Former Lotus Designer Plans Super Elise
Julian Thomson, the current Advanced Design Director at Jaguar, has recently posted pictures on his Twitter account of a one-off “Super Elise” he hopes to build sometime “soon.”
Thomson is known for penning the stunning Jaguar C-X75 two-seat hybrid hypercar concept, which debuted at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. Originally slated for a max run of 250 units at well over a million dollars a pop, production of the C-X75 was canceled in 2012.
The Englishman was also responsible for the design of the original Series 1 Elise when he was employed by Lotus way back in 1996. Thomson confessed to concessions made with the first iteration of the small sports car: “Whenever I washed my own Elise, I was reminded of things that didn’t turn out quite as I’d have liked and I always wanted to put right.”
In an interview with the UK publication Autocar, Thomson said he wanted the Super Elise to look more “solid and purposeful” than the original design.
Thomson says the Super Elise is inspired by Singer Porsche 911s. The sketches present a car that’s 30 mm (1.18 inches) lower and between 75 and 100 mm (2.95 and 3.94 inches) wider than the standard Elise. It also has reworked front and rear fascias, with enlarged air intakes up front and a prominent diffuser in the back. Sitting above the rear aero is a large, double exhaust tip placed centrally in the rear bumper. The wheels are bigger as well, with a five-spoke design that fills the wheel wells with purposeful intent. LEDs can be found in the taillights.
For motivation, Thomson says he’d like to replace the stock Rover and Toyota-sourced engines with a Honda VTEC unit mated to a sequential gearbox, which is a setup similar to that found in the Ariel Atom.
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Why it matters
While this news pertains to a one-off vehicle on an uncertain timetable with a questionable future, it should still come as a relief for fans of the British marque. It wasn’t that long ago that Lotus was struggling to stay above water, taking a serious blow a few years back when the world “financial crisis” was in full swing.
It wasn’t that long ago that Lotus was struggling to stay above water, taking a serious blow a few years back when the world “financial crisis” was in full swing.
According to a recent article from the U.K.-based publication The Telegraph, Lotus seems to be clawing its way back, reporting a 55 percent increase in sales for last year, up to 2,015 units sold for 2014 from the 1,296 sold in 2013, making for the company’s best year since 2008.
The turnaround is due in no small part to a dramatic restructuring implemented by the new Chief Exec Jean-Marc Gale, who cut loose a quarter of the company’s staff in September of last year.
Sales for Lotus are increasing in a number of key markets, including a 186 percent rise in China, a 177 percent rise in France, and a 130 percent rise in Germany. Japan is currently Lotus’ biggest single market, with 365 models sold, eclipsing even the company’s home market, with 346 models sold in the U.K.
However, Lotus isn’t quite out of the woods yet. It still has a long way to go before it can be comfortable in the current economic climate, and it needs to hedge its bets. To do so, Gales has revealed the marque’s intentions to offer a high-volume compact crossover to help broaden its appeal. While certainly at odds with Colin Chapman’s oft-quoted philosophy of “simplify, then add lightness,” the SUV will hopefully do well to keep the cash rolling in so things like Thomson’s Super Elise might actually see the light of day.
The "Super Elise" is exactly the kind of car I like to see from Lotus. It’s a low, wide, mid-engine, RWD sports car infused with more power and the handling prowess that Lotus is famous for.
As the mass-market SUVs and crossovers create new revenue streams, the makes will continue to remind us of their roots, lest we forget what went into that crest you see emblazoned on the hood. For example, Thomson’s fellow JLR employee Ian Callum created a custom resto-mod Jaguar Mark 2 last year, conjuring ghosts of the company’s coachbuilding past.
And while the purists will undoubtedly protest the SUVs, I’m personally ok with it, just so long as it means cars like the Super Elise are created. It’s exactly the kind of car I like to see from Lotus. It’s a low, wide, mid-engine, RWD sports car infused with more power and the handling prowess that Lotus is famous for. It also looks fantastic, and overall, I see tons of fantastic little cues, including influences from Stuttgart and the Lotus Elise GT1 race car.
Here’s to hoping that one day the Super Elise makes the leap from sketch to sheet metal.
The Elise was first introduced in 1996 and features a feathery curb weight and simple, sporty design. The car was named after Elisa, the granddaughter of Romano Artioli, chairman of Lotus at the time of the car’s launch. The car was a return to Lotus’ roots of producing lightweight sports cars after years of offering the Esprit, which seemed to gain substantial mass and luxury with each successive iteration. Lotus launched the Series 2 Elise in 2001, and since then, its been used as the platform for a variety of standout performance vehicles, including the Tesla Roadster electric vehicle and Guinness World Record-holding Hennessey Venom GT.
Read our full review of the latest Elise S Cup here.
Source: Julian Thomson