Lotus is a British auto manufacturer which is based in Norfolk county, England. Lotus manufactures racing and sports cars at the original site of the RAF Hethel WWII airfield. The company is known for its lightweight materials and delicate, yet powerful handling. Lotus also owns Lotus Engineering, which is an engineering consulting firm with locations in several countries. Lotus itself is owned by Proton, following previous owner Romano Artioli's bankruptcy in 1994. The Lotus company was founded by Colin Chapman, an engineer, in 1952, and its original factory was housed in decaying stables behind a hotel. Team Lotus, at the time, was very competitive and active in Formula One racing during the years 1958-1959. This group split off in 1954, and the actual Lotus Group (including Lotus Components Limited and Lotus Cars Limited) was created in 1959. The Cars branch focused on just that, while the Components branch focused on competitive client car assembly.
Lotus moved from its old stables to a factory in Cheshunt in 1959. After that, and to this day, the company moved to more modern factory at Hethel. In 1982, Lotus was struggling financially. The problem stemmed from the fact that only a few Lotus cars a year were sold in the U.S., which is the world's largest car market. With help from Joe Bianco, an investment consultant and lawyer, however, Lotus was able to create a separate face for itself in America, Lotus Performance Cars Inc. The company was back on its feet, for a while. By 1986, General Motors bought Lotus and LPCI, which it then sold in 1994 to a different company. Since this time, Lotus' assests have been divided several ways, with Proton owning the majority share.
The first Lotus car was the Type 1 - Trials Special, produced in 1948. This car was based on the Austin 7 saloon of 1930, and Lotus made sure that each Type 1's body was stressed so that it would add strength to the vehicle without accumulating additional heaviness. This lightweight philosophy was carried through every Lotus model from that point on. The Type 10 and Type 11 were models in the mid-to-late fifties, as was the Type 7, or, Lotus Seven, which stayed in production from 1957-1972. The Seven followed the Lotus Mark 6 (the original Lotus production sports car) and was built with an aluminum body and a fiber-glass nose. In 1973, Caterham Cars took over the name and still produces the Caterham Seven.
Other popular Lotus vehicles, which have helped the company compete against other brands and companies such as Ferrari and Lamborghini, include the Type 14, or, Lotus Elite, which was produced from 1957-1962. It was the first closed passenger car Lotus offered and had a fiber-glass chassis and independent front suspension. It was also a LeMans winner. Another popular model was the Type 26, or, Lotus Elan, produced from 1962 - 1973 and using the now iconic Lotus steel-backboned chassis. Roadster, hardtop, and coupe versions of the Elan were offered, and it was the best-selling Lotus ever made.