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The legendary Lotus Carlton is the kind of car that comes along once in a generation. At a time when really fast four-door saloons were the preserve of BMW and Mercedes, this Vauxhall (Opel) derived 'super-saloon' arrived on the scene demolishing the opposition. Oddly, it wasn't its huge performance or masculine good looks that created the most fuss, but the fact that the Daily Mail was so outraged by its stated top speed of 176mph, that it declared it too fast for British roads. Of course, the Lotus Carlton - or Type 104 to Lotus aficionados - was nothing of the sort, and although it shared its major components with a mainstream executive car, its level of development across every aspect of automotive dynamics had resulted in a truly special performance car.
It was powered by a twin-turbo version of the venerable straight-six used in the range-topping Senator, which developed a remarkable 377bhp. To achieve that figure, Lotus had put a lot of work into the 3.6-litre power unit, uprating and strengthening the bottom end, porting the 24-valve cylinder head (from the Carlton GSI), and fitting forged 'slipper' pistons made by Mahle atop new Lotus-designed connecting rods tied to a counterweighted, forged steel crankshaft. The gearbox was the same six-speeder used in the Corvette ZR-1, the only transmission in GM's parts bin, capable of handling the car's monster torque. AP 'Group C' derived brakes - four-pot calipers with 330mm ventilated discs at the front and two-pot at the rear - sat behind specially developed Goodyear tyres.
Performance was brisk, to say the least. 0-60mph came up in 5.0 seconds, 0-100 was dispatched in 11.1 seconds and in 1992, Autocar Magazine recorded a time of 17.0 seconds for their 0-100-0 challenge, 2nd best behind an F40, however, it's the car's maximum speed of 176mph that will always be quoted by its fans.
Lotus Carlton (SCC0000019N1231798) was 'Signed from Production' on 23/06/1992 and granted Limited Edition Number 0811G. In common with every other Carlton, it was finished in Imperial Green pearlescent with Anthracite Connolly leather and despatched to Frosts (Cars) Ltd. in Shoreham-by-Sea who registered the car (K909 MFG) to its first owner on 14/01/93. Within the History File is the Lotus Carlton Maintenance Programme (Service Book) which contains a stamped Pre-delivery Inspection by Frosts which is followed by a 1,000-mile service on 21/1/1993 at 851 miles and a 'First Main Service' on 2/8/1993 at 9,095 miles. Frosts carried out the car's 2nd Main Service in early 1994 and on 13/05/94, '811' was registered to Brian McMullan in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, NI. The following three services were carried out by Vauxhall Dealers (Carlton specialists) 'Savilles Auto Village' in Lisburn with the latest of these being on 15/04/96 at 43,547 miles.
It returned to England and was registered to Paul Nevill of Knebworth as K33 NEV on 26/07/96 and he enjoyed ownership of '811' until very recently. In March 2006, cherished registration K33 NEV was replaced with K909 MFG. Frosts of Shoreham returned to servicing the vehicle and carried out the next four services culminating with the 8th Main Service on 11/11/98 at 78,068 miles. Mr Nevill was obviously particularly fastidious as between early 1997 and January 2006 there are a total of 19 invoices from marque specialists for servicing, minor repairs and ongoing maintenance amounting to £14,995. The mileage at the most recent (27/01/2006) was 98,595 and the odometer reads 99,392 now so the car has covered less than 800 miles in the last 14 years having mainly been on SORN. In February 2019, '811' was refreshed by GB Autos of Colney with a bill for £1,652 and there is a very recent account (4/03/2020) from Saxon in Neath for £120 that relates to an oil and filter change. The current MOT is valid until 25/01/2021.
It's obvious that this Carlton has been totally cherished, the Imperial Green paintwork retains a deep shine and the ruched Anthracite leather looks almost unmarked. The five-spoke alloys are excellent, the engine bay is very tidy and well detailed and the dashboard is crisp with bright instruments and 'LE 811' proudly displayed on the glovebox lid.
The car is accompanied by its Owner's File with older MOTs, SORN documents, V5Cs, the Lotus 'Certificate of Vehicle Provenance', the aforementioned invoices, the bespoke green leather Lotus Carlton book pack with the service record and a spare set of keys.
All in all, this is an original and unmolested example of these very collectable 'super saloons' and, in this remarkable condition, would be an asset to any collection.
Video of the Vauxhall Lotus Carlton