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Concept cars, prototypes, experimental cars, design studies… Call them what you will, but they all share the privilege of being very, very rare. In fact, more often than not, they’re one-off’s. Even if the manufacturer decided to build two or maybe three of them, then they’ll usually still differ in various details. Another commonality is that while their purpose in life is to showcase new technology and designs to the public, they’re normally never let loose into the public domain.

Every now and then, there’s an exception. Somehow, one of these once so admired show cars escape being chopped up or at best languishing within the confines of a dark and dusty warehouse, once it has fulfilled its testing and exhibition duties and is no longer the trendsetting spectacle it used to be. Believe it or not, this week’s Prime Find is one such concept car!

One of Winterbottom’s initial coupé designs for the M90 Elan project.

By 1981 Lotus found themselves amidst some financial concerns – again! Tongue in cheek, one could almost ask; when was this not the case in Lotus’s illustrious history? Either way, this time around the fix was going to be bringing “King of the Wedge” Oliver Winterbottom back to Lotus after his stint with TVR designing the Tasmin. Colin Chapman’s plan was to resurrect the Elan, using well-engineered and -tested components from Toyota with whom they had a good working relationship at the time. This had already lead to the period Excel using a fair few Toyota components. Of course, Winterbottom was to design the new Elan, and it would rely even heavier on Toyota than its bigger sibling Excel.

Which eventually morphed into the X100-designated convertible.

The X100 relied on Toyota’s legendary 4A-GE twincam 1.6 liter engine known also from the highly-capable RWD Toyota Levin/Trueno Coupé and the first generation MR-2. It was bolted up to Toyota’s 5-speed manual gearbox, and the Toyota suspension set-up used on the Excel was used for the X100 too. It was all clad in a fiberglass shell of Winterbottom’s wedge convertible. But as the prototype was finally being constructed in 1984, the majority of the company’s engineers were now focused on the latest development of the new FWD Elan M100 which would eventually enter production. Though Winterbottom’s X100 had been assembled to a very high standard for a one-off prototype, it was now unceremoniously wheeled into a corner of a company warehouse and forgotten about.

Now, the X100 is not only fully restored, but also road legal and ready for the next Lotus enthusiast to enjoy.

Right up until 1998 that is, when Lotus (again!) found themselves in deep financial trouble. The decision was made to sell several of their rare cars which Lotus had kept over the years, and the X100 was included among the Lotus’s which went to auction. It was sold to a private Lotus collector in the USA, where it has lived ever since.

In recent years, this unique prototype has seen a full restoration with the fiberglass body fully removed so the chassis could be seen to as well with a fresh powder-coating. The X100 is said to now be fully functioning, drivable and road legal. The private seller continues to claim that the Lotus is show-ready, comes with full documentation and a mere 1,250 indicated miles.

Within the classic car scene where the word “unique” is perhaps the most misused term one could possibly image, it’s decidedly refreshing to be able to label a car as just that without subsequently being accused of using excessive hyperbole. Opportunities like this are rare to say the least – even more so when you consider that this was in fact the last Lotus road car development overseen by Colin Chapman himself. For a devoted Lotus fan, this is surely the wettest of dreams…
Click the link below for the full advert:

1984 Lotus X100 Prototype

So how to put a price on a prototype like this? There’s obviously not another on the market to compare it with. Frankly, I have no idea myself… But the seller has it for sale at £ 54,469 with the new owner taking responsibility for collecting the Lotus X100 from Houston in the USA. While that is no doubt a significant amount of cash, I personally find it very reasonable for such a historically interesting one-off from Chapman.

 

With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to primefindoftheweek@viaretro.co.uk

 

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5 Responses

  1. Claus Ebberfeld
    Bingo! This is surely the best and never to be repeated Prime Find ever.

    How could a prototype possibly be any better suited for actually being of use out in the real world? Toyota drivetrain, glassfibre bodywork, a full restoration – really, this is just about 100% what I’ve dreamt of for years.

    Unfortunately, I also dream of a price of around £ 8,995 – and then preferably with a Renault 5 GT Turbo in part exchange…

    Reply
  2. Tony Wawryk
    Perusing t’interweb on this snowy Saturday morning, as one does, I came across a car and video that I thought might be of interest to ViaRetro readers. In trying to decide which article to post it under, I figured – in view of the rarity of the car – this one might be the most appropriate – you be the judge(s).
    The car is a 1973 Owen Sedanca, based on XJ6/12 running gear – one of only three built. I vaguely remember seeing one of these and I think it was at an Earls Court Motor Show, though I can’t remember the year (told you it was vague). It’s available for offers around £47k, though it’s not clear from the ad whether that’s the fully restored price or not – seems unlikely?
    In any case, this – for me – is a much better looking car than the XJS and had Jaguar built it, they would undoubtedly have been able to do so less expensively than Panther, who built it for HR Owen. I think it would have been a success though it seems that the timing of it’s launch killed it as much as the high price of £8500.
    What do you chaps think?
    https://www.carandclassic.co.uk/car/C967060

    https://vimeopro.com/blueberrycreatives/alex-weeks-editor/video/126298405

    Reply
  3. Anders Bilidt
    Nice find Tony! I must confess that I learnt something new today, as I had never come across the Owen Sedanca before. Very interesting indeed…

    It’s an intriguing design for sure. Aspects of it well ahead of its time and beautifully resolved, while other aspects are still very much at the prototype stage, and could have benefitted from further development. Especially the rear of the car is truly awkward, and it almost seems that they started strong at the front of the car and then simply ran out of inspiration as they came to finish off the rear.

    I personally find the Espada comparison (in the video) rather farfetched. Instead, I feel it has a profound resemblance to the 1973 Bitter CD. In all honesty, I think the Bitter has an altogether more coherent design, but then you would of course have to settle for a GM drivetrain instead of a Jaguar drivetrain. The Bitter also seems almost common with just short of 400 cars produced compared to a mere 3 Owen Sedanca.

    Reply
  4. Tony Wawryk
    You’re right Anders, there’s definitely a resemblance to the Bitter. There are also bits from other cars in the styling – the B post vents are reminiscent of the Alfa Montreal (which is a much better looking car overall, I have to say), and in profile there’s a strong resemblance to the Maserati Indy to my eyes. I do think that if Jaguar had taken this on fully, they would have made a better job of it, though having said that, they had full control over designing the XJS…
    Still, it’s rarity and drivetrain make up for some of it’s styling quirks, I think.
    Reply

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