The story of the Lotus Elise started publicly with Elisa Artioli, and as the last car is transported carefully away from Hethel to begin a new life in the Italian Alps, it ends with Elisa Artioli too.
Actually, “ends” isn’t really the right word, as there’s no better person to continue the Elise story than the person whose name it has borne for the past quarter-century.
Elisa was the two-and-a-half year old girl who emerged from under the covers when the car was unveiled back in September 1995, named after her by the boss at Lotus at the time, her grandfather Romano Artioli. She has owned a 1997 Series 1 Elise since she was four years old – though thanks to Italian learner legislation putting a power-to-weight limit on cars for new drivers, only got her first taste behind the wheel at 19.
And Elisa has since become the kind of product ambassador most companies could only dream of: One who adores her car and is only too happy to express that adoration at every opportunity. “It has changed my life” she tells us.
But that 1997 silver Elise S1 will now be joined by a new car on her lively Instagram feed and on the driving tours run by her company, Delightful Driving. A brand new Lotus Elise 240 Sport ‘Final Edition’ in Championship Gold, it is both the first car Elisa has bought, and the final brand new Elise in customer hands.
“When they announced that Elise production was ending, I called Lotus and immediately asked if I could buy the final car!” she says after unravelling a silken cover from her new car.
Elisa had competition: Elise orders shot up when the end of production was announced by Lotus in 2019, and there were more than a few requests from high-net-worth clients to secure the final car for their collections.
None would have a story as good as Elisa’s though, and hers will be all the sweeter given it’ll spend the rest of its days being driven on some of Europe’s most beautiful roads, around the Dolomites near her home town of Bolzano, in northern Italy. (If you’re wondering, the last car off the line full stop, a yellow Sport 240, will be retained by Lotus.)
The gold car should take just a bit of the workload off her original silver car, too. Elisa explains, with slight embarrassment given the PRs within earshot, that it currently needs some attention for “headgasket problems”. A wry smile from the assembled journos, and a grimace for anyone who has ever dealt with a Rover K-series.
But the silver car certainly gets used. “I do about… 10,000km a year, I think? I don’t actually need a car in town [there’s a Vespa for daily duties] but I love driving, and love driving on the mountain passes, not the city centre. The traffic isn’t fun, but there are some great roads just ten minutes away. I live in the perfect place for this car.”
The new Elise will get used too, and stand out even more; I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a car in this colour before. “I’m happy my grandfather chose silver [for the S1] because it’s like a sculpture – I’ll never get tired of it.
“For the new car I wasn’t sure. But years ago I drove a Cup 260 [in this colour] and fell in love with it, and from that moment I knew I needed to work and get a car like that. I had no idea what it would look like in the flesh, but it looks more gorgeous than I expected.”
In addition to the eye-catching colour scheme (if it doesn’t come across in images, trust us – it’s spot-on in person, and will look even better in the Italian sunlight), Elisa opted for the black pack as a contrast, plus Anthracite-coloured wheels and as a finishing touch on the exterior, red brake calipers – a perfect match for the “Sport” script on the front wings.
Inside the car gets Alcantara-trimmed seats – “With my S1” says Elisa, “after a while I start sliding down in the leather seats until you cannot see me any more!” – plus gold accents on various interior parts. The effect is not unlike the old John Player Special F1 cars, and deliberately so. There’s carpeting, but only in part. “I didn’t want to have the entire chassis covered, I like this puristic look.” And air conditioning too. “I hope I can enjoy this car more in Italy in the summer…”
The extra power is neither here nor there, Elisa noting that power is not what the Elise is about. “I’ve never had the feeling that oh, it doesn’t have enough power – it’s still perfect in the Dolomites”. But it should make passing slow-moving tourists a little easier, and will no doubt be welcome too in some of the steeper sections.
Now Elisa has silver and gold Elises, I suggest that all she needs to complete the set is a bronze-coloured one. A smile. “Maybe an Emira…”