Colin Chapman. The engineer/constructor who gave the world such gems as, "Simplify and add lightness." "Any car that holds together for an entire race is too heavy." And one all his pilots must have appreciated, "You won't catch me racing a car that I built." Colin is a man who also put out some dubious products and some gems that could fill out your $30K collection quite nicely. This is one of those collections that will have your neighbors wondering how you could pull off such a distinguished collection. It will also improve your mechanical skills as much or more than a course at APEX technical school. But like the latter, after a year or two of ownership you to will have a toolbox full of your own tools.
I have a couple of notes on Lotus cars. Elans are nice but the unlabeled switch gear on the dash are comical. The Esprit was a pure design. Than it got all eighties out with the James Bond effect. My favorite celluloid jaunt of the Esprit is in Basic Instinct. It didn't(and doesn't) get hotter than two chicks who kiss each other and drive matching black and white Esprits. Finally, the least honest of all Lotus is the Elan convertibles of the early '90s. They are front wheel drive. Colin Chapman would not have liked torque steer. And neither do I. On to the carriage house...
1987 Isuzu Impulse Turbo. $4,000 and lots of time hunting will get you the one you want. Very few made. Wait you say. Is this a Lotus or an Isuzu. It is an Isuzu that handles like a lotus. It even has a badge that shows it has "handling by lotus". And it did, it out handled my beloved Porsche 944 and outran the NA version as icing on that ass-kicking cake. Not a bad looking car either, very small and sporty. A four-wheeled highway gnat. Just try to swat it out of the way. 140-160HP thru a 5-speed box and an LSD. Nice package. This was a tuner car before there were tuner cars. The biggest downside is the costco cheap interior and stupid self retracting seat belts.
1974-82 Lotus Eclat. OK. A lotus powered Lotus for a trim $7,000. Stay away from the many junk Eclats you see at the $4k range. Hold out for one of the best. They made enough of them. Or more remarkably, sold enough of them because it was more expensive than an XKE when it was introduced. But a sweet type 907 or 912 engine gave a true 160HP. Built on the backbone chassis it is a true exotic in looks and performance. I like the looks, many don't. Don't fear the body roll. Embrace it like a fat woman embraces a box of chocolates. With a smile and a steady hand.
Series I Esprit. Your remaining $19,000 thank you. Let's start with the Wolfrace alloy wheels. Move your eyes over the gleaming, fractured paintwork. Take in the lack of fussy spoilers and vents. Notice it barely comes up to your waist if you are anything but Lilliputian in stature. Get a hint of the original plaid interior seats that look very much like something from Pierre Paulin's atelier. This car literally had automotive reporters rushing the stage like tight-sweatered Beatles fans at its debut. And whenever I wear a tight sweater and see a SI Esprit I rush to as well. The handling is the wiki of Lotus handling. The small wheels transmit the bumps in the pavement with the dexterity and expertise of Helen Keller working some brail. And that twist off fuel filler in the buttress is that one bit of jewelry on an otherwise naked, angular highlands beauty.
Eclat Picture Wikimedia. Isuzu pic isuzuperformance.com