Steve Cropley: A New Era for the Classic Lotus Network Car News

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Long-time Lotus enthusiast Paul Matty has retired from a thriving business

As Lotus legend Paul Matty retires, we take a look at what’s next for the company


I’m not sure how the classic Lotus business is supposed to survive the retirement of super-specialist Paul Matty after 46 years of unwavering dedication to the brand. Far from being a mere businessman, Matty was often Lotus’s most effective ambassador, keeping the flame alive while successive Hethel management teams busied themselves with mismanaging (a phase now thankfully over).

Over the years, Matty has built a vital global aftermarket manufacturing network that supports rivals and customers alike. Typically, he’s made airtight plans for it to thrive in the years to come: Clive Chapman’s Classic Team Lotus has purchased the entire company and will base it in a new emporium in Hethel, the home of the Lotus’ greatest Grand Prix cars. Matty considers this his biggest hit in five decades, and he deserves it.


Amid the routine critiques of car culture we all hear in the media, it’s easy to forget just how handy cars have become for promoting other people’s businesses. The latest example is a plan to use the exclusive London tailoring center as a competition venue for “30 world-class cars” on June 15-16. The mission, say the promoters, is to explore the relationship between luxury car makers and the tailors of Savile Row, but the main hope must surely be to attract visitors who will take the opportunity to flesh out their wardrobes.


The appointment of venerable ex-Ferrari boss Amedeo Felisa to Aston Martin’s top spot, with master engineer Roberto Fedeli as his winger, could hardly be a bigger change of pace from Tobias Moers’ short-lived regime, the ex-Mercedes-AMG credited by the FT with having “presided over a collapse in morale”. I met Felisa a few times during his Maranello days and was always impressed with his inclusive, gentle approach and how easily he earned respect. This will play Gaydon brilliantly.

The arrival of so many Italians in the specialist automotive industry in the UK (there is now an Italian CEO at Morgan) reminds me of when the British colonized parts of the Italian automotive industry – and helps to dispel any doubts I may have about newcomers’ awareness of ‘British’. In particular, I remember former Lotus boss Mike Kimberley and his gang who took over a bit of Lamborghini in the 1990s and thought they were the men for the job.


On a routine M40 visit to the British Motor Museum in Gaydon, I was delighted to see the electric Lightning GT now take pride of place in the concourse, right next to stalwarts like Old Number One, the Morris Oxford Special which inspired the first MG and HUE 166, the first pre-production Land Rover.

I’ve always felt that the Lightning GT and its creator, Iain Sanderson, deserved a lot more credit than they got given it was a well-resolved performance EV when Teslas were in pants short. I saw it (and met Sanderson) for the first time at the London Motor Show in 2007, where it won an Excellence Award and impressed us all with the completeness of its engineering and interior . It will be on display until at least 2024.


Do you have any good road reviews to tell you what a car really looks like? I have several, and usually connect them on my trip home for the weekend. One is a special coarse surface, ideal for assessing road noise and generating trim buzz. Another is a bump confluence, perfect for judging bump and shock performance. An innocent-looking stretch between Burford and Bibury in Gloucestershire is ideal for exciting finishing vibrations and tire noise. Even Mercedes and Bentley are sensitive. My longtime Dacia Duster does a decent job there – one more reason I love it.

And something elseā€¦

BMW’s recent move to a twin octagonal grille for some of its latest offerings has interesting echoes for former British Leyland employee and longtime enthusiast Ian Elliott, who sends in this doctored photograph. Did Cecil Kimber (the former founder of MG) reincarnate in Munich, he asks.

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This notice was published: 2022-05-10 23:01:25

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