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Lotus Carlton

Lotus Carlton Published: 1st Feb 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Lotus Carlton
Lotus Carlton
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With well under 100 left of the 284 RHD models, the 377bhp Lotus Carlton is much rarer than a Lotus Cortina yet cheaper, demonstrably faster – and there’s also less chance of landing a fake. This Lotus-made Vauxhall is a magnificent Ferrari-eating luxury saloon and remains one of the best modern classic bargains ever. Apart from being a licence loser, the only other problem can be running one as spare parts supply isn’t good due to Vauxhall halting manufacture also as soon as the car was dropped from the price lists.


Brute force and velvet glove refinement best describes this vivacious Vauxhall that only recently lost the crown for being the World’s fastest four-door saloon. The Lotus Carlton was beautifully developed, fast but with finesse. Top gear has an incredible 44mph@1000rpm ratio that allows the car to lope along at 70mph with the engine just ticking over at around 1500rpm. Roadholding and grip, thanks to the Lotus-developed suspension remains of a very high order though the car is devoid of the modern electric trickery to keep you out of trouble so watch it in the wet. It’s the sort of super saloon that TVR could well have made if it was in that market.



Condition counts the most as – considering their rarity – a surprising number are not in good order. LHD Omegas are worth considering but think twice about tuned and customised cars. Frankly, the best ‘improvement’ is having a car serviced and set up by a Lotus Carlton expert (not many around), where TLC in the right places will make it feel like a new car.



Around £16,000-£18,000 will fetch a Lotus Carlton in fair condition but you need another ten grand to buy a truly specimen example. Left-hand drive Lotus Omegas used to be valued significantly less but now there’s more price parity across the board due to rarity. Also left-hand drivers sourced from the European mainland are less likely to suffer from rust, since there is less salting of the roads on the Continent.



Anyone contemplating buying one would do well to contact one of the handful of clubs such as As it’s a modern, rust shouldn’t pose too much of a worry, but we hear that a worrying number of owners have let their LCs deteriorate markedly. It’s what lurks under the bodykit that’s the main worry. Windscreen seals, door bottoms, wheelarches, sunroof, spare wheel well are all suspect areas. The windscreen is special to the car and should have a tint band along the top – if lacking then the replacement screen came from a lesser Carlton GSi. That sensational engine needs a fair bit of watching. It’s a complex unit and a lack of knowledgeable care will ruin it. Turbochargers can leak away when hot so check for oil seepage. A special crankcase breather has been designed by owners to help matters. Cylinder head gaskets can let go; have a compression test done if need be (if the owner dislikes the idea then expect the worst!). The rarity of these cylinder heads has lead to stock GSi items now being modified. The electronics can play up and lead to poor running but the American transmission is bullet-proof with the exception of the clutch and bell housing; here parts supply can render a car off-road.

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