1993 VAUXHALL LOTUS CarltonView vehicle description
One of the most iconic super saloons ever conceived, the Vauxhall Lotus Carlton was at one time the scourge of Police forces across the UK, and has gone on to be a legend in its own right, offering supercar performance for ordinary people.
At the time of its launch in 1990, the Lotus Carlton (based upon the Vauxhall/Omega Carlton/Omega saloon) was able to keep up with, or exceed the performance of its contemporary sports and supercars from the likes of Ferrari and Porsche, despite having room to carry four passengers and an impressive amount of luggage.
Externally, the car was kitted out with wider wheels, a small rear spoiler, deeper bumpers and wider wheel arches, resulting in a far more aggressive appearance than a standard Carlton. The Lotus Carlton was only available in one shade, Imperial Green, and carried only a few subtle Lotus badges on the bodywork.
Under the bonnet, a 3.6-litre inline-six engine was blessed with two Garrett T25 turbochargers, improved ignition system, water-air intercooler, higher cylinder pressure, forged crankshafts and forged Mahle pistons, with a total power output of 377bhp being sent rearwards through a six-speed ZF transmission, akin to that fitted to GM’s sister product the Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1, and a limited-slip differential from the V8 Holden Commodore was also fitted to keep everything in check.
Naturally, this gained in some interesting notoriety within the automotive press, who argued that the claimed top speed of c. 180mph was wholly unnecessary, with plenty of journalists - including Bob Murray of Autocar - stating that Vauxhall should follow the example set by their German counterparts and restrict the top speed of the vehicle.
Not only were the automotive press apparently enraged by the car’s performance, but it quickly became a firm favourite with criminals and joyriders, and thus a major thorn in the side of the Police force across the UK. In 1993, one Lotus Carlton “40 RA” was stolen from the West Midlands, and proceeded to embark on a spree of ram-raids, with the police at the time stating “we simply haven’t been able to get near the thing, and it looks unlikely that we ever will” due to the high performance nature of the car.
Unfortunately, the high price of £48,000 during the recession of the early 90’s proved to be the Lotus’ downfall, with only 950 cars completed in total, split between 320 Lotus Carltons and 630 Lotus Omegas, with these super saloons proving rare in today’s marketplace.
Having lusted after a Lotus Carlton for most of their lifetime, our vendor picked up this 1993-registered example during August 2014, having purchased the car sight-unseen on a whim, something many petrolhead’s are familiar with - when you want the car, you’ll buy the car!
Upon collection, they were informed that in the ten or so years prior to their purchase, the car had been dry-stored and used extremely sparingly, something that the stamps in the service record would serve to enforce, though this is the only documentation that the vendor received from the car’s past life.
The plan was to use the car regularly and enjoy it, which started off in earnest by using the ‘LC’ as a daily driver for a number of months, before it was put away for the winter. Unfortunately, this plan quickly fell apart, and the car was left in dry storage for a significant period of time with other vehicles from the vendor’s collection, though it was connected to a trickle charger to keep the battery in good health.
It was then decided that this super saloon was far too iconic to sit in storage, so a full recommissioning process was decided upon during late 2018, with the work being awarded to Purbeck Sports Cars ltd, after significant research and several positive reviews from prior customers. As with all projects, the initial level of work quickly snowballed and the list grew ever larger, eventually being completed a number of weeks ago during 2021.
During the process of recommissioning the car, the workshop had a level of assistance from marque specialist Agamemnon, along with input from Lotus themselves.
Having given the car a decent shakedown, along with obtaining a fresh MOT certificate, our vendor is happy that they have brought a Lotus Carlton back to life, ending up with a true ‘modern classic’ that is in usable condition, rather than a full-on concours-winning example which will never see the open road again.
Now, the car is up for sale due to the vendor and their wife relocating, meaning the Lotus Carlton would have little attention, and the thought of it going back into long-term storage is simply too much to bear after completing such extensive works.
On the Outside
The chunky arches, aggressive bodykit and Imperial Green paintwork are still as striking today as they were in the early 90’s, and the design is so wonderfully ‘of its time’ that you find yourself simply sitting and admiring the lines of the Lotus Carlton.
On this example, the bodywork is in generally good condition, though as the vendor has stated, this is not a concours-winning example. The body is nice and straight throughout with no sign of any dents or impacts, though the offside rear bumper clip does appear to have popped out, resulting the bumper being mis-aligned.
There is also a few marks to the bodywork - as shown in the gallery below - along with areas of flat paint and a small patch of bubbling on the offside C-pillar, as well as a cracked indicator lens on the nearside.
All four wheels are in good condition and are largely free of kerbing, though there is the odd patch here-and-there, as you’d expect from a car of this age and mileage. Remember, the whole point of this particular Lotus Carlton is that it is usable, without having to be kept in a purified air cocoon, so small marks like these don’t diminish the car in our eyes.
On the Inside
Inside, the cabin has been remarkably well-preserved, and on the whole presents very well throughout.
The seats are all in good shape and retain an impressive level of suppleness to their leather coverings, with only a few deep creases noted and no apparent scuffs or rips to the material. The headliner, too, has remained in great shape and shows no sign of any sagging, with the sunroof working as it should.
The wooden trim pieces scattered throughout the car on the door cards and around the gearstick have seen better days, with some pieces having lost their lacquer entirely and others showing their age, though this is commensurate with the condition of the vehicle.
From what we could tell, all of the systems appear to be working as they should, with only one light noted on the dashboard, which is to indicate that the bulbs are all working on the brake lights, and disappears once the brake pedal has been pressed.
Under the bonnet sits the 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged engine, which is in fabulous condition, both visually and mechanically. In our brief inspection, we didn’t notice any sign of oil or fluid leaks, nor any particularly noteworthy areas of corrosion or other issues.
On our short test drive, it was evident that the bulk of the recommissioning works have been carried out to the mechanics of this Lotus Carlton, with the car feeling very ‘tight’ and well-built for its age.
The gearshift is nice and smooth, whilst the clutch has a very direct action and the throttle response was very quick indeed. Passing the 3,000rpm mark, the boost from the twin-turbochargers kicks in with dramatic effect, and the old-school ‘punch’ of boost is very much apparent, with the engine and its systems seemingly in rude health.
In fact, barring the aforementioned warning light on the dashboard, the only issues we did note was that the coolant tank appeared to be bubbling when parked up after a short drive, and the fans took a long time to switch off despite the car not getting up to temperature, with the coolant temperature gauge on the dashboard creeping up when sitting and idling, but immediately dropping back to ‘cold’ when on the move.
Looking underneath the car, there is the usual commensurate areas of ‘bloom’ and corrosion noted to exposed areas, though nothing that screamed out as dramatic or problematic. The recent MOT exam - dated 28 May 2021 - would certainly support this, with a clean pass being achieved on the first attempt, which is also mirrored for the previous MOT in October 2019.
As previously mentioned, the owner acquired this Lotus Carlton in 2014, prior to which it had the care of four other owners, and 10 stamped serviced recorded in the service booklet prior to being placed in storage.
Whilst nothing else is known from its past, there are records of work carried out, tax discs, old with MOT certificates and invoices from during our vendor’s ownership.
Most noteworthy of those invoices are the ones from the aforementioned recommissioning work, totalling to over £10,000 worth of work, all of which was carried out by Purbeck Sports Cars ltd.
What We Think
The terms ‘iconic’ and ‘super saloon’ are often bandied around with reckless abandon in this industry, though one would be hard-pushed to argue that they don’t apply to the Lotus Carlton.
Having riled the automotive industry, prompted government lobbying to have the car banned from UK shores and proven to outrun anything the police could throw at it, we could also add the tag of being ‘infamous’ to the ‘LC’ also, such is its reputation.
This particular 1993-registered example is in rude mechanical health, and would make a wonderful daily driver or weekend toy exactly as it sits, with scope to finish up the aesthetic restoration, should the new owner wish to do so.
As it stands, we estimate a selling price in the region of £29,000 to £39,000, so if you’ve always wanted to own a true ‘super saloon’ of the 90’s, now is your chance - good luck!
Viewing is always encouraged, within Govt. guidelines of course, and as stated this car is located at our Abingdon headquarters; we are open Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm and to arrange an appointment please use the ‘Contact Seller’ button at the top of the listing to make an appointment. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.
If needed, please remember we have a network of trusted suppliers we work with regularly and can recommend: Classic & Sportscar Finance for purchase-financing, Footman James for classic car insurance, Classic Concierge for storing your car plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping.
BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at the vehicles delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.
Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.
Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.
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