Why do so many Lotus road car names begin with the letter E?

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On the evening of Tuesday 6 July Lotus will stage the world premiere of its all-new sports car. It is unquestionably one of the most eagerly anticipated new model launches of 2021 from any global carmaker, the latest milestone in the ongoing transformation of the iconic Norfolk manufacturer’s business and brand.

At the Driving Tomorrow global strategy conference staged on 27 April, Lotus revealed its new car would be called the Emira. Pronounced ‘E-meer-a’, the word features in numerous ancient languages and often translates as ‘commander’ or ‘leader’. It’s highly appropriate as this is the exciting new sports car leading Lotus on a journey to a thrilling new future.

For Lotus enthusiasts the world over, the fact that the name begins with the letter E will have come as no surprise. Following the Elite, Elan, Europa, Eclat, Excel, Esprit, Elise, Exige, Evora and of course the Evija, the Emira is the latest in a long line of Lotus road cars that use E as the first letter. The question is why? As with so many elements of Lotus’ history, there’s a story…

Founder Colin Chapman had his first taste of motorsport as a passenger in a trials competition in 1947. He was enthusiastic enough about the experience to want to build his own car so he could take part from behind the wheel. The starting point was the chassis of a 1928 Austin Seven saloon, registration PK 3493, and work took place in a lock-up garage behind his girlfriend Hazel’s parents’ house in Muswell Hill, North London. Hazel later became his wife.

Using basic tools he created an angular body from alloy-bonded plywood panels, with an extended rear to accommodate up to two passengers for ballast during trials. It had no doors, just low cuts in the side panels. The car was christened the Lotus Mark I, with Chapman choosing to write it with a Roman numeral. It was followed by the Mark II, Mark III and so on until 1956 when Chapman was ready to launch his 11th model.

Following his naming system it should have been called the Lotus Mark XI, but the motoring media seemed to like the way that ‘Lotus XI’ rolled off the tongue. Chapman ditched the ‘Mark’ designation and it never reappeared.

Then, to avoid any confusion between the Roman and Arabic numbers – as the Arabic ‘11’ would be visually almost identical to the Roman ‘II’ – Chapman decided to spell it out. So the Lotus XI became the Lotus Eleven, unintentionally starting the naming strategy for all subsequent Lotus road cars, a strategy which continues with the unveiling of the Emira on 6 July.

 Visit www.lotuscars.com from 19.30 BST on Tuesday 6 July to watch the world premiere of the all-new Lotus Emira.