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Lotus Carlton

Lotus Carlton Published: 12th Jul 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Lotus Carlton
Lotus Carlton
Lotus Carlton
Lotus Carlton
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Given its astonishing credentials and on-road talent, the Lotus Carlton remains one of the best affordable modern classics ever yet one which puts a Ferrari to shame, yet still has room for all the family and the kitchen sink in Jag-like comfort. Not quite the give-aways they were just few years back, but still demonstrably cheaper than a Lotus Cortina.


Brute force and velvet glove refinement best describes this vivacious 377bhp twin turbo 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 uncanny finesse where despite the lack of driver aids, can be driven and used like an Astra. Top gear sports an incredible 44mph@1000rpm ratio allowing the LC to lope along at 70mph with the engine just ticking over. Roadholding and grip, thanks to the Lotus-developed suspension remains of a very high order though as the car is devoid of the modern electric trickery to keep you out of trouble in the wet, it needs respect. Really, it’s the sort of super saloon that TVR could well have made under Peter Wheeler if TVR was in that market.



Condition counts the most as – considering their rarity – a surprising number are not in good order. LHD Opel Omegas are worth considering but think twice about tuned and customised cars – there’s many around. Well under 100 left of the 284 RHD models remain meaning the base price is around £16,000 for something worth having, add ten grand more for a truly nice one and perhaps the mid thirties for a showroom condition standard spec one. Beware of tempting projects as parts supply almost dried up overnight once the car was discontinued in 1992.



1988 Conceived to take on the Sierra Cosworth completed Vauxhall Carlton 3-litre GSi models were shipped from the GM plant at Russelsheim in Germany to the Lotus factory at Hethel in Norfolk, where a dedicated team of 55 craftsman at the old De Lorean base spent 150 man-hours stripping out trim and seats and modifying the bodyshell to accommodate a repositioned Lotus tuned engine and Chevrolet Corvette gearbox Lotus engineers devised a new multi-link rear suspension with modified strut pivot points for special twin-tube dampers

1990 Launched just when the Germans decided on limiting top speed to 155mph when the LC could exceed that by over 20mph!

1992 Dropped in the end; GM played the car down and was almost apologetic about making it…


Best models



Two-thirds don’t exist anymore and bog standard cars even rarer. Fakes aren’t unknown so be careful and always contact club first of all



Some 950 were made with the majority being badged Opel; exclusive and some reckon slightly better cars. Not worth converting to RHD though


GSI & senator

Ok it’s not the real deal but the Carlton GSI donor car with at least 177bhp and 200bhp for 24v model. Senator bigger: all easy £4000 buys


Top five faults



Anyone contemplating one would do well to contact one of the handful of clubs such as http://www.autobahnstormers. co.u.k. 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


While the LC looks much like an old Carlton, many parts are specific; the tinted windscreen being one of them and clutch parts can render a car off road so you need expert advice when vetting BODY What lurks under that special bodykit can be worrying as Carltons rust; door bottoms, wheelarches, sunroof, spare wheel well are all suspect areas

Crash damage

Check for repairs and have a HPI or similar check carried out to unveil its sordid history


Turbos can leak 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; rarity of special cylinder heads has led to stock GSi items now being modified. ECU can have issues

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