The Exige and Evora have been killed off and the Emira has yet to go on sale. I expect you wouldn’t have trouble securing a slot for an Evija, but that comes with a snag in the form of a bill for two million quid.
So while we wait for the brave new world of Lotus to unfurl, we thought it might be fun to revisit some cars from the past that were technically not Lotus (don’t let the firm hear you use Lotuses or worse Loti as a plural) but which simply wouldn’t exist without a considerable amount of help from the heroes of Hethel.
So we start with what, at least in Europe, is the rarest of all. In the UK, there’s just one – and you’re looking at it – or possibly two at most. It’s the Kia Elan. Remember that? My recollection was that once production of the M100 Elan had stopped in 1995, Kia asked Lotus to build a few more and badge them Kias for sale in South Korea. And not for the first time, how I recall things happening and how they actually happened are at significant variance.
What actually happened was that Kia literally bought not only the rights to the car but all the tooling, too. The only snag was that General Motors (which owned Lotus at the time) wouldn’t let Kia use any of its parts – a considerable inconvenience when you consider that one of those parts was an engine from GM-owned Isuzu.
Undeterred, Kia pressed on, replacing 162bhp worth of turbo 1.6-litre engine for a 151bhp atmo 1.8-litre unit of its own. It changed the rear lights and replaced the orange GM dials with some white-on-black ones. It also raised the revolutionary suspension, mounted on ‘rafts’ to counteract torque steer, apparently to cope with poor road surfaces in the domestic market.
Kia did briefly consider selling its new roadster in Europe, even though GM wouldn’t have allowed the Elan name to be used, but the Kia Sports – as it would have been known – never materialised over here.