May 4, 2015 By Mike Lee
Last updated on July 27, 2022

Lotus LogoBrief History About Lotus

Lotus was founded in 1952 in England by Colin Chapman (Originally formed as Lotus Engineering Ltd). The Lotus logo contains the 4 first letters of Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman. Chapman originally set Lotus up, so that he could indulge himself in motorsport and build race cars. Road cars were added to help finance his desires for motorsport.

In 1954 Team Lotus was setup for developing and building race cars. Lotus also had other departments that were merged and moved about several times, with its main facilities now at the old RAF Hethal base. They have been instrumental in many innovative designs and principles, especially with their race cars.

Early on Lotus built both race cars (lots of them), road cars and even kit cars. They have built so many successful and notable cars during the 50’s-70’s, such as the Lotus Seven, Elan, Europa and Esprit. They have also collaborated with other manufacturers to build such cars as the Lotus Cortina (1963 on), Sunbeam Lotus (1979 on) and a little later in 1990, the Lotus Carlton.

During the 80’s, with the world recession and with poor sales, Lotus were financially struggling. This prompted Chapman to look to Toyota for a partnership, who took shares in Lotus, with Lotus then helping to develop the Mk2 Supra (Celica). Chapman also setup Lotus Performance Cars Inc. in the USA with Joe Bianco and run by John Spiech. This allowed Lotus to continue with the business of building their own cars. Unfortunately in 1982, at just 54 years of age, Colin Chapman suffered a heart attack and died.

The legacy he left behind included winning the Formula One World Championship seven times. Although there was also some controversy with regards dealings with DeLorean, of which Lotus had built the chassis for. So in 1983, with Lotus once again in turmoil, a rescue was made by David Wickens (British Car Auctions founder), along with other investors and Lotus was saved from bankruptcy. However with a couple of new cars in the pipeline and the new management/owners unable put enough money into their production, the company was sold to General Motors in 1986, this was later followed in the same year, with Toyota selling their share to GM as well.

In 1993 GM then sold Lotus to Romano Artioli of ACBN Holdings, who then sold it to Proton in 1996. At around this time, Lotus then released the Lotus Elise (named after Romano Artioli’s grand-daughter) and it was well received, gaining many awards and praises. This was followed by the Exige (2000) and with finance going well, the development of new cars was strong again with the Europa (2006), 2 Eleven (2007) and Evora (2008). Lotus are continuing to push forward with new technology and developments year on year.

Lotus Cortina
Lotus Cortina Mk1 1963-1966 & Mk2 1966-1970

Lotus Europa
Europa 1966-1975

Lotus Eclat
Eclat 1974-1982

Lotus Elite II
Elite II 1974-1982

Lotus Excel
Excel 1982-1992

Lotus Elan
Elan 1962-1973

Lotus Elan +2
Elan +2 1967-1975

Lotus Elan SE
Elan SE 1989-1995

Lotus Esprit S1
Esprit S1 1975-1978

Lotus Esprit S2
Esprit S2 1978-1981

Lotus Esprit S3
Esprit S3 1981-1992

Lotus Esprit S4
Esprit S4 1993-2004

Lotus Carlton
Carlton 1990-1992

Lotus 340R
340R 1999-2000

Lotus Elise Series 1
Elise Series 1 1996-2001

Lotus Elise Series 2
Elise Series 2 2001-2011

Lotus Elise Series 3
Elise Series 3 2011-2021

Lotus Exige S1
Exige S1 2000-2001

Lotus Exige S2
Exige S2 2004-2012

Lotus Exige S3
Exige S3 2012-2021

Lotus Europa
Europa S 2006-2010

Lotus 2-Eleven
2-Eleven 2007-2011

Lotus 3-Eleven
3-Eleven 2016

Lotus Evora
Evora 2009-2021

Lotus Emira
Emira 2022 on

(See Caterham for Lotus 7)
(See Talbot for Sunbeam Lotus)