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  Lotus Sport Elise

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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:2000
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:February 16, 2006
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Click here to download printer friendly versionOf the many legendary cars produced by Lotus, few were such an immediate hit with both the public and the press as the Elise. Launched at the end of 1995, the Elise replaced the front engined Elan. It was the first new car released after Italian entrepeneur Roman Artioli had purchased the company from General Motors. He was also responsible for Bugatti's brief return in the early 1990s.

Every aspect of the Elise's design just screamed Lotus; innovative, lightweight and performance oriented. The designers chose to get the best performance out of the new car by focussing completely on the chassis and handling characteristics. Although the Elise is renowned for its performance, the initial model only featured a 118 bhp powerplant. The car's extremely low weight more than made of its seemingly underpowered engine.

Up until the Elise, a steel backbone type chassis was used for every Lotus road car from the 1960s. For the Elise a completely new and innovative bonded aluminium spaceframe was designed. It was developed together with Hydro Aluminium Automotive Structure and the first affordable aluminium spaceframe. The Rover K-series engine was mounted in a steel subframe for extra rigidity.

Not only the car's exceptional performance, but also the good looks made the Elise a favourite of many enthusiasts. It perfectly combines functionality with beauty. Unlike the contemporary Esprit, the Elise featured little to no spoilers or wings, just two small fins on the front bumper and a Kamm-tail. To keep the weight down, all body panels were constructed of composite materials. The only weather protection available for the open Elise was a tonneau cover.

In the years after the Elise's conception, various special editions were constructed. The 111s and Sport 160 offered performance increasements and the Sport 190 was designed as a track-car only. To celebrate Lotus' racing successes a number commemorative models were offered in the livery of legendary racing cars, like the red/gold/white Type 49 and black/gold Type 79. Two more extreme models, the 340R and Exige were very closely related to the Elise.

Production of the Series 1 Elise ended in 2000, when it was replaced by the revised Series 2 Elise. The Elise was an instant classic and received the praise of journalists the world around for its razorsharp handling and good looks.

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