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Lotus @ The 1999 Geneva Motor Show

1999 Geneva Show

Lotus should make a V6 coupe that looks just like this

The new Elise 111S was also shown at Geneva - we will dedicate an article to it soon.
If you saw this behind, you would probably move over - unless you are on the same race track as it! Lotus has announced plans to start a one-make race series for the Elise. The Motorsport Elise (above) was shown at Geneva as an example of the car for this series. Lotus intends to offer an all-expenses-paid package of racing for about 50,000 a year. All the drivers need to do is find the race circuits.

The car shown at Geneva has a re-tuned 1.8-litre engine with more than 200bhp. This will transmit its power to the rear wheels as usual, but through a noisy, straight-cut gears 5-speed manual gearbox. The track car features a full roll-cage and suspension, and new composite body parts as can be seen here. If only Lotus would make an Elise coupe for the road that looked as good as this. Chop two cylinders off the Lotus V8 engine and pop the resultant V6 in the back - now that would be a fine car.

Until they do that (not this millennium...) we will have to "make do" with the Elise 111S (more details soon) and another rather tasty road-rocket. The Elise 340R was intended solely as a concept car when it was shown at the 1998 Birmingham Motor Show. However, Lotus have been bombarded by requests from car enthusiasts around the world to produce this extreme interpretation of the Elise. The 340R has only now been given the green light - to go on sale in December with a price tag of about 35,000 (UK).

A high price to pay for what could, for all the world, be nothing more than just another kit-car. It's not. The backbone of the reason for the quality of this car is the exceptionally stiff (and light) chassis - taken from the Elise itself. Russell Carr (Lotus Design manager) seems to think along the same lines as himself though: "We wanted a car that could embody the Lotus characteristics of innovation, light weight, elegance and fun to drive". This would bring a tear to Colin Chapman's eye, as may the car!

Due to the strength of the chassis, the body panels do not form part of the structure and therefore are ultra-light - and are only included for the driver's comfort and safety. The translucent panel at the height of the driver's legs is an interesting design feature. In fact, the original design showed no panel in this place, complimenting the exposed mechanicals at the rear of the car. The production Elise 340R will be powered by a VHPD version of Rover's 1.8-litre K-series. Funnily enough, VHPD is an acronym for Very High Performance Derivative. Yes, I am serious. Then again, it isn't really an exaggeration - 170bhp at 8000rpm is not to be laughed at, with up to 190bhp in race-tuned form.

Lotus claim that the 340R has been designed as a competition car which can be driven on the road - believe them! The car features positive downforce at the front thanks to the airflow through the radiator and out over the top of the windscreen. At the rear is a diffuser - just like a racecar's. To add to the track feel Lotus will include a set of glue-like, hand-cut Yokohama tyres, mounted on light alloy wheels. I would expect the handling to be pin-sharp and the grip unparalleled on the road - perhaps the (all wheel drive) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI comes close.

That car can seat five adults in comfort though, and (if you have the grand parents over) can be driven with modest decorum. The 340R is rather different. There are no doors, and no roof - no, not even a temporary one. The seats (only 2 of course) are lightweight composite items, thinly coated with Alcantara, and fitted with proper 4-point racing harness. The driver's seat is even mounted further forward than the passenger's, and set nearer to the centreline of the car. My kind of transport! Donations to be sent anonymously to .......

The Elise 340R on the road - the lucky bas*@$d. All photographs provided by Lotus Cars

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