loading Loading please wait....

Lotus Carlton: Buying guide and review (1990-1992)

Lotus Carlton: Buying guide and review (1990-1992) Classic and Performance Car
Lotus Carlton Lotus Carlton Lotus Carlton Lotus Carlton Lotus Carlton
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 one 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. 
 
Performance and specs
 
Engine 3615cc, turbocharged straight-six, 24-valve
Power 377bhp @ 5200rpm 
Torque 419lb ft @ 4200rpm
Top Speed 176mph 
0-60mph 5.1 seconds 
Insurance group 20
Consumption 17.6 mpg 
Gearbox Six-speed manual
 
Dimensions and weight
 
Wheelbase 2730mm
Length 4687mm
Width 1772mm
Height 1445mm
Weight 1663kg
 
Common problems
 
• These cars have a really dedicated enthusiast following and joining the clubs and forums is a great way to get acquainted with the finer points of Lotus Carlton ownership, as well as getting hold of spares.
 
• Engines are robust units, however timing chains can snap causing catastrophic damage to the internals. Listen out for any whines or rattles that could indicate imminent failure.
 
• Buying a modified or chipped car is asking for trouble as the extra strain on the engine can cause a number of serious problems such as piston failure, head gasket problems and drive shaft breakages.
 
• Viscous fans are a known weak point and can fail. These should be checked regularly, as it could cause head gasket failure.
 
• Transmissions are very tough on these cars, as the gearbox is sourced from the Corvette ZR-1, and although they can be noisy at idle, this is normal. It’s worth checking for a split rubber gaiter above the transmission tunnel, as this can cause extra noise to enter the cabin. 
 
• The one area that is very important to check is the operation of the clutch. The clutch pivot pin or the bell housing can fail causing a lot of damage. This is a known problem area and if the clutch is overly light to depress, notchy or does not return to its normal position then the pressure plate, friction plate and bell housing may require replacing. Revised bell housings were fitted to later cars however they still fail so make sure you thoroughly check this out.
 
• The Lotus Carlton body kit is made of fibreglass and not to a very high standard. The bodywork modifications were carried out by Lotus, and areas where original body panels have been drilled into, such as the wheel arches and sills, may require some restoration work by now. 
 
• The Lotus versions are just as prone to body panel corrosion as any other Vauxhall Carlton. The main places to check are the door bottoms, behind the rear doors, around the sunroof, below the front and rear screens, boot floor as well as the extra wheel arch supports added by Lotus.
 
• When checking the interior, it’s worth noting that most parts can be sourced from standard Carltons if damaged or worn, however there are a few exceptions. A UK Lotus Carlton should be fitted with a set of 180mph dashboard gauges, as well as a plaque showing the car’s the build number on the glovebox lid. Although often worn, the standard leather seats are easy to recondition.
 
• Although originally stainless steel from the factory, exhaust systems can corrode over time so check that the rear and centre sections are in good condition. It’s also worth checking to see whether the catalytic converters are still in place.
 
• Suspension parts are mostly unique to the Lotus Carlton and it is worth checking under the car for any obvious signs of corrosion or damaged rubber bushes.
 
• If there is a knocking from the front suspension it could indicate that the spring cup washer has corroded, in some cases the front springs themselves can also fracture due to corrosion. Knocking from the rear may mean that the trailing arm bushes have failed.
 
• Brakes are not a problem point however they are expensive to replace, so visually check the disks and pads as well as feel for any shudder indicating warped discs.
 
• Cooling systems are complex and need checking over, issues here can lead to damage in various other areas so it may be best to get a trusted mechanic to give it the once over. 
 
• Auxilliary electric fans should only come on when the air conditioning is on, or the water temperature is above 97º Celsius so this is something that can be checked while viewing a vehicle.
 
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
 
www.autobahnstormers.org.uk - Owners club for rear-wheel drive Vauxhall and Opels
www.lotus-carlton.co.uk - Fantastic resource for Lotus Carlton owners
www.clublotus.co.uk - UK Lotus owners club
 
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.
Lotus Carlton Lotus Carlton Lotus Carlton Lotus Carlton Lotus Carlton
Last updated: 17th Mar 2016
collapse this

search results

1 Results

search results

Lotus Carlton
49995 49995 GBP
  • Lotus Carlton

    £49,995 £49,995

    FOR SALE An original and iconic Lotus Omega / Carlton with 39,558 miles. MODEL HISTORY Produced at the Lotus factory at Hethel, only a few people will be fortunate enough to drive a Lotus Type 104, also known as the Lotus Omega / Carlton. The team at Lotus Engineering took a production car, built a new engine, added suspension modifications, fitted more powerful brakes and modified the bodyshell to accommodate the repositioned engine, gearbox and wider, larger wheels and tyres. General Motors hoped to build 1,100 cars in total, but due to the recession of the early 1990s, the £48,000 price tag and adverse publicity surrounding the cars 176mph top speed for a family car, just 950 were completed. Of the 950, 666 are LHD Omegas and 284 are RHD Carltons. Once the fastest production saloon car in the world, number 593 is a very rare original survivor. EQUIPMENT Long-range halogen driving lights, green tinted glass, central locking, automatic suspension levelling, speed-sensitive power steering, heated seats, height and lumber adjustable seats, split folding rear seats, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, electric sunroof, front and rear electric windows, multi-function check control warning panel, cassette holder, Phillips SC804 stereo. EXTERIOR The integrated aero package serves a vital purpose in the handling of this awesome machine and helps to distinguish it as an all-time classic hero. Finished in striking Imperial Green 2-coat pearlescent paint, (Code E355), it looks tremendous. The colour, which is unique to the Lotus, comes alive in bright light and minor stone chips to the bonnet and wheel arch extensions do not detract from the overall stunning deep gloss shine. The correct tinted glass and Cibie headlights remain fitted and a small ding to the bonnet and front tow cover are barely visible. The slots in the bonnet to feed the turbocharged engine remind admirers how special this car is. INTERIOR Absolutely preserved, the Anthracite Connally leather looks incredible combined with the fluted grey alcantara door cards and polished wood. Correct features such as the Lotus badged rev counter, Lotus padded leather rimmed steering wheel and unique glove box Limited Edition plaque 0593 are present. Perfectionists will note the factory set of driving mats made from the same material as the carpet with dark grey piping are in situ and a discreet racimex boost indictor has been neatly installed. Four Lotus Omega door sill covers remain correctly fitted and the headlining is perfectly clean and tight. Very special. ENGINE & TRANSMISSION The 3.6 litre 24v inline DOHC engine with a brace of Garratt T25 turbochargers and twin watercooled inlet charge coolers unleashes 377bhp at 5,500rpm and 568Nm torque at 4,200rpm. The power delivery is phenomenal with an unlimited top speed of 176mph and 0-60mph in 5.2 seconds. A recent full service has just been carried out by Specialists Harvey Gibbs. The six-speed manual ZF transmission has a long-throw and offers reassuring solidity. WHEELS, TYRES & BRAKES Unique to the Lotus Omega and Carlton are the stunning Ronal one piece 8.5Jx17 front and 9.5Jx17 rear alloy wheels. Minor marks are barely visible and are shod in Yokohama 235/45 ZR17 front and 265/40 ZR rear tyres with ample tread. The correct metal tyre valves are fitted along with the factory spare. 330mm diameter ventilated front discs with AP Racing 4 pot calipers and 300mm diameter ventilated rear discs with AP Racing 2 pot calipers perform impeccably and are standard fitment. HISTORY FILE One of just 415 Lotus Omegas supplied to the German market when new, this example was manufactured on the 19th December 1991 as confirmed by the Lotus Certificate of Vehicle Provenance. Supplied by Adam Opel A.G. in Rüsselsheim to Mr Joerg Tuerkismue and according to the Fahrzeugbrief, (German Registration Document), this example has had just three keepers. The Lotus Omega Inspection Booklet records the servicing over the years helping to confirm the 63,663kms, (39,558 miles). An amazing collection of literature makes fascinating reading from the market launch material to the GM Continental Public Affairs negative photo slides! Offered for sale by Classic Park in Boxtel (NL) who house a fabulous museum, our current UK owner was thrilled to acquire this original unmolested example after viewing many substandard cars and is now only available due to a new business venture. All handbooks are contained within the unique Lotus Omega green leather folder. An amazing opportunity to own a piece of motoring history. MOT November 2018, HPI Clear. To see a video of this car please click on the link below: https://youtu.be/NpWS58PiByM To see a complete set of photographs of this car please click on the link below: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmaJqBRS 'Like us' or 'Follow us' for exciting new cars coming soon at KGF Classic Cars: https://www.facebook.com/KGFClassiccars https://twitter.com/KGFClassicCars

    • Year: 1991
    • Mileage: 39558 mi
    • Engine size: 3.6
    For sale
    £49,995 £49,995
    KGF Classic Cars
    01733425140 View contact number