A fondness for a particular marque or model can come from many sources but, for the most part, it dates from when we were growing up as impressionable young enthusiasts. That’s certainly where my Lotus fixation stems from.
My Dad used to receive all sorts of mailshots from various car companies who obviously thought he’d be interested in their latest models. They were usually from Honda, Nissan and the like, and generally ignored, but then one from Lotus dropped through the letterbox.
The deal was that Dad and, crucially for me, a guest could visit our nearest Lotus showroom, try one of the cars there, then pop up to Hethel for a factory tour and an afternoon spent playing with more cars on the company’s test track.
When we visited the local dealer, Dad insisted that the salesman drive me up and down the road rather than try the car himself. So it was that I found myself dropping into an Esprit Turbo for a high-speed run on a nearby dual carriageway.
The Hethel visit came a few days later, and involved a cross-country run from Bristol. No matter: we got a full, guided tour of the factory – where the then-new M100 Elan was being put together – before being taken out to the test track.
Lotus sensibly decided against putting a 12-year old behind the wheel so, instead, I got passenger rides in an Excel, plus naturally aspirated and turbocharged versions of the Esprit. And they weren’t with some red-braced marketing man, either: I was chauffeured at considerable speed by the factory test driver.
Dad was being rather more spirited in his test-drives than the other guests, noting that the Esprit Turbo would hit 120mph at the end of the main straight. Even so, I still remember now that he preferred the naturally aspirated car.
Naturally, a bit of sales pitch followed at the end of the day. Dad wasn’t exactly flush enough to be in the market for a new Lotus, but if there’s an ageing PR bod somewhere who’s thinking what a waste of time those factory visits used to be, rest assured that you were making this wide-eyed young lad a Lotus fan for life!
The closest I’ve come to owning one was when an old friend of Dad’s was selling his Elan +2. It was described as being ready to use and recently restored, although lacking an MoT, which had recently lapsed.
The latter might have been true, but it definitely wasn’t ready to use. The seller suggested a deal at mate’s rates on the condition that we got it MoT’d.
We then spent two nights getting it running, including having to change the clutch master cylinder. The drive home – so I could get it to a classic-friendly testing station – was about 20 miles, and I planned to make the journey one weekday evening.
A mile down the road, the Lotus fouled its plugs. I fitted some replacements, and for three glorious miles it ran well. Then it dropped on to three cylinders and started running hot.
Another stop to remove the thermostat and I was underway again. Not far down the road, I had to brake suddenly and the passenger door flew open. With a sizeable transmission tunnel to negotiate, leaning over from the driver’s seat to shut it again wasn’t a graceful operation.
I did eventually get it home ready to attempt a ticket, but by that point I’d already decided it wasn’t quite ‘as advertised’ and would no doubt reduce me to tears within days.
It was returned to its owner with a ‘thanks but no thanks’, and I’ve been sadly watching +2 values rise ever since.