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・Incredible history file
・Modified, and now approx. 440bhp
・Full, detailed restoration
The late ‘80s and early ‘90s were bright, loud, somewhat mad times. The excess of the ‘80s created an ongoing crescendo that didn’t peak until the ‘loadsamoney’ ‘90s emerged. It was a time akin to a wild party that spilled over into the next day. People wanted more. Of what? Everything, that’s what. So, naturally, Vauxhall decided a 370-odd bhp version of its rep-pleasing Carlton would be just the tonic. Vauxhall wasn’t going to build it though. No, that task would fall to Norfolk car-fettlers, Lotus. They tuned the… everything. Suspension, brakes, body, wheels, aero, interior and of course, the engine. The 2,969cc straight-six from the Carlton GSi was taken out to 3,615cc. Not one but two Garret T25 turbo chargers were fitted, along with intercooling and custom engine management. A GM six-speed manual transmission was fitted, too.
The resultant car was, and still is, an animal. 377bhp through the rear wheels. No electronic stability control, no traction control, no nothing. Just huge, great wedges of boost and a limited-slip differential. Lunacy on wheels. It could do 170mph. A Carlton. The same car middle managers for stationary companies drove. It was so mad that it irked the Daily Mail (shocker) and even became a hot topic in the Houses of Parliament, where MPs questioned… why? Talking about creating a legacy!
Sadly, while the Lotus Carlton was indeed a formidable force in terms of performance, its light shone brightly but all too briefly. The party and celebration of excess came crashing down in the financial collapse of ‘92, and a £48k Carlton, in 1992 money, simply didn’t make sense. Only 950 were ever built. Of them, only 320 were right-hand drive Carltons. The rest were left-hook Omegas. A sad end, but one that cemented the car’s deserving pedestal position today. It’s a legend, an icon, a motoring hero. And now, this one could be yours.
First registered on the 21st of October 1992, this Lotus Carlton was one of the last. In fact, it’s number 0783C. Now, the experts amongst you might be curious about the C in that number, as it does in fact denote it to be a European model. However, it seems that back during the car’s build, human error came into play, as it was indeed built as a right-hand drive, UK ‘domestic’ specification car. A letter from Lotus confirms this, and that while it should have been a G, it seems to just be a mistake. The joys of a hand-built car!
Over the years, the car has had seven owners. However, while those early owners looked after the car to a high standard as detailed below, it’s the current owner we’re most interested in. He has been the custodian of this icon for some fourteen years, and in that time has lavished a seemingly unlimited amount of care and attention up on it.
Now with a hair over 100k on the clock, this Carlton has - quite rightfully - been enjoyed. But this of course means it has needed some upkeep. Previous owners serviced and maintained the car, one even had some restoration carried out. However, this needed to be revisited during the current owner’s tenure. As such, this car has been treated to lots of fresh metal, all of which has been stitched in to a high standard. The paint is new, the suspension, the brakes, the interior - it’s all been reworked and renewed. So too has the big straight-six engine. One of the rare, and stronger development blocks was sourced, the engine was rebuilt from the ground up. Damico Engineering built a stage two cylinder head, the T25 turbos were fitted with upgraded T28 internals and the engine was re-mapped. The result? 440 bhp on tap. It is, make no mistake, a serious bit of kit.
Now though, owing to other projects, the current owner is opting to part with this automotive legend. It might not be an unrestored, original car, but so what? It’s been restored to a very, very good standard. And, unlike those fragile survivors, this one has been built to be driven. This isn’t a show pony, it’s a car you can take out and drive the way its engineers intended.
As you would expect from a car so fastidiously cared for, there is ample paperwork to go with it. There is the V5, naturally. Along with a current MOT certificate valid until March of 2022. There is an original book pack with all manuals and information, along with a service history book stamped up to 2002.
There is a collection of photographs to show the detailed restoration the car went through. New rear arches, new front arches, inner arches were reworked, sills too. All done to exacting standards, and all still rock solid.
There is a history file filled with every bill, receipt and invoice generated over the car’s life. Services, MOTs, endless invoices for parts supplied from both Vauxhall and specialists. It’s all here, and it makes for reassuring reading. This car has lived a life with no expense spared.
Finally, there is an original and incredibly rare two-part technical folder. Two A4, hardback books that detail - in English and German - every single aspect of the car. These books alone are worth a small fortune, and are of course an incredibly useful thing to have for such a special car.
Anthracite leather and lots of wood are the order of the day. This car might have covered over 100k, but as you slot in behind that Lotus-badged steering wheel, you would never know. There’s a bit of wear on the odd button - but that’s to be expected. Nothing is broken, the stereo is a NOS Grundig item, all the Lotus badges and plaque are present. It’s near mint in here.
The seats both front and back in exceptional condition. No damage, no heavy wear, no notable imperfections. Frankly, the rear seats look to have seldom seen a bottom. The door cards are all perfect, with no warping or staining. The plastics around the doors are all excellent, too. No significant damage, no breaks, no heavy wear. This car has been cared for. The carpets are even in good condition and in no way look to have done 100k. It’s such a lovely place to be.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, you’re faced with bright, clear dials - everything works, including warning lights and so on. There is an auxiliary boost gauge neatly fitted into the dash where the clock would have once been - that’s the only deviation from standard though. The dash itself is immaculate, with no cracks nor any bleaching.
Finally, the boot is both vast and very tidy. The carpets are all excellent, the floors look solid and clean, and there isn’t so much as a hint of corrosion or moisture. There is even an original toolkit present, complete and correct.
Just look at it. What a thing it is. It’s a wide-arched, muscular, menacing-looking thing. And this one has lost none of its presence over the years. Is it perfect? Nearly. There is a slight, but soft ripple in the offside front wing as the nose, and there is an imperfection in the paint on the nearside rear arch. Finally, there is some slight hairline cracking of the paint on the nearside upper edge of the rear bumper. But that’s it, that’s all there is to report.
The Imperial Green metallic paint has been applied well, and carried a rich, deep, uniform shine across the car. One of those colours that changes in the shifting light, it looks utterly magnificent. There is absolutely no corrosion to be observed. Nor any swirling or any other wear. It presents very, very well indeed. Especially for a car that is a driver, one to be used and enjoyed. Some show cars aren’t this good.
The staggered 17-inch alloys are all immaculate, and all wear Falken rubber. The offside rear centre cap has lost some of the Lotus badge, but that’s an easy fix. The main thing is these rare wheels are all mint, free of corrosion and free of any kisses from the curb.
The glass is all excellent, as are the rubbers. The trim at the top of the offside B-pillar has a small graze, but not so significant as to draw your eye. The front and rear lights are pretty much as new, the all-important front bumper is excellent, and hasn’t scraped anything from what we could see. And while we’re down there, looking under the car reveals a sea of clean metal, fresh paint and lots of rust protection in all the key areas. It’s just a very, very good example.
The mechanical overhaul of this car has been… significant. As such it is in exceptionally good health. The engine presents well when you open that massive bonnet, with no corroded surfaces or leaks to be seen. The engine itself has been rebuilt around a stronger, development cylinder block. The original was cracked, and thus replacement was required. It was rebuilt from the ground up with new parts where required. The cylinder head has been upgraded by a company called Damico, who improved flow and performance.
The T25 turbos have been rebuilt with T28 internals, along with upgraded 360 thrust bearings, and as a result, the turbos spool a lot faster than standard. The map on the engine is the ‘launch’ map, which increases power to approx. 440bhp. The current owner is confident the car could, with the right management, achieve far more - but really, 440 is enough!
The transmission performs as it should, with crisp and direct gearchanges. The clutch, while very mechanical, has been replaced as in good health. The suspension is all excellent, having been renewed all round. The front dampers are Bilstein, but the rears are NOS. Every bush and rubber has been changed, and as such, the car feels tight as a drum. The AP Racing brakes have also been refurbished, and as such are more than man enough to keep this beast under control.
On the road, there is power aplenty as well you can imagine. But fundamentally, it feels like a car that has done 20k, not 100k. It’s tight, direct, free of any bumps or rattles. It’s a proper, well sorted bit of kit.
It’s lunacy on wheels. But in the best possible way. Over 400bhp through the rear with no driver aids - this is a proper muscle car for the UK roads. It’s fast, very fast in fact, but that’s not the only selling point. This car was a huge deal, it was an example of what could be done when engineers were just allowed to, you know, go for it. No holds barred. Just build something utterly bonkers. It’s an event of a car, a shot of adrenaline that the most vicious ride at Alton Towers couldn’t match. It’s like nothing else. You need to experience it.
More importantly though, this is an example of car that you can use. You can drive it. You can press on in it. Hell, you could even take it on track. It has been maintained to an incredible level, but the foundation of it all has been to keep the car as a driver. It’s not one to sit under endless coats of wax. It’s one to jump in, fire up and enjoy. It’s not like the others, that have succumbed to being showpieces over time. This one is to celebrate the rawness that so took the 1990s, the Houses of Parliament and the Daily Mail by surprise way back when.
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