My Story - Bond Exige

I have always loved British sport cars, and specifically Lotus. Having previously owned two TVRs and an Aston Martin, I was determined my next would continue to be another British sport car.

After purchasing a 7 Series which was, in my view, so close to the Aston Martin Vantage in terms of performance. It effectively made the ‘sport’ car redundant. With the 7 Series in the garage, I fancied something seriously lightweight and significantly faster.

Lotus had been a very desirable option for many years. I love the beautiful shape of the Elise and the performance of the Exige. However, it was the Lotus Evora GT 430 press photos that made me go ‘wow!’. Fortunately, my friends at Newtown Motors had become a Lotus official dealer a couple of years earlier, so I got in touch and was fortunate to have a factory visit.

Lotus factory tour

The Lotus factory tour at Hethel was just brilliant, very accessible and fascinating to see the stages of the production line. If you have the opportunity, I strongly recommend you go before production at the plant is significant increased and perhaps the accessibility reduced. The highlights of the Hethel tour for me were the sheds and warehouses of the old F1 team, used by Classic Team Lotus. I was so excited, I could burst!

The offices in the sheds are still left the way they were in the 60s, 70s and 80s, with amazing memorabilia everywhere. A maze of office rooms, engineering areas and design archives. It was as much a treat to be shown old drawings and the classic F1 cars being prepared for UK and international events. So much Formula 1 innovation took place in those sheds and you can still feel the atmosphere.

After the sheds, we walked past the new Classic Team Lotus facility, which looked like it was going to be a truly world class showpiece for the historic cars. Lotus is growing and moving in the right direction again as a company with the support of Geely, so whilst it’s a shame the original sheds are no longer accessible, the presentation in the new facility will be a fitting tribute to the incredibly successful Lotus era on the track.

Lotus Formula 1 - Type 72

This was the most inspirational part of the tour for me, for one key reason, the Type 72. A legend of F1 and three times championship winning car. Perhaps, you remember the Top Gear tribute to the Type 72? More importantly, it was one of my first toy cars as a child as my grandfather bought one home from the toy factory at which he used to work in Swansea where the toy model Type 72s were made. It sure brought back the nostalgic childhood memory. Of course, it was also the classic John Player Special JPS livery, perhaps one of the most recognisable liveries in Formula 1 almost half a century after it dominated the F1 grid.

External link to: Top Gear with Stig driving the Type 72

Returning to the factory we were shown an Evora GT 430, impressive and every bit the full-on package it looked in the photos. But then when walking towards the Evora, we passed a Lotus Exige 380 in light metallic grey, with blood red accent livery and red wheels. The colour scheme made the car look truly epic. For me, it completely overshadowed the Evora. I was literally sold on the spot (not even thinking about telling my wife!). My previous interest in the Evora completely evaporated and my focus was buying an Exige. But which one?

My story Bond Exige with Lotus Type 72

The motoring press was universal in it praise for the Exige, even the great Chris Harris referring to the Exige S V6 as an equal to the contemporary Porsche 911 GT3. The three models at the time were the ‘entry level’ 350, a mid-range 380 and a hard-core track version 430 Cup. I didn’t want the Cup as there would be a lot of leisure driving the car on weekends, so the harshness of the ride and its stark track focus weren’t appropriate. I did, however, want as fast an Exige as possible so 380 was going to be the model of choice.

Chris Harris praised the Lotus Exige

It was surprising how little content there was on YouTube in terms of reviews of the Lotus Exige range, other than the excellent Chris Harris review. The 380 model was almost non-existent except for several videos from a social media influencer Seb Delaney. His car was based on the same idea as a car created for a Top Gear article in 2013 featuring an Exige S in the same spec as the Lotus Esprit driven in James Bond “for your eyes only” by Roger Moore to the Miramonti Hotel in Dolomites.

External link to: Chris Harris on Cars: Lotus Exige S test on Hethel circuit

External link to: Top Gear Exige feature article

The Esprit looked sensational in Copper Fire, Tan interior, chrome and gold BBS wheels and that iconic ski rack on the rear. The Exige looked every bit the part too, particularly Seb’s car with carbon fibre panels everywhere that complimented the colour scheme perfectly. This was a dream I had to realise, although I wasn’t quite sure about the 380 model.

Many commented on a weakness around the engine, specifically the supercharger and gear box under continuous use on track. These issues were resolved on the track focus 430 Cup with additional dedicated coolers for both the supercharger and gear box, together with significantly uprated suspension, brakes and aero. If only there was a 380 with all those upgrades.

Lotus cars at Goodwood Festiveal of Speed

Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2018 was a great year, baking hot and the usual array of utterly breath-taking cars. It was also the first time in years Lotus had a full-on manufacturer stand. Even though Lotus had given themselves only a few weeks to prepare, the stand was impressive and overshadowed a few other. Particularly as Lotus had a Type 79 car on the stand to promote two new Cup 430 limited editions: Type 49 and Type 79.

I spent quite some time talking to Lotus about creating halo cars like the Q division does for Aston Martin. They demonstrate a level of personalisation, exclusivity and luxury that can be attained by the brand and foster a really desire amongst enthusiasts. From that conversation, the idea of Bond Exige was born, and everything happened so fast.

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