Many memorable things happened in 1990. Nelson Mandela walked free from prison; Berlin took a wrecking ball to its infamous wall; and meanwhile, some chaps in France and Britain began burrowing a tunnel under the sea.
As a young 15-year old at the time, I was aware of all these momentous things. Yet I was preoccupied with other, more pressing matters, such as trying to fathom out why I needed hair on parts of my body other than my head; my burning, yet unrequited love for Kylie Minogue; and the promise of a truly momentous car: the Vauxhall Lotus Carlton.
I’ve since got over the hair thing, Kylie is still an ever-present, yet unfulfilled fascination, and the Lotus Carlton? It’s remained a hero car, or more accurately, an automotive deity ever since.
Finally, after 27 years, the chance came my way to drive one, and even though the Lotus Carlton’s been written about many times before, I’d like to share with you my thoughts on meeting my hero. First, though, allow me to explain to those who perhaps don’t know, and remind those that do, why it is such a momentous car.
For me, it all started with a pre-launch headline in the Daily Mail, suggesting the Lotus Carlton shouldn't be allowed, and a subsequent campaign to have it banned - ah, you've gotta love'em. Still, it wasn't only the Mail chattering; it seemed the Association of Chief Police Officers agreed, arguing that it was ‘an outrageous invitation to speed.’
Far from invoking derision in my part-formed, mid-teen mind, this kind of talk created curiosity, which morphed into unbridled wonder. It became legendary when the Lotus Carlton arrived with Vauxhall having duly ignored all the controversy and left the top speed unchecked at nearly 180mph.
I dribbled over the Autocar road test, where none other than Richard Noble tried to achieve this. Clearly then, it was so fast it needed a land speed record holder to drive it, but he only managed 163.6mph at Bruntingthorpe before running out of road. The rest of the performance figures were, well, astonishing.
Remember, this is not like today, when you can take your pick from an Audi RS6, a Mercedes-AMG E 63 or a BMW M5, all of which are equally stupefying. A saloon with 377bhp and 419lf ft of torque was genuinely mind-boggling back then, and the Lotus’s closest spiritual rival was an E34 M5. Yet with merely 315bhp, it was instantly relegated to the Championship.