2023 has been a special year for several car manufacturers. BMW M celebrated 50 years and Nissan celebrated 90 years for example but this article isn’t about either as you can see. 2023 also marked 75 years since Lotus Cars was founded!
For most car enthusiasts, Lotus is a known brand but as a firm that spent most of the last 75 years making sportscars to varying degrees, it is far from a household name. It is not unreasonable then to expect the brand’s following to be a little thin on the ground here in New Zealand. After all, we are about as far as away as one can get from Lotus’ home in Hethel, England!
The reality is, the above couldn’t be further from the truth. New Zealanders have had a long lasting love for Lotus but the catalyst was the opening of Lotus Cars New Zealand in 2021. Dealer Principal and friend, Chris Parker deserves a special mention here for not just his sales skills but his genuine passion for cars as well as the brand.
The home of Lotus in New Zealand was a fitting place then for the first set of celebrations. Situated in one of several car showroom hubs in Auckland, the 75th anniversary celebration was help on the 7th of October. Beginning early at 9AM, several banners of Great British flags greeted keen eyes. The colourful Lotus’ on display enticing onlookers to walk in and look around.
It wasn’t just the display and decorations that made the event enjoyable but the sheer array of Lotus’ on display. There was everything from the fully-electric, ultra-modern Eletre to a Baby Blue Elan 2+2! Both the Exige and Elise lineups turned up in strong numbers too with several Final Edition cars making the journey to celebrate the occasion. Time flew by as I spent several hours of the morning chatting to the proud owners of those motorcars as well as my friends from both Club Lotus NZ and Alfa Romeo Owners Clubs! Seems like there’s certainly a mutual respect between the two brands, thanks in part to their respective motorsport histories.
Yes, while most of Lotus’ lineup historically has consisted of sportscars and other track weapons, the brand has a long and storied history in Formula 1 too. Having competed in F1 at various stages since 1958 with the Lotus name last appearing on an F1 car in 2015. During those years, the Hethel based manufacturer collected several race wins, plus Constructors and Drivers Titles.
Legendary figures like Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, Kimi Raikkonen and Jim Clark most famously driven under the Lotus name. ‘Black and Gold’ being the team’s most well-known colours.
Founded by Colin and Hazel Chapman in 1948, the brand was born to be sporting and those values still live through both the cars & the owners today. Having two close friends as active members of Club Lotus NZ means I am well aware of how often the owners go on spirited drives, usually touring some beautiful part of Auckland in the process.
However, as this year was the 75th anniversary since the brand’s inception, Club Lotus NZ went on a drive for the ages! A weeklong nationwide road trip was organized in honour of this special occasion. The Auckland chapter of the club begun in the Big Smoke (Auckland) with the drive taking them through the heart of New Zealand’s North Island, eventually landing in Wellington.
From here, the cars would take the ferry across the Cook Strait to New Zealand’s South Island. Once back on land, the 75th anniversary tour would see the Club drive through gorgeous roads, exploring the country’s natural beauty as well as finding out more about their cars. Regularly in touch with my friends, I heard several stories about the drives, including tales about how comfortable the cars were.
Given Lotus’ knack for making focused sportscars, I wouldn’t put comfort at the top of the features list but as I’m reliably informed, even the more hardcore Exige Final Editions performed well in that respect. Performance was certainly on the agenda for the drive with the Club putting on a show wherever they went, the best of which was at Rodin Cars‘ headquarters.
Once the convoy had finished their respective tour of the nation, I got to catch up with my friends who reflected on the “trip of a lifetime” that they had just been on. A road trip through scenic New Zealand in an array of excellent sportscars to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Lotus Cars and those who are at the very heart of the brand, the drivers!
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Words and photos by Matthew D’Souza, labelled pictures courtesy of Luan You and Club Lotus NZ.