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Lotus Elise 111R and
the history of Lotus 

Broadcast dates : 3rd July 2005
9th July 2005

Lotus was founded by the late Colin Chapman in the late 1940s when he developed an Austin 7 into a low-slung sports car special. From these humble beginnings, fully-fledged sports car production evolved, as well as entry into Formula One, which culminated in multiple world championships for drivers like Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti.

The cars that the Lotus Club assembled for our impromptu fun day chart the history of virtually every era of Lotus production.
The Elise 111R is a car that Chapman would have been proud of, as it embodies all the key principles of Chapmanís design philosophy such as light weight, simplicity, and electrifying performance.

The Elise has been produced since the late 1990s through to the present.
The modern Elise has been amazingly successful for Lotus, and has achieved worldwide acceptance amongst serious enthusiasts.

Since the death of founder Colin Chapman in 1982, Lotus has developed, not only as a car manufacturer, but as a technology consultant for the likes of General Motors and other major manufactures.

This expertise is reflected in the exemplary build-quality of the 111R.

Constructed of fiberglass with a steel chassis, panel fit is excellent and despite its diminutive size, the Elise offers big-car trim and comfort levels.

Itís the high-revving Toyota motor, though, thatís attracting all the attention. A car that looks this good deserves a screamer of an engine.

The Birkin is based on a fifty-year-old design. 

The cycle-fendered Birkin Seven is a replica of the Lotus seven, the first series production model in the companyís history, launched in 1957.

Lotus stopped producing the Seven in the early 1970s and sold the production jigs to Caterham Cars in England.
However, for the past 20 years Birkin Cars of Pinetown, near Durban, has been manufacturing Lotus Seven replicas for worldwide export as well as the local market.

The Birkin uses a potent Ford Zetec motor, modified with twin Weber carburetors in the classic Lotus tradition.

The yellow Elan was the definitive 1960s sports car.

The Elan was launched in 1962 at the London Motorshow, and a quarter of a century later was unashamedly copied by Mazda who produced their MX5.

A wood panel dash and leather-covered steering wheel are particular delicacies on this 1967 model. 
The Elan was also the first production Lotus employing the Ford engine block and classic twin-cam cylinder head.

The suspension may look soft today but in the 1960s this was an amazingly fast car, and even today itís quick. In the hands of Jack Holme, an Elan scored dozens of wins in South African races between 1965 and 1969.

The red Eclat represents the 1970s. The Lotus Eclat is unusual in the Lotus line-up in that it is a four-seater sports car.

Itís really a development of the Elan and this 1977 model is owned by George Witt of Joíburg.

The fact that at fifteen hundred units the Eclat is considered rare, indicates how serious a manufacturer Lotus has been over the years.
The Eclat follows the classic layout of a front-engined Ford-based twin-cam engine, a Corsair Two Thousand "E" gearbox, rear-wheel-drive and independent rear suspension.

Thereís lots of tyre squeal by todayís standards, but bear in mind this car is nearly thirty years old and its owner is in his seventies!

The white Esprit spanned the 1980s and early 1990s.

The Esprit represents the classic mid-engined era for Lotus and the styling is a mix of late-70s knife-edge with the rounded edges coming into vogue in the mid-1980s.

The Esprit evolved from four-cylinder engines through turbo motors to a V8-engined car. This turbo model is owned by Joe Dos Santos.

The Esprit was immortalized as the car that James Bond, a.k.a Roger Moore, went scuba diving in, with the gorgeous Barbara Bach for company.

The snug cockpit is typical of the mid-engined layout, as is the handling, which set new benchmarks for road-holding.

The engine is a Lotus development from a Vauxhall design.

Lotus Elise 111R
  • Engine: Four-cylinder petrol, naturally-aspirated, 1 796cc
  • Power: 141 kW @ 7 800 rpm
  • Torque: 181 Nm@ 6 800 rpm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive
  • 0-100 km/h: 5,2 seconds
  • Top speed: 241 km/h
  • Fuel consumption: 8,8 l/100 km (claimed)
  • Price: R495 000
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