Want to Buy the Tooling for the Lotus Elise? Bring a FactorySome assembly (and a hefty sum) required. Subject to approval by Lotus Cars.See all 14 photosAlex KiersteinAuthorManufacturerPhotographerMay 10, 2021
Things are changing at Lotus. The brand’s only U.S. offering, the long-running Evora, is set to expire as the Emira gears up to roughly fill the shoes of all extant internal-combustion Lotuses. We lost the Elise and Exige sports cars a while ago, and a direct successor never appeared. Abroad, the Elise/Exige continued on, but a quarter century of production spanning two generations (or three Series, if you will) will all end at the close of the 2021 model year. Lotus, always hustling a bit to keep the lights on, has a bright idea: Why not sell the tooling for the Elise rather than let it simply wink out of existence altogether?
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At least that’s what Lotus Managing Director Matt Windle hinted to Automotive News Europe recently. Couched in appropriately coy terms, Windle essentially said that if the price is right, and the buyer is right, the tooling to build the lightweight, mid-engined vehicles could be sold. Don’t read this as a confirmation that any buyers are indeed sniffing around Lotus hoping to make a deal, but consider it a subtle hint that interested parties perhaps should.
While our minds jumped right to the latest Lotus partnership announcement for a half second—the supply of «technology» by Lotus to the upstart Radford Motors—which will build a car that is inspired by the classic Type 62 racer. But Radford, historically, was a coachbuilder, upgrading other automaker’s offerings, and Radford hopes to produce a limited run of bespoke vehicles. That makes Radford a highly unlikely buyer for a factory’s worth of tooling.
Caterham also springs to mind as the company keeping the legend of Lotus’ most famous vehicle, the Seven, alive. This, too, occurred to ANE, given Windle’s previous position at Caterham. Windle didn’t say no, but didn’t offer much in response. It remains an open question whether Caterham is, or would be, interested in taking over Elise production.
Exotic looking and sweet to drive, the little Elise and Exige were (and are) enthusiast favorites. Their innovative chassis featured a notable (and visible) use of bonded aluminum extrusions, helping even the supercharged later versions come in under a ton. While it isn’t quick by today’s standards, it sure was and is a handler. Perhaps its chassis could be a suitable basis for a little EV sportscar, too. After all, it’s happened before (ahem, Tesla!), so it could happen again.