Investment from Toyota - and the significant use of its parts - enabled Lotus to launch the Lotus Excel in 1982, the theory being that the combination of the Hethel-based company’s legendary handling and the Japanese firm’s reliability would be a heady and irresistible mix.
Toyota was by now a major shareholder in Lotus, so it was only natural that it turned to Hethel when it needed help with the Supra, a move it hoped would lead to the British firm sprinkling some magic dust on its dull-but-worthy chassis.
It did, and the front-engined Excel went on to profit from a beguiling mix of Lotus Eclat and Toyota Supra bits, the latter contributing the gearbox, driveshafts, rear diff, alloy wheels - and door handles.
The SE arrived in 1985 with new bumpers and a rear wing plus a revised interior and dashboard. It also brought with it a more powerful H.C. (High Compression) version of the all-aluminium, DOHC 2.2-litre Lotus 912 slant-four engine. Fed by two 45mm twin-choke Dellorto carburettors, the engine, now fitted with racy red valve covers so everyone knew they were in the presence of greatness, churned out a worthwhile 180bhp.
The Excel, like just about every Lotus ever built, handled brilliantly and a large part of that competence lay in the suspension’s ability to make the most of the high degree of structural rigidity, something made possible by the vacuum-injected resin body that was mounted firmly onto a galvanised steel chassis.
This enabled the driver to make the most of the car’s perfectly balanced 50:50 weight distribution - and given the firm still employed Colin Chapman’s mantra of ‘Simplify, then add lightness' the Excel only weighs a little over 1,100kgs so it also goes rather well.