As a Lotus owner I have come to love the brand, and this year they celebrated their 70th anniversary with a huge event at the Lotus factory in Hethel, near Norwich. After reading about it on The Lotus Forums, I quickly registered my interest to this owner invite-only affair. A chance to see where my Exige V6 was brought to life was one not to miss.
There are few vehicle manufacturers in the UK that have as long and as varied a history as Lotus. They are currently enjoying plaudits from the magazines for turning out great cars, and more importantly keeping the books in the black. With Volvo owner Geely now at the helm and with the prospect of serious investment, Lotus’ good fortune is set to continue.
Anyway, I digress. This event was held at the end of September this year on a cool but sunny day, with a short hop over to Stansted and about an hour’s drive to the famed Hethel factory. We had met up with other NI Lotus fans, who are too few and far between and before long we had bonded over mutual love of fibreglass sports cars.
On arrival we were met by the many owners clubs that had an outstanding variety of old and new Lotus. It’s easy to forget that Lotus has had it’s hand in performance engineering of mainstream cars for decades. Lotus Sunbeam, Lotus Cortina, Lotus Carlton. They were all there. In fact the turnout of Lotus Carltons put me in mind of the Vauxhall shows at billing, and even today the late 80s bruisers look formidable.
Of course Lotus’ own back catalogue is nothing to be sniffed at. This mk1 Esprit in white has to be the most famous thanks to Bond and the above example looked striking.
Also on display was some of the superb Lotus Formula 1 collection including the iconic Camel and JP Special cars that dominated Grand Prix events in the 70s. When you see so many special pieces of automotive history in once place it would endear anyone to this niche brand.
The factory tour is one of the things I think anyone going to Lotus looks forward to the most. Hand built, fibreglass on aluminium chassis sports cars sat at various stages of completion along the manual but very functional production line. I was in engineering heaven – production schedules, kanban boards et al.
We were free to move around many areas of the assembly line that included the latest Exige V6, Evora 400s and Elises from the bare chassis to the quality control section at the end. There is no doubt that the standard, fit and finish of today’s Lotuses are considerably improved – and they have to be. The top of the range Evora 430 is over £100k, but boy do they look it.
This Evora cutaway was fascinating – a hybrid electric drivetrain. Of course Lotus did have a part to play in the original Tesla roadster so it is no surprise that they see electric power plants as a natural step. They also had a range extender engine on a display stand, another string to the bow. No doubt big plans are afoot under Geely.
The factory floor was just yards from the main event, the legendary Lotus test circuit.
The Lotus test drivers had some of their latest cars out for some full throttle action and it was great to see them being used in anger in their natural habitat.
Nearly every model ever built by the Nofolk based manufacturer made it out onto the circuit, then joined by the owners cars in a world record attempt to have the most Lotus cars on a track at one time. It was quite a sight to behold.
Apparently over 8,000 people made the event and so there was a big show-village vibe, with plenty of foreign registrations in the owners area (including some from NI!)
It was all over too quickly. A lifetime of memories were made on our trip to Hethel, from meeting the owners and their cars, to the factory and circuit. I can’t wait to return… the good news is that Lotus plan to hold this event again soon!
Thanks to Simon Duckett at Ballyrobert Lotus for arranging tickets to the event.