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!
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.
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.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org