The Lotus Elise was almost called something different

By topgear, 14 September 2020

Zoom quiz hosts the world over, listen up. We’ve some incredibly nerdy trivia to sneak into your next one. Presuming everyone’s not sick of them by now, of course.

The Lotus Elise has just turned 25, its Frankfurt motor show debut on 12 September 1995 (pictured above) predating at least one member of the team. He has been immediately dismissed for making the rest of us feel ancient.

To mark the occasion, Lotus has wheeled a number of little stories that you might not previously have known. Such as its original name before ‘Elise’, the name of then-chairman Romano Artioli’s granddaughter.

It was going to be called the Lotus 111 – a very prosaic display of its type number (Lotus’s 1995 car, the next thing it manufactured, being the 112).

Patrick Peal, Lotus’s head of communication in 1995, says: “I had even purchased the number plate M111 LCL to be used on one of the disguised prototypes, and already hinted to the media that this was going to be the name of the new car.

“In hindsight, Mr Artioli was right. Elise was the perfect name for the car, shared with a playful little girl – his granddaughter Elisa – who helped launch the car to the world.”


Peal’s also revealed that the plans were for the Elise to make its world debut several weeks later in London, before the opportunity to seize more headlines and a bigger audience in Frankfurt led to a frantic rethink.

The public was also shown the Elise’s inner workings before the entire car. “We decided to unveil the chassis first, complete with suspension, brakes and subframe,” says Peal.

“We wanted the world to fall in love with the Elise’s technology and the engineering as well as with the actual car. Plus, the whole structure would become a talking point and an advertisement for Lotus Engineering.”

A core chassis that still lives on to this day, the 2020 Elise significantly grippier and more powerful than those early, 118bhp cars, but hugely similar in design. Reckon it’s stood the test of time?