Lotus tends to name its models starting with the letter E. Think Evora, Exige, Esprit, Elan, Europa. Elise, also. But that name wasn’t just drawn out of a hat, or cooked up by the marketing department. It was named after someone specific. And now Lotus has reunited her with her namesake sports car.
The Elise was named, you see, for Elisa Artioli (albeit not without an alteration to that last vowel). She’s the granddaughter of Romano Artioli, who bought Lotus from General Motors in 1993 after having revived Bugatti several years prior.
Artioli only owned Lotus for a few brief years before selling to Malaysian automaker Proton in 1996. But in the brief time that he held the reins, he launched the Elise, which in turn has formed the basis for every model that Lotus has made since (save for the Evora). And he named it for his beloved granddaugher.
Now 22 years later, Elisa Artioli returned to Hethel for the first time, where she was reunited with the very first Elise to roll off the assembly line. While she was there, she took her first laps around the automaker’s famous test track – driving not the car that bears her name, but an Exige Sport 410 and an Evora GT410 Sport.
It was a fitting close to this circle of the marque’s tumultuous history. The company was founded in 1952 by the legendary Colin Chapman. In the wake of his death in 1982 (and his and his company’s involvement in the DeLorean debacle), Lotus was taken over by auto auctioneer David Wickins, who in turn sold it to GM in ’86. Artioli took over in ’93 and sold it to Proton in ’96, which held onto it (in some form or another) until Chinese automaker Geely took over just last year.