Lotus 2021

culture

Why all Lotus model names start with the letter E

And it's all to do with the Romans.

Anyone who knows anything about the Lotus brand, will have noticed that almost all of its model names start with the letter ‘E’. The question is, why?

With the launch of the latest model from the Norfolk-based car maker, the Lotus Emira, scheduled for tomorrow, we did some digging to come up with the definitive answer.

Lotus founder Colin Chapman graduated from engineering college in 1948 and to slake his thirst for competition, modified a 1928 Austin Seven to compete in local ‘trials’ races.

He won a number of races, earning prize money along the way, money he used in 1949 to modify another Austin Seven, also to contest in local motorsport events. Chapman dubbed this second car the Mark II, retroactively bestowing the Mark I nameplate on his original car.

The Roman numeral naming convention continued through subsequent competition cars built by Chapman until the Mark X.

The next car – the eleventh – should have been the Mark XI, but Chapman chose to drop the ‘Mark’ from its nomenclature as well as abandoning Roman numerals. That made it the Lotus 11, but with the ‘11’ too similar to the Roman ‘II’, Chapman chose instead to call it the Lotus Eleven. A tradition was born.

In 1957, Chapman needed to start building road cars, primarily to fund his company’s racing exploits. The first model to roll off the production line was the Elite, a gorgeous lightweight coupe. Powered by a 1.2-litre four-cylinder Coventry Climax engine, the Elite weighed just 503kg, giving a 0-96km/h time of just 8.2 seconds, quick for the time.

Chapman didn’t stray too far from the alphabet when naming subsequent Lotus models, a tradition that continued even after the founder’s sudden death in 1982, aged just 56.

Now, the Emira continues Lotus' long-standing naming convention, even if it signals the end of another, Lotus confirming it will be the last petrol-powered car built by the company as it transitions, like so many other carmakers have vowed, into a fully electric future.

E is for Lotus

ModelProduction
Elite1958-63
Elan1962-73
Europa1966-75
Elan +21967-75
Elite1974-82
Eclat1975-82
Esprit1976-2004
Excel1982-92
Elan S21989-95
Elise1996-
Exige2000-
Europa S2006-10
2-Eleven2007-11
Evora2009-
3-Eleven2015-18
Evija2020-
Emira2021-
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