Lotus Carlton: Buying guide and review (1990-1992)
A full buyer's guide for the Lotus Carlton (1990-1992) including specs, common problems and model history...
The Lotus Carlton is the kind of car that comes along once in a generation. At a time when fast four door saloons were the preserve of BMW and Mercedes, this Vauxhall derived supercar arrived on the scene, utterly demolishing the opposition.
Twin turbos made sure that in gear acceleration gave Ferrari owners sleepless nights and while its opposition was limited to 155mph, the Lotus romped on to 176mph, making it one of the fastest production cars available in the early ‘90s.
Before the car’s launch, there was a lot of controversy surrounding it’s unrestricted top speed, and how it could in fact be a danger to the public in the right hands. Despite pressure from various tabloid newspapers to limit the Carlton, the company stuck to its guns and released it without pandering to the sceptics.
Thanks to its the resulting 176mph top speed, the Lotus Carlton gained a bit of a reputation among hardened criminals for its excellent reputation as a car for ram raiding small shops and news agents. In one case, the thieves were described as ‘uncatchable’.
The Lotus Carlton still looks menacing in its pearlescent Imperial Green paintwork, however its proportions, even with the flared arches and wings, are far smaller than modern day four door sports saloons. This is by no means a negative aspect as its more compact dimensions and snug interior complement the muscular nature of the car and make threading through traffic a lot easier than in some of the more bloated modern machines.
Which Lotus Carlton to buy?
With a limited production run of 950 units, 250 of which were UK spec RHD models, the Carlton is a rare beast indeed. Despite its undeniable performance credentials, the badge and the sticker price of £48,000 certainly limited sales.
It's still very much a Carlton inside, although the interior is nicely trimmed with leather seats, and a functional well built dashboard. The 180mph speedometer gives a clue to the car's potential. Choice in this case is limited to one model in one trim level and one exterior colour.
The only real option you have is which side of the car the steering wheel is on. The majority of cars were left hand drive and some have been imported into the UK over the last few years but for longer term ownership try and look for a right hander for ease of use on UK roads.
Seeing as there were no noteworthy changes made to these cars during the two years of production, the focus moves to looking for evidence of regular maintenance and sympathetic ownership.
These cars do not like to be chipped and if there is evidence of this then it may be best to walk away as the extra torque can cause a number of issues with the drive train.
Lotus Carlton performance and specs
3615cc, turbocharged straight-six, 24-valve
|Power||377bhp @ 5200rpm|
|Torque||419lb ft @ 4200rpm|
|Dimensions and weight|
Lotus Carlton common problems
Lotus Carlton model History
1990: Lotus Carlton starts production four years after original Omega is launched
1992: Production ends with 950 cars completed. 320 Carltons and 630 Omegas built
Clubs and websites
Summary and Prices
Values of these cars have been rising for a number of years now, low mileage good condition examples are increasingly rare and these can go for as much as £50,000. High-mileage models requiring some work can still command a not inconsiderable £20,000.
Watch out for abused or cars modified by disreputable tuning companies, as you may be in for huge repair bills. Proper maintenance can be expensive, but is essential to ensure that the car’s value and driving characteristics are maintained.
The Lotus Carlton is still a car that can provide driving thrills to match many contemporary sports cars, and if you find one in good condition there are many years of ‘90s flavoured sporting nostalgia ahead.
Thinking of buying a future classic? Then take a look at these potential future classics...