The Lotus Elise has easily become one of the most iconic British sports cars of the modern age. The car that literally saved Lotus from the brink of bankruptcy celebrates a quarter century of defining vehicle dynamics and handling.
The Lotus Elise and I have a detailed history. In the mid-90s my mother worked at Lotus’ Hethel HQ here in Norfolk. She also dated one of the car designers there so I spent a lot of time at the factory and socialising with people like Julian Thomson (Designer of the original Elise) and Russell Carr (current head of design at Lotus). Despite being just 10 years old when the Elise was launched, I was already a Lotus fanatic. When I first saw that original green show car at Hethel, I knew I had to have one. It took me another 20 years before I fulfilled that promise to myself.
To date I’ve owned 3 Elises (all Series 2) and probably driven in excess of 20 versions of the breed. Despite all that exposure, I never seem to tire of the way an Elise goes down the road. It redefined vehicle dynamics in 1995 and despite very few changes to the core recipe, it still steers better than pretty much any car on sale today. In fact it steers better than any car Lotus makes today despite it being the baby of the range.
Today is the 25th anniversary of the reveal of that green show car that captivated me as a child. Named after, then Chairman, Romano Artioli’s granddaughter Elisa after a last minute switch from the One-Eleven moniker (The Elise was Lotus’ 111th model/type at that time). It was revealed to universal acclaim. Acclaim that has for the most part remained consistent with every iteration of the diminutive Lotus.
The Lotus Elise is one of those cars that rarely works but their singular focus on lightweight design and superior chassis dynamics has meant that Lotus is still going strong today. It is one of those cars that defines a niche and for me deserves to be considered amongst icons like the Mini, Beetle, 911 and E-Type.
So happy birthday to the the Elise. Here’s to the next 25 years!