LOTUS – Everything You Need to Know | Up To Speed

LOTUS – Everything You Need to Know | Up To Speed


(classical music) (engine revving) (classical music) (engine revving) (classical music) (engine revving) – It’s the British car company that changed F1 racing forever. It shares its name with a beautiful flower and its founder faked
his own death, allegedly. You guys have been asking for this one since we started this show. Ladies and gents, this is everything you need to know to get
up to speed on Lotus. (playful music) Okay guys, Lotus is a
massive story turns out so bare with me because
I’m going to do my best. Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman was born on the outskirts of
London, England in 1929. His dad ran a hotel and the weather was always cloudy and damp. So what was a pasty, British
boy with too many names to do? Luckily he’d studied
structural engineering and spent time in the
Royal Air Force Reserves while in college at the
University of London. Turns out aeronautical
engineering experience comes in pretty handy for making fast, fun, four-wheeled stuff. It’s probably what led to his famous philosophy about pretty much everything. Simplify then add lightness. Colin Chapman’s first
project was modifying a 20-year-old Austin 7 for
local trials racing in 1948. Trials were basically long endurance races over a variety of roads and terrain. The Austin had 15
screamin’ shetland ponies and Colin made enough money with it to build out a Mark II version which began the tradition of
numbering all of his cars. There have been way more
than 100 Lotus models, so there’s only time to
hit a few of the bangers. But, if you like a lot more
detail and listen to podcasts, Donut has a new one called Past Gas that covers some of the rad
automotive history in depth. Each episode is over an hour
long and no one is there. It’s literally my favorite thing to do. Check it out wherever
you get your podcasts. Also, (burps) After trials races, Colin tried his hand at 750cc formula racing. Working nights in his garage after his day job at British Aluminum, Chapman took a third Austin 7 and modified everything the rules didn’t forbid. He boxed the frame rails. Added tubular cross members for stiffness. Beefed up the engine and
replaced the stock tub with a lighter, more
aerodynamic aluminum body. He called this the Lotus Mark III. The first of his creations to sport the name of a revered flower. If you want to know why
he picked the name Lotus, you’re gonna have to take your DeLorean up to 88 mph and go
back in time and ask him because the dude never
officially told anybody. But sit tight, the DeLorean is
going to come up again later. That’s called foreshadowing. (laughing) It was soon clear that the Lotus was the fastest 750
formula car in the country. And other races wanted in on it. So in 1952, Colin Chapman
and his friend Colin Dare, two Colins don’t make a right, officially turned his race
car hobby into a business. The Lotus Engineering Company. They set up a factory in the empty stables behind the hotel that
Chapman’s dear old dad managed and got to work moving
horsepower back into the build. You get it? It was a stable and now they do car stuff. Horsepower. (horse neighing) Success came quickly with the new Mark IV model and within two years, team Lotus was split off
from the engineering company to be dedicated entirely to racing. In 1957, Lotus launched the Mark VII. An open air, street legal track car. Due to a loophole in the law, people could buy it as a kit, pay for it on two separate invoices, and avoid paying sales tax. Freaking genius. One of the purest and simplest
sports cars ever made. It was Lotus’ first big seller and came to be known simply as the Seven. Low to the ground and without doors, some said it was like driving
a motorcycle with four wheels and since they could be street registered, you could race them on Sunday then drive them to work on Monday. They’re very practical. Lotus sourced engines from
a variety of manufacturers so their specs almost
always varied over time. But the general idea was
that even a small motor could make a 1,200 horse power… Was that even a small motor could make a 1,200 pound car go fast and small motors were easy to get. The overall concept was
so ridiculously good that Caterham took over the
rights to build it in 1973. And they still make
basically the same car today. Over sixty years later. (engine revving) But Lotus was just starting to bloom. Flush with cash from sales, the Seven Lotus developed the Elite. Their first car with a roof. Kind of a nice feature if you
live in the rainy, rainy UK. Taking it a step beyond the Corvette, which had a fiberglass
body on a steel frame, the Elite had a fiberglass monocoque, independent suspension and
a .29 coefficient of drag. That’s low even by today’s standards. And it’s extra impressive because it was designed without a
wind tunnel or computers. Computers didn’t even
freaking exist back then. It was sleek and gorgeous from every angle and powered by a 1.2
liter Coventry Climax. (laughing) Four-cylinder engine that
made it around 95 horsepowers. Lotus has never really been about trying to have more power, baby. It’s always been about
power to ratios, baby. The Elite 1700 pound curb weight, aerodynamic body and good fuel economy helped it win its class six times at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Lotus race team
officially entered Formula One at the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix with a pair of front
engine cars and did okay. Once they switched the mid-engine
monocoque Type 25 in 1960, the Lotus way of looking at things paid off and the wins started coming. By the end of 1963, the company was a force to be reckoned with. Driver Jim Clark won
seven races that season and the first of seven
Constructors’ Championships for Lotus over the next 15 years. Just a couple of years later, they were also the first to win the Indy 500 with a mid-engine car. Back home at the factory, production of the delicate Elite gave way to the Elan. They kept the whole fiberglass body and added a steel backbone
for extra stiffness. A basic platform they’re
still using today. It was the first car Lotus
made only for the street. But with sweet handling,
four wheel disc brakes, a double overhead cam Ford engine and the company’s new
F1 winning reputation, people raced them anyways. So, Lotus eventually built
out Elans for competition and bumped the 1,500
pound car’s horsepower from 100 all the way up
to 160 sportier ponies. Around the same time,
Lotus teamed up with Ford to put the Elan’s hot motor
into one of Ford’s own cars. Lotus took the two door Cortina. It’s a beautiful car. Redesigned the rear suspension and added lightness, lightness,
lightness, lightness. Ford homologated it for a
group two touring car racing and the boxy little 1.6
liter Ford banger sedans beat everything but the Ford
Galaxies with seven liter V8s. (engine revving) Lotus proved again. They could punch above their weight class. The 1966 Europa was Lotus’ first stab at a mid-engine street car. It also looked like it
was designer Ron Hickman’s first stab at designing a
car even though it wasn’t. It’s like he spent the entire class just making the front half beautiful and then the teacher’s like, “All right, pencils down.” And Colin’s like, “Oh, crap.” Colin wanted to branch
out beyond Ford engine so they tuned up a 1.5
liter Renault inline-4 and mounted it longitudinally in the back behind the cockpit. It was as fun to drive as previous Lotuses but with no trunk or rear visibility. It wasn’t all that practical. Meanwhile, (engine revving) the new type 49 F1 car was
running a new Cosworth V8 and kickin’ some serious,
serious tush all over the world. It was the first car to use the engine as a structural part of the chassis. Lotus was also the first to introduce big money sponsorships into
racing by painting their cars with another company’s colors and logos. That is such a huge part of racing today. They’re the first guys to do it. Sadly, this super town to Jim Clark crashed in a Formula Two race and didn’t make it out alive. It was a serious,
serious blow to the team. But Graham Hill carried the Lotus torch and won that world championship that year. Around the same time, Lotus
also developed a gas turbine powered car with all-wheel
drive for Indy racing. And the first all-wheel drive F1 car. I don’t think these guys ever slept. Chapman experimented with
small front and rear wings on the Type 49 but made a
revolutionary breakthrough with overall design and aerodynamics with the next car in 1970. The Type 72 was wedged shaped, had inboard front brakes, side mounted radiators, torsion bar suspension, and larger front and rear wings. The changes were so significant that it ran 12 mile per hour faster than its predecessor, the Type 49. (engine revving) Once the suspension was sorted, driver Jochen Rindt
won four races in a row before dying in a qualifying crash. Racing for Lotus kinda seemed like a death wish at this point but it was just accepted that racing cars were risky business. Emerson Fittipaldi jumped in
to the empty driver’s seat for the rest of the season and held off Ferrari to win
the championship for rent. That same year, the car
started wearing the colors of their soon to be longtime
commercial sponsors, the black and gold John
Player Special Livery, that is now forever tied to Lotus. You still need more proof that Lotus were race car geniuses? They were the first
constructor to win 50 F1 races. They even beat Ferrari to punch who’ve been racing for seven years longer. Your last major F1 success came in 1978 after doin’ a little extra
aeronautical research himself, Colin passed his findings to the race team who went and and shaped the undersides of the new side pods like
upside down airfoils. And holy burnoly principal Batman, the airfoil shaped side
pods sped up the air traveling underneath the
car creating a vacuum. (engine revving) Colin took things a step further by mounting radiators so that
the hot air they expelled flowed over the top of the car and created even more down force. The design was literally based on a World War II fighter plane just with everything flipped upside down. After ironing out a few kinks, the new aerodynamically optimized Type 79s regularly annihilated the competition. They came in first and
second more often than not and Mario Andretti won both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships in one. Around the same time,
the first Lotus Esprit did a slow lot charter to seem. Reaching 60 miles per hour
in eight to 10 seconds. That might sound weird. I know guys. The mid to late ’70s were bad years for speed on four wheels but hey, the Esprit was designed
by Giorgetto Giugiaro. (engine revving) This time Lotus used a mid-mounted two liter inline-4 of their own design that made 140 horsepowers. In typical Lotus style, the whole car only weighed 2,200 pounds so it handled like a champ even though it could’ve used… Where is he? They wanted to compete with Ferrari though so in 1980 they bumped
up interior quality. Gave it a spinny whoosh
engine making 210 horsepowers and proper exotic car price tag. In America, we didn’t get these for three more years because you know, (beep) us, right? Like almost all specialty sport
car companies of the time, Lotus struggled to stay in business. By the ’80s, they were selling
fewer than 400 cars a year. We make more than 400 videos a year. No, we don’t. We probably do. They turned to partnering
with other manufacturers to make extra money and reduce
the prices of their own car. They helped Toyota develop
the Mark II Supra Celica. Yeah, I said Supra. And Toyota gave Lotus engines for their new Excel model. But their more infamous connection was with another U.K. based car maker. – [Announcer] Live the dream today. – As the DeLorean Motor Company struggled to find someone to help them make their new rear engine
stainless steel sports cars, Lotus stepped up and said
that they could do it. If you ever get to see a
naked DMC 12, lucky you. It’s obvious how closely it’s
related to the Lotus Esprit. Now shortly after Lotus
finished the project, the DMCs went into production in Ireland. Founder John Z. DeLorean
was busted in an FBI sting for trafficking cocaine
and his company collapsed. It was soon found that a
lot of tax payers money had disappeared in the process of developing those failed sports cars. If you wanna learn more about that, check out this link. In the mean time, Lotus’
amazing new carbon fiber twin chassis F1 car has
just been banned by the FIA. Street car sales were way down and the entire business was lookin’ bleak. The weight of all that must’ve been really hard on Colin Chapman. And on December 16th, 1982, he died of a sudden heart attack. But the conspiracy theorists and I’m not sayin’ that I’m one of them but know it might be. They wanna believe that
John DeLorean poisoned him or that Colin faked his own
death and fled to Argentina. If he’d been around for DeLorean’s trial, the judge said he would’ve thrown Colin in jail for at least 10 years. Whatever you believe, Colin’s philosophy of simplify then add lightness lived on. The F1 team did pioneering work with active suspensions which admittedly are neither simple or light. They did pretty well with drivers. Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna before those guys went on to greatness. But the Lotus team itself
never reached the heights it had when Chapman was alive. The last Lotus F1 car to win a race was Senna in the active suspension 99T at the 1987 Detroit Grand Prix. There’s not much worth mentioning about the F1 team after that so, you know, we’re not gonna. The production side of
Lotus was also in trouble. They didn’t have any money. The founder of British car
auctions, David Wickins, routed up some investors in 1983 and saved the company
for a few more years. General Motors took control in 1986 then offloaded it in
’93 to Romano Artioli, a rich ass businessman who
also owned Bugatti at the time. He bailed quickly and he sold Lotus to Malaysian car maker, Proton, in 1996, when Post Malone was only a year old. While Lotus owners bounced around, they made a few cool
cars but not much money. The only front wheel-drive
Lotus ever made, the Elan M100 Roadster, was launched as a sports car for the masses. Under GM’s ownership, they poured tons of money into development but they never got it back. This is a shame because a lot of people called it the best handling
front-wheel drive car ever but it cost $40,000 back then and was powered by 130 horsepower or 162 horsepower Isuzu four-cylinder. (engine revving) Sales were cannibalized by much cheaper and more powerful Corvette and the brand new rear-wheel drive Miata. They sold fewer than 5,000
of them over six years and only 559 of those were in the U.S. Not exactly the mass market sales figures that they were looking for. Then there was the Lotus Carlton named after the Fresh
Prince’s cousin, Carlton, which was a reworked boxed all sedan powered by a turbocharged inline-6. Making 377 horsepower and
419 pound feet of twerks. Sick. But, thing caused 92 grand in 1990. Desperate to make money, Lotus finally went back to their roots in 1996. The new mid-engine
convertible Elise arrived with a fiber glass body shell on a bonded aluminum chassis. The series one had a
Rover 1.8 four-cylinder. Makin’ 118 ponies. But it has super low center of gravity and a 1,600 pound curb weight. A whole slew of special editions followed. With… More power, baby. (engine revving) Then, Lotus decided to move
all traces of rear visibility by giving the Elise a roof
and renaming it the Exige. A revised series two
Elise came out in 2000 with more refined styling. And by more refined, I mean looked like a freakin’ alien built it. They ditched the Rover
engines for Toyota 1ZZ-FE and 2ZZ-FE four-bangers and threw a supercharged model into the mix. The naturally aspirated 190 horsepower 2ZZ pulled a mind bending
1.06 Gs on the skid pad. Did not to 60 in four and a half seconds. There were also a million and a half versions of the series two so I cannot possibly cover them all. (engine revving) The company honestly didn’t expect the Elise to be that big of a hit. And it ended up saving Lotus’ whole ass. GM used the Elise to
make the Opel Speedster. Hennessey used it as a
basis for the Venom GT and Tesla built the
first gen roadster on it. (engine revving) In 2009, Lotus debuted their first all new car since the Elise. The slightly more practical Evora with a tiny back seat that you might fit your Springer Spaniel. And a mid-mounted 3.5 liter Toyota V6. They’re still in production and now, they’re all supercharged. They make 400 plus sleek yet buff horses. (engine revving) Today, Lotus is owned by Geely. And the current talk is of
the upcoming fully electric Evee-ga, E-viga, Eve-ja? – [Producer] It’s Evija. – Evija. The new Evija hypercar. They’re only gonna make about 130 of them but this thing is supposed
to have 1,970 horsepowers going into all four wheels. It looks wild. It’s gonna have insane down force. I don’t thinK I’m gonna be able to afford that one quite yet. I only make a million dollars
for each of these episodes. Lotus might be one one of, if not, the spunkiest car companies
in the history of cars. Did you know their powertrain department designed and developed
GM’s Ecotec four-cylinder. They did the LT5 V8 for
the C4 Corvette ZR1 too. They also designed the cylinder head on the turbo charged
1991 Dodge Spirit R/T. They held Aston Martin
with the DB9 chassis. Helped Nissan tune the suspension and handling of the new GTR. And that’s only a few examples. Lotus has touched way more than you think or way more than I thought when we started researching this episode. Through it all, they made indelible
mark on both motor sport and the entire automotive market. – I always like to succeed
in everything I try to do and I always say, I
always feel that I’m… Yes, I suppose I am, I
always like to try to do anything better than I
see it being done before. – Hi, baby. (smooching) Can you hear her chewing? (laughing) I love you. And I love you. (smooching) Her cue is so cute.

Author:

100 thoughts on “LOTUS – Everything You Need to Know | Up To Speed”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *