After a hiatus of a few years due to will they/won’t they hold a Grand Prix at Donington and all the associated building works (or lack of them!) the Club Lotus annual show returned to Donington for 2011, providing a perfect opportunity to window shop for your next Lotus, search for parts and memorabilia, or just catch up with friends from the Lotus fold.
I have been going to the Club Lotus show for nigh on 15 years now, initially predating my Esprit ownership whilst I carried out research on the best one to buy and to look at as many examples as I could, and then throughout my Elise ownership, which sadly ended a couple of months ago when it departed to France, as so many of them seem to do these days.
So this year I was a free agent, not looking for any parts or bargains for the Elise and just along for a social day out, or so I thought. Anyway, more on that later.
Arriving at Donington and parking up is the start of the show. I tend to spend as much time wandering around the car park looking at the various Lotus as you get to see the good, the bad & the ugly all parked alongside each other. This year the outstanding sight that greeted you in the car park was the M100 Elans colour co-ordinated parking!
Other notable sights to me in the car park were a number of original Europas, Elans and Elites plus a smattering of Evoras.
One surprising vehicle was the M100 Elan complete with its own half an Elan trailer! Makes a change from the usual Conway trailer!
Moving on to the show and outside we were greeted by an early Series One Esprit in original James Bond white, along with the Evora safety car from the Lotus Cup race series.
Inside and the world only road going Elise GT1 took pride of place in the entrance foyer. In the exhibition hall proper, and the shows two main displays were the Formula 1 sponsorship eras of Lotus, the David Thieme Essex Petroleum colours of blue, red & chrome and the John Player Special colours of Black and Gold.
Both of these displays contained contemporary F1 cars and road cars in colour schemes inspired by the sponsorship, the Essex Esprit looking spectacularly 80s.
On the JPS stand the Evora race car looked particularly menacing!
Moving on around the show, I’ll return to my earlier mention of just being along for the social side. This all changed just prior to the trip to the show when I turned up at my Lotus owning buddies house for the trip to Donington to be greeted by the site of his Esprit, and our proposed transport to the show, having suffered a technical malfunction, so now we were on the search for parts to remedy the problem.
Luckily a renowned Esprit specialist was at the show, so the first port of call was to PNM Engineering who dutifully talked through the solution to the problem in language that we could understand and my colleague left their stand having spent a SELOC approved £720 and with a box full of shiny parts to fix the troublesome Esprit.
With that dealt with we could get on with enjoying the show. There seemed to be fewer traders at the show compared to previous years, inside with more cars on display and larger areas dedicated to the various car clubs.
Those that were there were out in force however. Geary and the Eliseparts stand appearing to do brisk business, with a number of people at the counter in deep discussion about the next shiny bit to add to their Elise, and the same seemed to be going on at Hanger 111. It’s good to see the ongoing development of parts and improvements for the Elise year on year from the stalwarts of the industry, which can only be good news for current and future owners alike.
For the older Lotus there were a number of stands with new and second hand parts, some of the second hand parts looked to my untrained eye as parts I’d throw out, but no-doubt of use to those looking to keep a classic on the road. Similarly to the modern owners you have the likes of Sue Miller, Spyder Cars and Paul Matty serving the older classics with new, remanufactured and improved parts.
One thing I always do is look for at Donington is to add to my Lotus model collection with any bargains, and whilst the usual suspects were there, there didn’t seem to be much in the way of bargains, with prices seemingly on the rise compared to previous years. Good news for those already with a decent collection I suppose. Coterie press was my next stop for a view of their latest Lotus publications and I kept up my recent practice of buying a book off of them at every show with their latest offering on the Evora, a bargain at £20.
The various Lotus owners club stands are a great place to admire excellent examples of Lotus not commonly seen on the road, those that caught my eye this year were the AutobahnStormers with their Lotus Carltons, one particular example having an engine bay so clean and immaculate I’d be afraid to use it, looks a lot more complicated than the old K series from my Elise! Another classic was the Lotus Sunbeam where they fitted an Esprit engine in a family hatchback to go rallying, I’ve always had a soft spot for these and reserved a place for one in my post lottery win fantasy garage.
One great thing about the show is meeting old friends from the Lotus community, and this year was no exception as I would say half my time at the show was spent either reminiscing or catching up with people I’ve met over my dozen plus years of Lotus ownership.
So to summarise on the show, if you just went to the show to look round the hall you might have been disappointed as it appeared to me and a number of people I spoke to that there were fewer Lotus trade stands present. However if you take wandering around the car park as an extension of the show and add in catching up with Lotus friends old and new it was an enjoyable way to spend a summers day.
By David Alderslade (Alders)