Our Guest Blogger Major Barking-Squiff is back with another of his fantastic stories about the history of Lotus, specifically the missing Bugatti!
Lotus is a stupendously magnificent company with a huge sporting history, with many odd tales. Some of those tales have been embellished beyond recognition, whilst others have not. Lotus has an ‘old guard’ – in the past, those who worked for Colin Chapman for example – would always be one step ahead of the rest of the company. Lotus is an endlessly fascinating company.
A brief example was the deal to secure backing after GM had decided to dispose of the company. A Nigerian Prince was involved, along with a Bugatti EB110 Sport which has been displaced from the Italian plant whilst the company was in administration, although one of the four turbochargers was broken. The then owner of the re-born Bugatti was Romano Artioli, former owner of the biggest network of Ferrari dealers in the world until Modena decided the waiting list ‘dealing’ was not right.
Mr Artioli is a relatively short man with a very tall wife. Mrs Artioli made the trip to the mothballed Bugatti plant to retrieve a new IHI turbo – Mrs Artioli had only to stare for seconds to burn through all known substances and persons. By the way, Mr and Mrs Artioli’s granddaughter, Elisa, gave her name to the Lotus Elise.
The deal came into view along with the inevitable deadline. The great and the good of Malaysia wanted to arrive by Rolls-Royce having landed in London…. No, they wanted to arrive by helicopter and then Rolls-Royce……. No, they wanted to arrive by private aircraft and then be collected from Hethel International (a 2 minute walk from the plant) by Rolls-Royce…. No, they wanted to arrive by train and then Rolls-Royce…. All available Rolls-Royces across the East of England were hired.
The vast entourage arrived at Hethel, unannounced. Limousines, but not one Rolls-Royce. The VIPs apparently had staff who could also make things happen.
The deal maker wanted the Bugatti EB110 Sport as part payment.
There was a huge rift in the Lotus management. They knew the Bugatti EB110 Sport was not the property of Mr Artioli or Lotus, and so put the car on axle stands, removed the centre lock wheel nuts and wheels. Others got to know and forcefully expressed displeasure. The command was given – the EB110 Sport would remain on site come what may even if the deal went South.
At around 00.15, a transporter arrived, was let onto site, and the EB110 Sport was removed. Oh, and all of the wheels were fitted, using the centre lock wheel nuts that had been specifically hidden in another area of the plant. There was only one way onto and off the site, yet Security did not ‘see anything’. In the middle of the night. Wow.
Beware of the ‘old guard’. They know e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
Luckily the deal went ahead, Proton turned out to be an utterly useless owner, and Lotus did not get prosecuted for obtaining a car from another company in administration, in another country.
Lots of Trouble, Usually Serious – that’ll be the Bugatti.
Launching in October, a new classics community website – bringing together enthusiasts to buy, sell and chat all things classic. Sign up to find out more
Follow Evoke Classics