxembourg, a company controlled by Italian businessman Romano Artioli, who also owned Bugatti Automobili SpA. In 1996, a majority share in Lotus was sold to Proton, a Malaysian car company listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange.

Two pieces of trivia. First, the four letters in the middle of the logo stand for the initials of company founder Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman. Second, the DeLorean DMC-12, also known as the "Back to the Future" car, had a lot of redesign decisions made by Lotus's founder, Colin Chapman.

About the Lotus Elise

The Lotus Elise is a two seat, rear-wheel drive, mid-engined roadster conceived in early 1994 and released in September 1996 by Lotus Cars. The car has a hand-finished fiberglass body shell atop its bonded extruded aluminum chassis that provides a rigid platform for the suspension, as well as making it light and cheap to produce. It was named after Elisa, the granddaughter of Roman Artioli, the chairman of Lotus at the time of the car's launch.

Capable of reaching speeds up to 150 mph, the Elise had two series. In 2000, the Lotus Elise Series 2 replaced the Series 1 and since April 2010, a reworked version of the Series 2 has been produced. There have also been many special editions of the car released, but the stylistic appearance of the Elise has remained relatively untouched since 2000. Exotic, pricey, and quick, the Elise remains one of the prettiest cars available for the discerning hotshot consumer, with new versions of the car coming out in 2015.

The Elise is not to be confused with the Lotus Exige, which is essentially a high-performance coupe version of the Elise and used in professional motor sports. Why the game decided to promote the Elise instead of the Exige is beyond me, despite the two looking very similar in style and appearance.

Triple A Says...

This car is pretty much the sort of car that Lotus is famous for. Designed to be pretty much the best mid-engined precision instrument you can buy at a reasonable price. Armed with the latest aluminum block straight-4 engines sourced from Toyota, it is fairly quick while keeping the car light. Just don't expect it to beat anything on a straight line.

It could always use a bit more power but that will make the car a rather difficult thing to handle, if you aren't exactly the sort that understands the inner mechanics of weight transfer and lateral grip. Don't worry, that hasn't stopped people from making ridiculously fast cars out of them.

You are going to find them at much more reasonable prices than other mid-engined sports cars from Europe, since the Germans and the Italians have an unreasonably good reputation on theirs while few people outside of car/motorsport nerds knows who Lotus really are.