's Great British Cars – Lotus Elise

Fri 1st Mar 2019

Great Britain, great cars. The UK motor industry is respected the world over, and though many of the vehicles are actually owned by foreign manufacturers, there can be no doubting of the fantastic heritage of the British motor.

To celebrate Britain’s famous history is launching a series looking back on some of the most famous vehicles the UK has ever seen.

Lotus Elise
Stuck together with glue. It doesn’t sound like the greatest technical evolution for a motor engineering company which was keen to demonstrate its innovative side to prospective partners.

But the fact is, glueing rather than welding a car together had so many advantages and with the Elise, Lotus had created a car that was affordable, amazingly light and nimble and with its high-tech bonding techniques would revolutionise the engineering industry.

Lotus may be a historic name in motor sport, and indeed have produced some of the most iconic marques in road cars. But the hard truth is that Colin Chapman’s company were essentially a engineering team, who more often than not needed big brand partners to bring their ideas to life.

So in the early 1990s the Elise was conceived, mainly to showcase Lotus’ engineering skills. The ethos of Lotus has always followed Chapman’s brief of ‘adding lightness’ and with that ultra-light aluminium frame held together with those rivets and glue, the Elise bewitched a generation of motorists.

As a pure demonstration of what Lotus’ engineering team were capable of, the Elise achieved it all, small and fast, within the budget of those who didn’t want to shell out on a supercar. The first generation was built at their UK base in Hethel and following launch in 1996, would enjoy five solid years at the top of its game.

As well as inspiring a generation of identikit copycats, the Elise put Lotus on a firmer footing, and though the Elise can still be bought today, with a Series 2 and 3 following its original, it will always be the Series 1 which will be remembered for its groundbreaking style and innovation.

Years of manufacture: 1996-2001 
Price when new: £19,950
Price now: £7,000-£30,000
Engine: 1,796cc 4cyl petrol, 118bhp
Top speed: 124mph