At the time of Chapman’s death in December 1982 the facts of the DeLorean affair were starting to become known. The British Inland Revenue were after Lotus and imposed an £84 million claim on the company. By 1983 the company was almost bankrupt. Mark Thatcher, son of Margaret, convinced David Wickins (later to be known as the saviour of Lotus) to become chairman of Lotus. David, the founder of British Car Auctions, put the company on a sound footing.

Toyota also took a 21 per cent holding, but by 1985 British investors realised they lacked the capital to finance product development and their shares were sold to General Motors at the beginning of 1986. After four months of working alongside General Motors, Toyota also sold out to GM who then bought out the remaining investors.

In August 1993 GM sold the company for £30 million to ACBN Holdings SA of Luxembourg, a company controlled by Italian businessman Romano Artioli, who also owned Bugatti Automobili SpA, although Lotus itself was never owned by Bugatti.

It would be under Artioli’s guidance that Lotus would make a return to the original philosophy of the company – this being exemplified by the development and introduction of the Elise, named after Artioli’s granddaughter, Elisa. With its novel extruded aluminium chassis, bonded rather than welded together, the Julian Thomson-designed sports car was universally acclaimed as a return to form for Lotus.


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