As you'll have read earlier this week on PH, Lotus is commemorating its 70th anniversary with a pair of lightly spangled special editions - an Elise and an Exige.When you think about it, that's no small feat for a company that seems to have been on the brink of extinction for longer than any dyed-in-the-wool British sports car enthusiast would care to remember.
The milestone, therefore, calls for a celebration - so we're off down the pub for a swift one in honour of the good ship Lotus and all who've sailed in her. But before we go, we got to wondering just how much you have to spend in order to buy into that extraordinary heritage, history of engineering excellence and fear of coming out one day to find all your car's electricity has gone AWOL.
As it turns out, the answer to that question is 'about £7,000'. That's enough to get you a very tidy-sounding M100 Elan like this one. It comes with a long and detailed history, a full year's MOT and low mileage, which means it's about as good as it comes. It's also one of the earlier cars with the Opera-type headlights which, though troublesome, mark it out as a bit of a rarity that might one day be more valuable than later models. Sniff at the front-wheel-drive chassis at your peril, by the way; these little M100s are terrific to drive and far more precise than any other early 1990s two-seat drop-top, and deserving of the badge. What's more, given how crazy some of the prices for some other cult classics of that era, they still look pretty reasonable, so get in quick. I'm tempted myself, frankly.
If that's not your cup of tea, though, you'll have to spend a little mo... hang on a second, folks. There's a pranged Elise here with 172,000 miles on the clock. No, really. Which begs a couple of questions. Namely, who's done that sort of mileage in an Elise, and can I shake their hand? And of course, is it worth a punt?
Well, this is an earlier K-Series car, so the sensible answer to that is 'are you serious?'. But if this Elise really has done that mileage, there's a big part of me that wants to see it survive. The dealer reckons the repair work can be done ready for paint for £999, so reckon on it owing you £11,000 or so once it's sprayed up. That's probably around what its worth, but you'll struggle to find someone willing to take on such a leggy example - so I'd say it's touch-and-go.
I'd be happier spending a couple of thou more on this tidy-looking Series 2 111S. The description is rather light, so I'd want to see a decent amount of paperwork when I turned up to view, but if it checks out, it sounds like a bit of a bargain. Series 1 Elises are starting to skyrocket in price, so unless you value the place in the annals of Lotus history the S1 has, the additional modernity and sharper looks of the S2 are starting to make it look like a more savvy buy; that said, you normally only find entry-level cars for this sort of cash, so a 111S is a tempting buy.
Thing is, though, I've always been a sucker for the Esprit instead. I know, I know, call me a philistine all you want; it's just I'm a sucker for leather and carpets and a stereo and all that sort of caper. All of which means I'm very pleased to see you can still tuck into one for less than £20,000 - albeit a naturally-aspirated X180, arguably the least desirable of the lot. Still, I wouldn't turn this one down - it looks oddly very appealing, more understated than the later S4s with their wacky wings and ducts, and in a rather tasteful blue-over-cream. And the 174hp mill should see it to 60 in under 7 seconds - brisk, then, if not properly quick.
Then again, an X180 Turbo isn't all that much more cash - and gives you a 0-60mph time of 5.4 seconds, which sounds much more like it. There's one here for just a few grand more with very reasonable miles on the clock - and guess what? It's a limited edition built to celebrate an anniversary, which rather neatly (and entirely not by design, I should add) brings us back to where we started.
The Commemorative Edition was built to celebrate the company's 40th anniversary, and as such got pearlescent white paint and that love-or-loathe duck-egg-blue interior. And if it's as clean as it sounds, this example looks like it's very reasonably priced. So if you are in the mood for a commemorative Lotus and you don't fancy the new models, I suggest you go and have a nose around it, pronto.