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MARKET TRENDS – LIGHTWEIGHT LOTUSES

MARKET TRENDS – LIGHTWEIGHT LOTUSES

Posted by Glenn Rowswell on 27th December 2017

Steady growth for Lotus’s purest icons. You’re not going to lose money – but neither are they going to double in value overnight. Grab yourself an early Elise while you still can!

Stripped out sports cars have been a Lotus constant since the foundation of the firm in 1952.

Since then, its consultation work and product planning – rumours persist of a road-biased Lotus ‘soft roader’ – have taken it beyond the simple charms of the Seven and its ilk.

Having survived several buyouts and long periods of financial uncertainty, Lotus’s bacon was saved in 1996 by going back to basics; the Elise, while some way removed from the Seven in terms of complexity, did without everything but the essentials.

Lotus buying guide

Launched in 1952, the Seven represented a rite of passage for Lotus; it moved up from incumbent race car and special builder to a fully-fledged manufacturer. Bitsa though the Seven was, it set a precedent for finely tuned drivers cars which transcended the sum of their mundane parts.

Immortalised in The Prisoner, and exported all over the world in kit and fully completed form, it lives on to this day as a Caterham, with prices (and power outputs) to suit most budgets.

Asking price aggregator Patina tracked 545 Sevens since September 2014; expect to pay in the region of £31,900 for a Lotus original, with low-volume Cosworth variants fetching more and the unfairly vilified Series 4 (S4) iterations fetching less than this benchmark.

Understood from some quarters to be the production successor to the Seven (and the clubman racer’s market it sold into heavily), the Europa’s brief was to bring mid-engined motoring to the mass-market. Once again, skilful appropriation of parts kept prices relatively low: Renault’s engine and transaxle unit from the 16 was reversed for the Europa’s purposes, and while far from being a fire-breather, the end result got the best from the running gear thanks to a slippery shell and a low kerb weight.

Lotus buying guide

Rear buttresses mark out the early S1 and S2 Europas; with fewer than 300 made, the former remain among the most sought-after of road-going Europas, if not as fast as the later Twin Cam and Special models which reverted to Ford running gear in a similar specification to that of the contemporary Elan. Asking prices for Europas are on the up, according to Patina’s data: from a survey of 293 cars vendors have sought an 18.5 per cent year on year increase in value – with £17,850 being the mean sticker price.

The car which got Lotus back on the straight narrow owed something to the Europa in terms of its front end styling: designer Julian Thompson looked to Lotus’s earlier mid-engined car for inspiration. Basic though the 1996 Elise may have been, crude it most certainly wasn’t – bonded aluminium extrusions took care of the chassis, which dispensed of traditional Lotus thinking (Y-frame ‘spine’ with outriggers) in favour of Formula 1-style ‘tub’. Increasingly faster and more deranged variants of the Elise Series (S1) came and went in its career; prices for the original, 118bhp car are slowly rising.

Patina posted a 7.9 per cent year on year increase in asking prices for Elise S1s, £17,850 is the mean needed to put one in your garage, shed or driveway.

Lotus buying guide

Buoyed by the S1’s success, the S2 brought a slew of chassis improvements, safer handling and a switch to Toyota for the running gear. General Motors, once Lotus’s custodian, took interest in the S2’s development, ponying up some money for an Elise-derived car, the VX220, to give Vauxhall and Opel a halo car in their showrooms.

Unlike the S1, prices of S2s are tailing off slightly as far as Patina’s date is concerned. More common than its predecessor, the asking prices of 2147 S2s were recorded by the aggregator since September 2014; posting a 5.4 per cent year on year loss, £17,140 is, on average, what you’ll need to give an Elise S2 a home.