14th September 2002
Pictures supplied by Andy Perfect, Words from members of the UK Lotus Esprit Group.
'What Lotus had to Say'
Lotus Open Day
Come and join us on Saturday 14th September 9 till 4.30. If you haven't had the chance, come and see the new Lotus Production Facility plus a rare chance to experience Engineering tours, look into the Emissions labs, test cells and the normally closed doors of the Styling Studio.
The open day will also feature Fun fairs, Extreme Activities and Kids Entertainment; dealers will be giving test drives on the roads around Hethel, Historic and Racing cars will be on display and an awsome autojumble amongst others, you can even get the chance to WIN a Lotus Elise plus much more.
Is your Lotus for sale?, why not bring it along and we will have a space for you to display it. If you have a car that is a cut above the rest, enter Concours d'Elegance, forms should be placed on the dash of you car on entry to we can usher you to the right area.
Entrance fee of £5 per car, you will receive a £5 discount on Lotus Merchandise purchased on the day.
No need to book in advance but we do recommend that you arrive early.
'What Lotus Owners had to Say'
Firstly my apologies for not turning up at the meeting place by 10, Friday night was heavy (as Friday nights always should be) so I didn't actually arrive at the grounds till about 11.30, including getting lost down those single track country lanes. Might have even enjoyed the drive if the sun was shining!There was an impressive line up of Loti (Lotuses? Lotus?) around the track upon entry into the grounds, as far as the eye could see.
Had a wander- there was also a concours section (some people didn't seem to know what the word meant) with a few good cars and some excellent examples, (there was a BRG S3 which had done about 6500 miles in it's first 15 odd years of life- even the interior looked new). Also saw a S2 with a funky green suede trim, incredible to look at.
The auto jumble was dissapointing, as I had almost expected an autofair type of set up with independent suppliers, however, we were presented with two marquees of parts, mainly for the Elise. Plus plenty of Lotus badged clothing etc, if that's your thing. The best 'bargain' I saw were OZ futura rims (new I think) for £395 each inc Michelin Pilot tyres (not bad as I considered refurbing mine plus have bought new tyres recently so it seemed a good deal).
I also fell for the 15 minute queue which led to a shop- I felt like telling people at the end that it wasn't a factory tour, but at least there was a cheerful blonde at the door with a pretty smile, which softened the blow- but, there wasn't even much in the way of interesting merchandise or books.
The Esprit effort on show was minimal, as I drive one I would have liked to have seen more about its production and, if the same kind of tour as laid on for the Elise was laid on for the Esprit, then I would have been very happy. There was a chassis on display plus a bodyshell showing the recesses and cutaways of the new rear but that was it. I did get to see some trim panels (my rear view mirror broke off its stalk this weekend, looking at a display of trim panel I see it is screwed through to a bolt, no doubt I will have to remove the whole trim panel to fit the new mirror). I also fancy a aluminium dash panel around the clocks, must hunt out something. Apparantly they make 3 Esprits a week and each takes 180 hours. As much as I dislike the Elise, I guess the new breed of Lotus owners are those buying Elises so they were the ones the show was geared towards.
Was it worth the effort? There was a lot of tiresome driving with Friday night traffic, plus I got lost, but on the whole, but you have to do these things at least once (no FT, no comment), so it wasn't too bad. I also got a few pics which I'll try to get off the video camera and paste up sometime.
I chose to take the A15, A17, A47 & B1135. T'was a good choice with only small groups of slow drivers, so enjoyed using the power to blast past 2 & 3 cars at a time. Finding the factory was also a problem, although I have driven past it numerous times in the past (before I owned a Lotus) by accident. Every time I thought I was getting near a Lotus or 2 would be going in the opposite direction. So changing direction seemed a good idea. Eventually I came across a couple of Esprits (going in the opposite direction) quickly turning around and catching them up, they promptly stopped, also lost. At this point a guy with his family in a fiesta stopped and said he worked at Lotus & that's where he was heading. So of we went, I'm sure it wasn't the quickest way & we got their.
On arrival it was nice to be let in for free. I also noticed a blanket of Elises, with the odd Esprit slotted in. Was impressed with the older Lotus cars in the concours arena. Some looked like they had chosen it for a car park. Certainly not concours material. I did manage to start the factory tour from the right end. It was pretty much how I expected it to be. I didn't know they assembled the Vauxhall along side the Elise. (So something learnt there). I was hoping to come across the infamous Esprit line. This was not to be & like many others, asked where I could see the Esprit. It's done in building 1 over there I was told, so of I go. Once there I investigated father and told well,,,,,,,, some are done over their,,,,,,,,, a bit in here,,,,,,,,,,,sometime in that building. Could I see inside? I asked, Sorry it's also a storeroom for junk, not suitable for visitors.
Time for a snack. Not as easy as you might think. First we had to buy some vouchers, then find food & drink. Not sure who didn't trust who with using money. We did manage to find a seat. More wandering around & we came across a crowd of people around the classic racing team Lotus GP car. They fired it up and it sounded
fantastic. See Adrian Craske's for a more graphic report.
We had a good day slightly disappointed at not seeing more of the Esprit's assembly process. And that ramp at the exist? I had to turn round and reverse out after almost pealing the road up with the front spoiler. What were they thinking, maybe we would all come in four-wheel drives!!!
It was my first visit, pleased I went, not likely to make it an annual pilgrimage though.
I can't believe you weren't impressed with all the concours entrants. When I left home the car was washed and clean. By the time I got to the factory I had brake dust from those low dust EBC's, flys from Norfolk, stone chips from the road construction, a layer of soot from following a bus. Next time I'm going to put a full bra over the car, like that Elan!
But to be honest the only reason some of us where in the concours car park was because I followed John Roberts in, in his new 2002 V8, they wanted it in the concours section, so I got invited in as well. It's kind of like if a nightclub bouncer see's a good-looking girl in the queue, he'll invite her in, but her ugly sister will get in as well.
This was the third time I've been to the factory, and for me the first time was definitely the best. I went with the Surrey Club Lotus group and it was a mid week trip about 6 years ago. So we could actually see the Esprit being built. From the guys putting the fibre glass matting in the moulds, the fibreglass being cut with the high pressure water cutter. The engines being built up and the bare insides of the car ready for carpets and dash board. I think when you own a car it's always great to see how it's put together in the first place. I makes a difference I you have to take bits off at some point.
I was looking to buy some 50th Anniversary sill plates, did anybody see any. Or if you've bought them do they look the part?
Dirty '89 SE
We took a similar route to avoid Rockingham & it wasn't too bad a decision - traffic was a steady 55 -60 most of the way until we caught 3 caravans following a couple of lorries. I'm just hoping that they screened us from the speed camera I noticed as we took the lot in one go (1400 Fiesta). We carried on to Norwich & back on the A11 as the copilot is not good with left & right & maps so the long way results in less stress! Followed the map printed off the Lotus web site & got on a road that didn't exist & ended up nearly back in Norwich but found a way across the A11 & basically guessed which direction to go.
Andrew was right about the Police - the last few miles are a 50 limit for no good reason & they had a white transit parked with a camera in the back window - both going & coming back!
I was expecting to be able to see the Esprit production line - Im sure it would have been much more interesting than the Elise part of the factory which was set up just like the Railway works I used to work at, only on a smaller scale! Unfortunatly, I spent almost every penny we had in the Autojumble so we could only afford a couple of coffies & no food so sitting wasnt a problem although most people were struggling.
I know others found the auto jumble poor but I was happy to have gone just for that. I got a pair of SE fog lamps for £10 although they have yellow lenses, A wiper arm & a V8 stainless clutch line for £15 the pair, Timing belt for £3. Im sure Ive saved a few hundred pounds on normal prices. I also got a new steering rack but that turned out to be LHD so Ill have to see if I can sell that on the International list - oh well you cant win them all.
I doubt I would rush to go again although if they are selling parts off next year Ill probably go. I really wanted to see the Esprit production line while its still there which was my main reason for going but I think that would be better in the week while they are working anyway.
My only other regret was forgetting to take everyones mobile numbers so we could meet up with a few people off the list.
Well guys what can I say about the Open Day. I suppose at the end of the day it depends on what preconceived ideas we had about what we might see. I was hoping to see maybe a few of the very last Esprits on the production line but alas no :-(
From what I gather it does still exist in the main building but I suspect they chose that area to temporarily house all their new 'goodies' removed from the R&D area which incidently more resembled the creche at work.
Anyway I meandered around and about, also going the wrong way around the production line, getting all nostalgic and remembering what it used to be like back in August 83 when I was last there. Things sure have changed and all of the signs that used to read 'Lotus Quality Is Your Job' etc have long since vanished. Everything seems a lot more clinical these days and Im sure now they have replaced the 60w bulbs with 100w! Oh well...no point dwelling on the past but there does seem to be something missing (and I dont just mean Esprits). Upon exiting the tour I went in search of Justin...but he was not at his post!
Back to the food area in time to see Emerson Fittipaldi's 72 fired up! Nice to see and hear a proper F1 car again, without all the driver aids and with nice big fat rear tyres. I then encountered M7HAW+Alan(I think) stuffing their faces with burgers so it was time for lunch.
I queued up for 10mins only to realise I should have bought 'food tokens' first!!! so I queued up again for them, and then again for my food. Stupid bloody idea!
Back to the Dealer area in search of the elusive Mr Mcaulay...and guess what? He wasnt there! Martin had come up with a theory that he and probably Dermot too had got their hands on a 350 Sport and were busily tearing up the tarmac around the Norfolk countryside. It did seem like a sound theory. I then listened to the woman on the MBNA Lotus stand telling me all the virtues of owning a Lotus Visa card....and then I let her know I already had one. Then out of knowhere Justin put in an appearance and I was tipped off about Prof. O'Hare's latest gizmo. Really Dermot whatever next? and Justin really appreciates you getting the fitting instruction translated from Japanese 'for him' :-) This mail is really going on......so I will hurry up a bit. After wandering round the factory the correct way and then getting entranced by the constant opening and shutting of an Elise door (testing new door pins) I decided I should buy something. So In the end I treated myself to 2 nice posters of a Silk Red S4 (just like mine) a video, a shirt and oh yes.....erm.....a chassis! My 82 Turbo doesnt need it yet but I am in for the long haul with that one and it was too good an opportunity to pass on at approx 1/5th the list price. Just got to find somewhere to put it. Maybe make a nice piece of 'Art' in the Living Room. And that was my day. Had a really good blast back. The S4 seemed to have had a rocket stuck up it ar$e and it went very well.
Would really love to see whats left of that Esprit Production Line if it does still exist.