The Lotus Elise will soon be no more. After an impressive 25-year production run, the purist sports car is heading off into the sunset. Known for its lightweight, razor-sharp handling, and unique appearance inside and out, the Elise and its hardtop-only sibling, the Exige, will soon be replaced by the just-announced Lotus Emira, the firm's final gasoline-engined model. The Evora is also on its way out the door. Despite its age, Lotus detects there could still be potential interest from certain parts of the industry to gain access to the Elise's tooling. This wouldn't be without precedent. The first-generation Tesla Roadster was really a heavily modified Elise.
Automotive News Europe was told by Lotus managing director, Matt Windle, the firm would be open to the idea of selling the car's tooling yet again.
"If the right project and the right partner came along, I do not see why not. It's a wonderful car," Windle said. One possible customer is Caterham who just happens to be Windle's former employer. He served as the company's body engineer for two years before joining Lotus in 2017. Since 1973, Caterham, which was recently bought by a Japanese import and distribution firm, has built a version of the old Lotus Seven track car which it regularly updates.
The Seven definitely isn't for everyone but still finds a sufficient number of buyers as a Caterham. But Caterham is supposedly working on its future plans under new ownership. Moving on, or, at the very least, expanding its lineup, should happen sometime, and a re-tooled Elise could be the perfect fit.
Windle refused to say whether his current and former employer are holding talks about the subject. Another potential Elise customer is the newly revived British coachbuilder Radford, famous back in the day for modifying original Minis. One of its new co-founders is former Formula 1 driver and world champion Jenson Button. The decision to discontinue the Elise wasn't an easy one for Lotus.
"The truth is that the whole of the manufacturing facility at Hethel is being transformed into an automated process," Windle said. "We just did not have the room to produce the Elise." The fact Lotus is keeping the door open to sell the Elise's core elements to another firm gives us hope the little sports car still has a future.