Home
News
Esprit Models
Owners
Esprit History
For Sale
Other Stuff
Roadtests
Buying & Running
Parts & Specialists
Other Esprit Stuff

Brief Year by Year History

1948 - First Lotus car is built, based upon a 1930 Austin Seven saloon. Used successfully for competition by Colin Chapman.

1949 - The second Lotus, Mark II is built.

1950 - Mark II successfully competes in British Trials.

1951 - The Lotus Mark III begins for competition in the 750cc road racing class. Dominates competition and customers begin to order copies.

1952 - Lotus Engineering Company is formed. Mark IV is built and Mark VI is designed as first Lotus road car.

1953 - Orders pour in for the Mark VI as it becomes a very successful club racer.

1954 - Work begins on the Lotus Mark VIII with aerody-namic body by Frank Costin. Mark VIII hits 125 MPH from 85 bhp engine.

1955 - Lotus Cars Ltd. founded by Colin Chapman. Mark IX is entered in Le Mans 24 hour race.

1956 - Lotus introduces the Lotus Eleven. 270 were eventually sold through 1960. - Lotus builds first single seat formula car, Lotus 12.

1957 - Lotus Elite introduced. The Elite astounded the motoring world using aeronautical production standards and designs. The Elite was featured Glass Fiber Reinforced Plastic (GFRP) monocoque chassis, shaped into a wind cheating aerodynamic shape with 4 wheel independent suspension, disc brakes and a 1216cc alloy over head cam engine. Production was discontinued in 1962.
- Lotus introduces replacement for Lotus Mark 6, the Lotus Mark 7. Production continues through 1973.

1958 - First Formula One Grand Prix is entered, Lotus 15 with Graham Hill driving.

1959 - Lotus moves to new purpose-built factory in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, England.

1960 - Lotus scores it's first Grand Prix win at Monaco with a Lotus 18 driven by Sterling Moss.

1961 - Moss wins again at Monaco in a Lotus 18.

1962 - Lotus Elan is introduced. The Elan features a GFRP body mounted atop a now-famous steel backbone chassis, the powerful Lotus twin cam engine of 1558cc, 4 wheel independent suspension, 4 wheel disc brakes and the was the first production car to use hidden headlights. Production of the Elan continued through 1973.
- Lotus introduces first all monocoque Formula One race car, the Lotus 25, a landmark design.

1963 - The Lotus 25 in the hands of Jim Clark wins 7 Grand Prix and the first Championship for Lotus.

1964 - Lotus goes to Indy and wins 3 Grand Prix with the Lotus 33.

1965 - Lotus introduces the Elan Fixed Head Coupe (hardtop version).
- Jim Clark wins the Indy 500 driving a Lotus.

1966 - The Elan Drophead Coupe is introduced.
- The mid-engined Lotus Europa powered by a Lotus modified Renault engine is introduced.
- Lotus moves from Cheshunt to its present home in Hethel, Norfolk, England.

1967 - The Elan +2 is introduced (powered by the Lotus Twin Cam engine).
- Lotus introduces the Lotus 49 and wins the Dutch Grand Prix. Another landmark car, taking 8 consecutive pole positions.

1968 - Lotus Cars Limited goes public.
- Graham Hill becomes World Champion driving a Lotus 49.

1969 - Tony Rudd joins Lotus as Engineering Director. Engineering projects include more powerful version of Lotus Twin Cam engine and new Lotus 2.0 liter 16 valve 907 engine to address coming emission laws and preserve performance.
- Mike Kimberley joins Lotus as Chief Engineer for the Twin Cam Europa Project.
- Lotus brings 4 wheel drive cars to Formula One and to Indy.

1970 - Powerful Elan Sprint is introduced with 126 BHP Lotus Twin Cam engine.
- Yet another landmark Formula One car in the Lotus 72. A World Championship for Lotus.

1971 - Lotus introduces the Type 907 engine, 2.0 liter, 16 valves, the first 4 valve production engine
- Europa is updated using the 1558cc Lotus Twin Cam engine.

1972 - Emerson Fittipaldi is World Champion driving a Lotus 72.

1973 - Emerson Fittipaldi and Ronnie Peterson dominate Formula One and win the Championship for Lotus.

1974 - Lotus revives the name Elite for its newly-introduced four passenger model. The Elite is powered by the 2 liter, 160 HP, 907 engine. Exceeded all foreseeable European and U.S. safety and emission regulations.

1975 - Lotus Elite wins the Don Safety Trophy from the U.K. Minister of Transport for design and exceeding all safety and emission regulations.
- Worldwide introduction of Esprit S1 and Eclat, powered by the Lotus Type 907 engine.

1976 - The first ever ground effects car, the Lotus 78, is built and secretly tested.

1977 - Lotus Esprit featured in James Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me".

1978 - Introduction of Lotus Esprit S2.
- Lotus agrees to provide design and development expertise for DeLorean DMC-12.
- Lotus wins the World Championship with Mario Andretti driving the Lotus 79.

1979 - Lotus Sunbeam Talbot wins World Rallye Championship with 2.2 liter version of the Lotus 907 engine.

1980 - Esprit, Eclat and Elite are uprated with 2.2 liter engine and chassis guaranteed for 5 years.
- Turbo Esprit introduced to the U.K. market with 210 BHP and revised suspension.
- Lotus Engineering and Technology unit announced.

1981 - Esprit S3 introduced for U.K. market. Uses chassis of the Turbo Esprit.
- Turbo Esprit featured in James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only".
- Lotus cars are not imported to U.S. during 1981 -1982.

1982 - Excel 2+2 is introduced. First car built by Lotus to use the VARI process.
- Colin Chapman, founder and chairman, dies at age of 54 on December 16, 1982.

1983 - Importation of Lotus cars resumes to U.S. market. Introduction of Turbo Esprit to U.S.
- Active Suspension System announced and demonstrated to the press.

1984 - Completion of 30,000th Lotus road car produced by Hethel, Norfolk factory; 1966-1984.

1985 - Group Lotus Car Companies renamed Group Lotus plc.
- Formula One wins with drivers Elio de Angelis and Aryton Senna.

1986 - General Motors acquires a complete shareholding in Lotus plc.
- Project M100 begins, for what becomes the new Elan.

1987 - Group Lotus forms U.S. distribution and marketing operation; Lotus Cars USA.

1988 - Heavily revised Esprit Turbo with new body and interior is introduced. Body construction stronger and formed with VARI process.

1989 - Esprit Turbo receives electronic Multi-port Fuel Injection (MPFI), distributorless ignition and stronger gearbox with improved gear ratios. - Esprit Turbo SE is introduced with 280 BHP chargecooled engine.

1990 - Lotus Cars USA campaigns team of Esprit Turbo SE's in SCCA World Challenge Cup. 4 wins (out of 8 races); two 1-2 wins; 6 pole positions.
- Lotus Elan is introduced to U.K. market. Front drive roadster with 1588cc 4 valve twin cam engine. Available in standard, normally aspirated and SE, turbocharged, forms.

1991 - Introduction of the new Lotus Elan to the U.S. market, turbocharged model only.

1992 - Chris Boardman take Olympic 4000m Gold Medal on epoch-making "Lotus Sport" carbon-composite monocoque bicycle. - Boardman and the Lotus "superbike" smash World 5km pursuit record by over 8 seconds. Boardman's unofficial Olympic 4km record is ratified also
- Doc Bundy, driving the Lotus Sport X180R, takes the Driver's title in USA national sports car series (Bridgestone Potenza Supercar). Tom Langeberg wins Dutch Production Car Series in Lotus Esprit - Launch at NEC of Esprit Sport 300: -- the highest performance Lotus to date. Bases on the X180R, the Sport 300 blends racetrack performance with road manners in a dramatic variant of the classic Lotus Esprit shape.

1993 - Lotus Esprit S4 introduced -- new elegant bodyshell encloses dynamic improvements such as power steering (standard).
- Lotus Esprit Sport 300 goes into production - Two Lotus Esprit Sport 300s race at Le Mans -- first works-supported entry for over 30 years.
- New Lotus Sport 110 road bike debuts on the Tour de France with Team ONCE - Bugatti buys Group Lotus from General Motors; Romano Artioli of Bugatti Industries named Chairman, Group Lotus Limited (Millbrook Proving Grounds retained by GM.)

1994 - Elan S2 shown at Geneva Show. Featuring new 16" wheel/tire package and other improvements, car will enter production in June for limited run of 800 units only.
- Chris Boardman is re-united with a Lotus bicycle (the new Lotus Sport 110) for the first time since the 1992 Olympics, and wins 30km stage of Tour de Suisse.
- Boardman sets new record average speedš on the Prologue for the Tour de France, riding the Lotus Sport 110. He keeps the "yellow jersey" as Tour leader for two further days.
- Lotus Esprit Sport 300 driven by Thorkild Thyrring wins the British National GT series.
- Chris Boardman wins World Championship in Sicily, in 4km Pursuit and 30km Road Race -- both on Lotus Sport 110, proving its competitiveness and versatility.
- Esprit S4s announced at Birmingham Motor Show -- 300 hp peak power in S4-based body, with new wheels, Michelin tires, and revised suspension settings to suit increased performance.

1995 - Sad day for motorsports enthusiasts as Team Lotus (not part of Group Lotus since 1986, except in name and spirit) lays off all of its staff and finally joins forces with Pacific Racing. A sad end to an illustrious and unforgettable period of motorsport which saw Team Lotus win the Formula One World Championship seven times, the Indianapolis 500 once, and many other formula victories including class wins at Le Mans. Its success was a tribute to one man -- Colin Chapman.
- Lotus celebrates the completion of the 50,000th car since the birth of the marque in 1948. The car, a Lotus Elan S2, is donated to a major national charity with the help of former Lotus driver Britt Ekland. With the help of The Sun newspaper, over £65,000 is raised by the car.
- Lotus GT car, driven by Alessandro Zanardi and Alex Portman, stuns spectators at Donington, leading the GT2 class by over a lap and running up to third overall. Only a transmission fault five minutes before the end of the four hour race prevents the team from taking a fairy-tale result.
- Lotus Esprit sales worldwide buck static market, recording an 11% increase in the first six months against previous year.
- Lotus is the featured marque at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races in Califormaia,. Hazel Chapman attends as guest of honor. Unique collection of Lotus F1, Indy, sports and road cars on display; Lotus Enthusiasts attend from around the world.
- Lotus Elise is unveiled at Frankfurt Motor Show. Immediately billed as "star of the show", Elise is superlight at 1488 lbs with advanced chassis of epoxy-bonded aluminum extrusion -- a worlds' first. Other "firsts" include extruded aluminum suspension uprights and aluminum metal matrix brake discs. Promising breathtaking performance(--60 in 5.9 seconds) at a price "under £20,000" with stunning looks, Elise earns praise from onlookers, and many advance orders are taken. First deliveries are expected mid-1996

1996 - At the Geneva Auto Show Lotus introduces the Espirt V8, powered by a purpose-built Lotus V8 engine. The 3.5 liter, twin-turbocharged unit produces 350 hp at 6500 rpm and 295 lb ft of torque at 4250 rpm. The engine is impressively small, fitting comfortably inside a cube 28" high, 28" wide and 24" long with all ancillaries in place. Of modular design, the engine can support a 4-liter naturally aspirated version s well as a family of V6 and four-cylinder engines.
- All new Lotus Espirt GT1 car (type number 114) is unveiled at the Paul Ricard circuit for the first race of the 1996 GT series. The new racer features the Lotus V8 engine, a new six-speed racing transmission, F1-sytel aerodynamics, carbon brakes, and is down to the 900kg minimum weight limit. After showing early promise, the car retires due to aš fractured exhaust. - The Lotus GT Team finishes a credible second at the Silverstone round of the BPR Global Endurance series.
- On October 31 the Malaysian multinational DRB HICOM announces that is has taken a majority shareholding in the Lotus Group of Companies. Tan Sri Yahaya Ahmad, Chairman of HICOM-PROTON Group names Modamed Zainal as managing Director of Group Lotus.
- The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, visits Lotus and lays the foundation stone for a new £7 million "body-in-white" prototype development and engineering center.
- At the Bologna Motor Show, Lotus unveils the Elise Trophy car, a race-prepared Elise for a one-make racing series stages in Italy in March, 1997.

1997 - Lotus debuts its Espirt V8 PPG Pace Car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The car includes O.Z. Racing. wheels, Euro headlamps and a unique PPG paint containing special translucent particles held in suspension, allowing the paint to change color from black to gold as light conditions vary.
- Zytek's Electonic Lotus Elise powered by two Zytek electric motors, is the star of the 1997 SAE International Congress & Exposition in Detroit, reaffirming the fundamental correctness of the Elise's lightweight construction method and proving that EB's don't have to be boring.
- DRB HICOM Chairman Tan Sri Yahaya Ahmad and his wife are killed in a helicopter crash near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
- The Lotus Esprit V8 earns an Exceptional Merit Award in teh Robb Report Exotic Car of the Year balloting. - Lotus Cars USA dedicates a new 31,000 square-foot headquarters building at 500 Marathon Parkway in Lawrenceville, GA.
- The 1000th Lotus Elise (a left-hand drive model with red leather upholstery and Titanium paint) rolls off the assembly line at Hethel, UK. Elise production now stands at 11 per day.
- Group Lotus announces that appointment of Chris Knight, former senior executive with Royal Dutch Shell, as CEO and Paul Layzell as Director -- Cars, Sales & Marketing, Mohamed Zainal continues as DRB HICOM Chairman's representative.
- The Lotus Sport Elise is unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Conceived for road use, but designed as a race car, the Sport Elise is powered by a 1.8-liter Rover K Series engine with 190 hp. Ultra lightweight competition accessories, including specially manufactured front and rear clamshells, reduce its overall weight to just 1477 pounds.
-1998 Lotus Esprit V8 debuts at the London Motorshow with a revised interior, improved shift mechanism, twin-plate clutch and new ABS system. A GT version of the V8 also debuts.
- Group Lotus terminates its agreement with GT1 Racing Ltd. GT1 ran the Type 115, and Elise- based GT-1 race car, in the FIA GT Championship. Plagued by a sanctioning body ruling which made the Lotus V8 turbo engine uncompetitive, the GT1 team switched to a 6.0-liter normally aspirated V8 as the 1997 season began, but never recovered.

1998 - The 1998 Esprit V8 is unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show. A restyled interior, new climate control unit, twin-plate clutch with revised hydraulic actuation, modified gearbox and selector mechanism, refined ABS system, new windshield wiper design, and upgraded alarm round out the changes.
- Romano Artioli, part-owner of Lotus and a former chairman of the company, steps down as Lotus Cars Limited's Director of Special Projects to pursue other interests.
- Malaysian automaker Proton purchases the 16.25 percent interest in Lotus held by the estate of former Proton CEO Tan Sri Yahaya Ahmad. This gives Proton an 80-percent stake in the company.
- A big month for Lotus. On September 12, the factory holds an invitation only celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first Lotus car. Almost 2,000 Lotus cars and 10,000 Lotus car owners, dealers, clubs and enthusiasts make their way to Lotus headquarters to participate in the 50th Anniversary celebrations at Hethel. A 1/2 ton birthday cake measuring five feet by six feet is cut by Lotus CEO Chris Knight and Hazel Chapman, widow of the company founder Colin Chapman to mark the occasion.
- September also sees the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) president Ronald K. Leonard open Lotus' new Engine Test Facility in Hethel. It adds 19 new test cells, bringing the total number on the Lotus campus to 42.
- The Birmingham Motor Show is the setting for the launch of two new Lotus vehicles. First up is the Elise 340R an aggressive lightweight concept with production possibilities. It features minimal bodywork, cycle fenders over its otherwise open wheels, and does away with both the roof and doors. The Esprit Sport 350 heads to production with a lightened bodyshell, a carbon fiber rear wing and side fins developed for the Type 115 GT-1 race car, and magnesium O.Z. wheels. It is painted in a distinctive aluminum color with blue highlights and features blue cam covers on its 3.5 Liter Lotus V8 engine.

 

 

 

home email news esprit models road tests buying an esprit running an esprit esprit owners maintenance pictures for sale history Lotus models links