Lotus Elise (1996-present)
The Elise is probably the most significant car in Lotuses history. It was the car that, should it never have arrived, Lotus might not have existed today.
Less is more, the formula that is etched into Lotuses heritage, is at the heart of the Elise. The back-to-basics, no nonsense ethos marked the return to the company’s core values.
It’s a U-turn from the upmarket aspirations of the Elite that Lotus had been chasing for so long.
What sounds so simple now was actually a very bold move during the ‘90s; rather than struggling on to match the fit and finish quality in the prestige sports car market, it was able to turn the engineering expertise which was at the heart of the operation into a unique product that created its own niche. It paid, as well, as the Elise went on to become the highest selling Lotus of all time; it became a performance benchmark for manufactures even to this day.
Buying one today will require a substantial amount of cash. Its popularity has never dipped, and as a result, a Mk1 Elise will set you back anything from £9000 to £18,000, depending on condition and mileage. The good news for owners is that the market shows no sign of let up, so values should remain for years to come.
Lotus Elan (1962-1975)
If the Elise was the car that returned to Lotus roots, the Elan was the car that helped cement that ethos.
When it arrived in 1962, the Elan was a game changer for the sports car market. It was capable of facing up to much more expensive cars because of Colin Chapman’s innovative forward thinking of lightness.
The Elan represented Lotuses attempt to establish itself as proper car maker. It sat between the ultimate Seven, and the Elite, acting as a halfway house. By bringing in various parts from different manufacturers, costs were kept down to focus on the attention to detail and engineering. The engine, for example, came from Ford but tweaked by Lotus, which resulted in a very capable twin-cam motor. It was this level of engineering that ensured Lotus established itself as a credible player in the road car market.
Buying an Elan today requires substantially more money than an Elise; in fact, projects start where immaculate Elises sit. If you fancy a restoration, you should budget around the £16,000 mark. Those in better condition, running with an MoT start at around £23,000, with the low mileage examples and more desirable Sprints climbing to over £40,000. Price aggregator, The Market, suggests that prices for the Elan have been stable for at least the last four years, showing no signs of changing.
Lotus Esprit Turbo (1981-1987)
The car that finally coupled supercar looks with supercar performance. The Esprit received a much-needed state-of-the-art Garrett T3 turbocharger to reign in to a top speed of over 150mph and bring the 0-60mph sprint to less than six seconds. This is thanks to a boost in power of 50bhp, though the entire engine was reengineered to cope with the added the stress.
The car initially arrived as an Essex special, with 104 being built with dry sumps. The success of these limited edition models enabled Lotus to drop the Essex name in 1981, fit a cheaper stereo, a conventional livery, optional leather seats and air conditioning. This brought the price down but in turn increased sales. The final iteration was a High Compression (HC) example, which, by name, introduced a high compression engine coupled with higher boost brought with it an increased 5bhp but more importantly, 20lb ft. of torque.
Lotus also focussed on replacing some of the Triumph parts in favour of Toyota, this helped with the handling and of course replacement parts. A new geometry set up at the rear kept things planted.
Price aggregator, The Market, has tracked Turbo Esprit sales for the last four years and suggests quite a bit of movement in terms of price. On the whole, prices have risen by roughly £10,000 on average to around £30,000, with some selling for more than £40,000. That being said, prices for high mileage examples hover around the £15,000, with top examples securing £30,000 plus.