Lotus Cars has made some of the most spartan sports cars ever to set tire to track or road. But this week we've got one of the rarest and most special. It's a Lotus Exige LF1, our autoTRADER.ca Find of the week.
Lotus has had some serious ups and downs since its founding by Colin Chapman in 1952. But since the beginning, the company has always followed the "simplify, then add lightness" philosophy that Chapman brought to car building.
While the company is now better known for road cars like the Elise and Evora, it started life building racers. It didn't take long before Lotus entered Formula 1, popularizing the monocoque chassis and bringing a host of race wins, seven Constructors' Championships and six Drivers' Championships.
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But even with that success, the team had an interesting trip through F1. Team Lotus ran from 1954 to 1994 before folding. Lotus then returned to the big leagues of racing in 2010, lasting just two years before the name was given to another team. That Lotus F1 ran from 2012 to 2015, racking up 25 podiums and two more race wins before being purchased by Renault.
Over all those years, the Lotus badge picked up 81 wins in the top tier racing series. So in 2014, the automaker wanted to celebrate.
Enter the Exige LF1. The Exige S was a more hardcore version of the Elise, using a 3.5L V6 borrowed from the Toyota Camry. With a Supercharger attached and the ability to rev past 7,000.
The Exige S was wider and longer than the four-cylinder models, but this is still a small and light car. It tipped the scales at just 1,176 kg. The Exige S was sharp and light and quick. Everything a Lotus should be.
It was the perfect platform for the automaker to start building a special edition.
The LF1 (for Lotus F1) started with a black and gold livery that paid tribute to the John Player Special livery that the cars wore through the 1970s and into the 1980s. The red stripe on the nose was a nod to the 2014 Formula 1 cars.
The LF1 wore special gold alloys, in 17-inch front and 18-inch rear wearing Pirelli Trofeo tires. The engine is unchanged from the regular Exige, but still generates 345 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Enough to propel this car to 100 km/h in four seconds.
The special cars were specially numbered. Just 81 were produced, one for each win for the automaker. Each would get a plaque inside telling you what number the car had and what race victory that represented.
But Lotus couldn't sell the LF1 in Canada. That's because the Exige wasn't road legal here or in the US. It hadn't been properly crash tested because of the expense.
So Lotus found a loophole. Of the 81 cars, just seven were sold in North America. And two of those came to Canada. How? They weren't sold as road cars. These were race cars. Carbon fibre race seats, an even more stripped down interior, and a full roll cage. Even a fire suppression system and electrical cut-off switches. This car is ready to race.
This particular car is for victory number five. That's the 1961 US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Innes Ireland started his Lotus-Climax in eighth on the grid after a crash and then a gearbox failure in qualifying. He won a race of attrition, with challengers retreating to the pits. It was Ireland's only Formula 1 victory.
The LF1 was sold with more than just the classic livery. It came with a special package that included a factory tour of Lotus Cars at Hethel, UK. A tour of the Lotus F1 team HQ, although that one might not still be available. It also came with a special key fob and a replica of team driver Romain Grosjean's helmet.
This trackday Lotus might be too rare to actually push hard. But that'd be a shame. If it's the summer toy you're looking for, it's for sale at Lotus of Oakville, in Oakville, ON. And you definitely won't see another at your local lapping day.