Recounting the legacy of the plucky Lotus Elise
By the mid-Nineties the writing appeared to be on the wall for Lotus Cars. It had struggled through the Seventies and Eighties, survived the death of its founder Colin Chapman and multiple changes of ownership but nothing the company did seemed to work.
A year in which the company managed to build a mere 1,000 cars was indeed a good – and sadly rare – one. By the start of the Nineties all it had to offer was the Esprit and Excel, both cars designed almost two decades earlier.
Salvation was meant to come via the new Elan, which Lotus had piled everything into, bravely made front-wheel drive and hoped it would work on the world stage. And but for the global recession of the early Nineties and the arrival of the cheaper, better looking, more entertaining and even more Elan-like Mazda MX-5, work it may well have done.
In the event sales were slow and the Elan survived for fewer than three years, although about 800 more S2 models were built from spares a few years later. It was a disaster.