From Japan With Love: Lotus Hits Fuji
The Show Must Go On

How appropriate – a celebration of all things Lotus and the rain comes! It was like all of the little lightweight cars at Fuji Speedway this past Sunday were suddenly back home in the perennially-damp UK.

The great thing is though, the horrible weather didn’t really put many people off; the turnout was exceptional. Held annually, Japan Lotus Day is a celebration of the great Colin Chapman and the cars he designed and refined during the course of his lifetime.


What I personally like about Lotus is that it doesn’t really matter if you’re into the brand or not – as an enthusiast you can’t possibly dismiss anything it does.


Sure, maybe some of the cars in the company’s troubled history may not have been as good as they could have, but Lotus never ditched that underlying aspect of driving excellence. And the cars it’s making these days are just getting better and better.


The more time I spent getting drenched waiting for the cars to roll into the paddock, the bigger the urge to get into one again and take it for a proper drive grew.


Like with any car brand or type, the Japanese set the standard when it comes to passion. I’ve been attending this event for a good few years now, and every time I’m blown away at the number of rare collectable cars that are actually in Japan. These two Mk1 Lotus Cortinas are a good example, and there were three more of them waiting in the pits!


And we all know the Japanese love to drive and take their cars to the track.


It’s therefore obvious that the sportier the model, the more appealing it will be, which is why the concentration of Exiges was ridiculously high.


On the far side of the paddock the guys at Lotus Japan had set up a little stage where they held various talk shows and even the obligatory jan ken pon (Japanese rock, paper, scissors) game where the audience could score some giveaways. Most people, however, were in that general areas to see the Super GT race queens.


The event is pretty straightforward: there are continuous track day sessions being held, which means people can drive, not just park up and walk around all day. It’s the only way a Lotus event could work. There are then a few other ways to pass the time in between your track outings, like checking out the various tuner booths.


And perhaps picking up an old trinket or two. This is where things can get very expensive very fast. I always tend to go in for a few pictures and then leave as soon as possible!

The Best Of The Best

As I touched on before, there are a lot of Lotus collectors in Japan, and once brought together they are able to provide enough metal for a pretty drool-worthy selection of cars. And while these two Esprits HC Turbos were some of my favourite cars at the event, the really rare stuff was found inside the pit garages.


If you have a deep love for Lotus, a line-up like this will surely get your heart beating that little bit faster.


It’s so easy to spend a lot of time here getting lost in the details.


One car I was immediately drawn to was this Gold Leaf Lotus racer from the late ’60s. It’s an iconic livery that probably looks even better than the British Racing Green everyone associates with Lotus.


There’s no Cosworth DFV V8 in the back, but rather a BES four-pot breathing through a pair of Weber side-draughts and dumping gasses via a beautifully shaped exhaust header.


Aside from the Japanese license plate specifying what version of Europa this is, the race-going Type 47 can easily be recognized buy the serious amount of rubber it packs at the rear.


Next to it was a beautiful Elan Sprint, yet another rarity. But it was the little fastback sitting alongside that stole the most looks.


The coach-built coupé version almost looks like a baby Ferrari 250GTO; it’s proportioned rather nicely and has a definite touch of elegance.


I was surprised to learn that some of the older Lotus single-seater Formula cars aren’t too prohibitively priced, which allows collectors to buy into the race car experience and make full use of it too. However, the JPS Renault-powered Lotus 97T in the background does not fall into that category.


It’s probably one of the most sought after F1 cars of its era, for obvious reasons. Total respect right here!


Parked in front was another important piece of Lotus F1 history. The Type 88 was engineered by Colin Chapman to generate a ton of downforce, yet protect the cockpit and therefore the driver from the inherent vibrations generated by the aero.


He came up with a twin chassis setup, and it’s so cool that I grabbed a few extra pictures for a forthcoming spotlight. The craziest thing is, they actually took it out in the pouring rain with vintage rain tyres which were more plastic than rubber!

Japan’s Love For Lotus

LCI, the official Lotus and Caterham importers in Japan, are really invested in what they do. The guys even collaborate with a Super GT team and race this Evora in the GT300 class.


But don’t let the familiar lines fool you, only the bodywork – as built by Mooncraft – is Evora. The chassis itself is based around a GTA Dome M101 carbon fiber monocoque.


And everything else around that, including the front and rear subframes and double wishbone suspension, is custom designed and fabricated.


I came across many previous-gen Exiges running over-fenders, an obvious evolution for a car that continues to remain one of the most sought after in Lotus circles.


You only needed to see how many of them were entered in the Exige Cup race they organized to realize that!


And if you do have a dedicated Cup car or heavily tuned, track-spec Exige, you’ll obviously have to trailer it to the track, right? Of course, for the Japanese this is an excellent opportunity to further expand on the passion, and picking the right vehicle to do the trailering is just as important as the car itself. A red Land Rover is a total and complete win in my book!


By the afternoon the rain and wind had turned into something more akin to a typhoon, with most pits flooding over creating some cool picture opportunities. As I was fiddling with my camera to get this reflection shot, I couldn’t help but think just how damn right Lotus got the original Elise. I mean, how old is this thing? Look at it – it still looks spot on!


I’ll end my main coverage from Japan Lotus Day 2016 here, but you can expect a few dedicated spotlights on some important cars that showed up to take part in the festivities soon.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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I've seriously lost interest in lotus because a long time ago I realized I will never be able to fit in one because I'm 6'4 but reading this article really makes me want to force myself into one and zip through the canyons.


That red Defender though. The level of want is too damn high.


As always I look forward to your yearly Lotus Day coverage Dino! Did BSK show up with any updates to that EJ20 swap Exige it was working on last year? I'd be curious to find out how it's progressed or if they've caught a development snag.


I've heard the Evora 400 is a more accessible but aggressive beast :)


KoukiLife You'll fit, just need some custom work haha


LouisYio Yeah couldn't stop looking at the damn thing! Loved the massive roof box too


Chris Nuggets It was there, but no progress whatsoever. It was filling up with water as it was on display outside so they then moved it onto the loader. Had different wheels on with slicks, that all! Man I can't wait till they finish that thing!


Man that Europa type 47 looks badass! Btw any K20 swaps on these Lotus? Would definitely dig that. Hi Dino, i  am visiting Japan from the 1st - 8th of May. Do you have any recommendation for car festival or events that I could go to around those dates? Really appreciate if you can point something out. Thanks!!


speedhunters_dino KoukiLife who needs seats anyway? but i share your pain koukilife fitting into a small car without swapping out some stuff is a dream that will not be realised


Dino, that last Type 88 picture is absolutely stunning. Everything is just perfect!!! Plastic tyres in rain? #courage over 9000!!!


Dino, not that I love your articles, but I love your articles.


no 7s or just no pics of 7s?


Dem Cortinas! Gotta have me one of those!
Shame there's no Carlton. That would have made the event even more special!


aganfl Going to japan? just drive around. You will eventually run into a car meet somewhere lol


speedhunters_dino LouisYio That's no roof box! It's a pop up roof top tent!


So many great cars. I would love a mk1 Elise.


Great article Dino ! Can't wait to see the spotlights, some of those Exige looks quite wild. And also still waiting for a full cover of Ti Racing Shop !


Christ - seen one Lotus Cortina in my life. And theres 5 there


I wait all year for this article!!!


The ass on that type 47 :0 so sick!


"and once brought together they are able to provide enough metal for a pretty drool-worthy selection of cars. " -more like metal and fiberglass.
Just for reference:
-The fatback elan is called a shapecraft elan
-the motor in the gold leaf single seater (I think a lotus 41) is a lotus or Brm twin can with a custom valve cover.
-the 47 wasn't a europa model or actually built by lotus. It was built by lotus components as a purpose built racecar.


OscarPais +1 Great to see the enthusiasm for the brand!


CharlesChris15 aganfl Yeah that's always good advice! And hit the tracks as there is always stuff happening


aganfl Yes there were, and I did see a car that had a "powered by Yamaha" sticker ??


Davids Kruze Photography Check out the spotlight I got coming!


Totski75 haha thanks man:)


kmcollins_jr They were there yes, just didn't shoot many


jay8393 Yeah I must ask someone at Lotus if there are any in Japan


Lemecanicien Yeah it's got to be done this year! Jesus I say that every time haha


LukeEVOVIII #becausejapan


OscarPais Wow that's awesome. Thanks a lot :)


Twitch_6 :D


Thanks for the awesome writeup Dino! Interesting to see the amount of lotus love in Japan. Impeccable timing too as a rather nice excel has just popped up for sale nearby...

turbo BEAMS ae86

Dino = villanous
Lotus = villanous
japan = devilish


This shot is fantastic, the sense of motion is unreal!


aganfl Get to Daikoku. My one regret when I went to Japan was I didn't go there for the weekend night meets.


Awesome article, would love me an Exige one day.


So much better then a flat cap, 'meat' pie and rain at brands-hatch.
It's kind of heart warming knowing a company that has had so much trouble is so widely loved internationally.


Damn, those race queens are looking fine.. nice cars too. I need an exige in my life.


It's nice to see other modified Lotus....


@turbo BEAMS ae86 LOL


BSides Thanks:)


TarmacTerrorist Because they try to make cars that appeal...


earmenau lol


super jesus  speedhunters_dino KoukiLife With car manufacturers realized there are bigger folks around hey


butterballs speedhunters_dino LouisYio Well sheeet, even better then haha


Great Shots and nice meet, thanks for the article!
There's so much talk about the Exige, yet the Series 1 that started it all is just a background in the S1 Elise shot. 

There were only 604 (or so made) but i thought there'd be more in Japan and especially such a meet. Not even a Motorsport Elise to see.


A shame the Esprit isn't all that hot with the Japan crowd, I wish I could appreciate the Elise and Exige more, but I just can't seem to get into them. Regardless, this event seemed like it was super enjoyable and rife with rich history. Japan holding it down once again.
Wasn't it the Type 88 that was banned almost immediately by the FIA?


BSides The name on the side of the car says it all...the camera focus is dialed right in. Well done, Dino!


I agree! Their focus is entirely on the driver and the experience, not on how many potatoes will fit in the boot....


I love every car lotus makes, the great late colin chapman is one of my favourite inspirational group of people alongside christopher von koenigsseg, nakai-san and other pioneers in automotive industry
Never thought that the japanese love lotus brand that deep. Also the red 110 defender looks sweet!!
Thank you again sir dino!!


The enthusiasm at this meet and in the comments on this thread is fantastic. Pretty heart warming for a Brit to know that plucky little Lotus is still respected further afield.  You're dead right about the S1 Elise. I always thinks it's almost like they poured the bodywork over the car, then drove it at speed to make the shape of it. Then the S2 went so fast it smudged all the headlights up. Strange I know, but I can't help but see it haha.


@Geoffw Gold Leaf car is most likely a Lotus 59 with Lotus twin cam (Cosworth Mk.XIII to be precise). I've seen similar cam cover in a japanese Lotus before, probably a local engine builder.


with a driver that is very reliable car that can drive very well


the car was very good 
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