Lotus Esprit (S2)
The most eye-catching car of the weekend was probably this S2 Esprit, looking worthy of a Bond villain in lustrous gold paint. The Giugiaro penned wedge might look overly simple at first glance, but it’s made up of beautiful details and surfacing. The huge profiled rear tyres were striking too: how many modern supercars would look good on 14in rims?
I was already smitten with this Esprit before I found out it had special provenance: this particular was one of only two Esprits shown at the ‘78 NEC Motorshow in Birmingham to launch the Series 2 car. The ‘Championship Gold Metallic’ of this car and the ‘John Player Special’ livery of the other commemorated the Formula 1 Constructors Championship win. After its appearance at the motor show, this Esprit was used as a press car before being sold. Although it was a production car, the interior was trimmed in special oatmeal leather and brown cloth unique to this one, and the current owner suspects the fit and finish was a lot better than the customer cars.
The excellent original condition of this Lotus (even the decals rearward of the fuel-caps are original) must be partly owing to the fact it was kept in heated storage for 28 of it’s 37-year life.[Not a valid template]
Lotus Mk. VI
The Lotus Mark VI is another special car – it was the first Chapman-designed and built chassis, and is still considered by many to be the first ‘proper’ Lotus (previous cars were based on an Austin 7 chassis). It looks a little agricultural with it’s skinny, tall wheels and large ground clearance, but the lineage to the infamous Lotus 7 – now produced by Caterham – is clear: the 7 came into existence straight after in 1957.
This particular ‘54 example is chassis number 23 out of a total of around 110 cars. After a sympathetic restoration in the early nineties it’s in superb condition, the ‘55 tax-disc and period roadmap in the dashboard shelf completing the look. Owner Colin Brewer loves driving it on the road, although admitted that motorways are not so fun, and has even driven it to Le Mans several times for the biannual classic event. Despite having only 50bhp from a 1172cc Ford engine, the 430kg curb weight makes it surprisingly capable and fun.[Not a valid template]
Lotus Motorsport Elise
This is another one-off that attracted a lot of attention from the Brands Hatch crowd. It’s the concept car that was shown at the Geneva Motor Show in 1999 to promote a one-make race series; the Autobytel Lotus Sport Elise Championship. The series supported the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) in 2000 and 2001, and launched the road-going Exige. This Geneva car isn’t just a pretty face, it’s a fully working prototype and was used to develop the Exige road car. To prove the point, the current owner had it prepared to be fully road legal.
Despite knowing something about each model at the Lotus Festival, seeing all the cars assembled really highlighted to me the breadth of Lotus’ accomplishments. How many others can lay claim to such a range of achievements; from the crude yet revolutionary early cars, the movie-star Esprit, tuners of family cars to multiple Formula 1 champions? All this on top of a range of pretty little sports cars that has all but defined the genre for the best part of half a century.