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I Have Never: Lotus Elise Series 1

10 months ago

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Writer:

Dan Prosser | Ti co-founder

Date:

9 May 2023

At first they thought they’d build a couple of thousand. A car this raw couldn’t possibly find more buyers than that – could it? When first presented to Lotus dealers, who to a man felt the marque should be moving upmarket, they didn’t get it at all. As one pointed out, the Elise didn’t even have carpets.

The designers and engineers who took it upon themselves to create this car were so few in number they might have formed a pub quiz team. Budgets were laughable, the technology used to build the chassis unproven and nobody could tell how optimistic the original business case really was – several hundred cars a year over three years: any more after that would be a bonus.

So what was it about this flyweight two-seater that meant it was in production and on sale for 25 years not three, and that more than 35,000 were produced rather than two or three thousand? And what made it so popular among buyers it needed to be redesigned front to back within years of first going on sale to make it cheaper and easier to manufacture, and what caused it to become not just the footnote in the history of Lotus that many assumed it would be, but perhaps the most important chapter of the entire book?

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