Today, designer Julian Thomson is the Advanced Design Director at Jaguar, where he works on projects such as the highly futuristic C-X75 concept that will soon star in the next James Bond movie. Back in the 1990s, Thomson was working at Lotus where he drew cars like the first generation of the Elise.
Lotus wasn’t in great financial shape at the time and Thomson admits the Elise didn’t quite turn out the way he would have liked it to. Nearly 20 years later, the designer is going back to the drawing board in order to build the Elise of his dreams.
Thomson’s yet-unnamed 21st century Elise will be lower and wider than the original car, and its body will be crafted entirely out of out carbon fiber in order to shed as much weight as possible. The original Elise has aged relatively well, but the redesigned model will look considerably more modern thanks to a pair of LED headlights and a new front bumper that incorporates a splitter and five air dams designed to direct air into the engine bay.
More modifications will be found out back, where the Elise will benefit from LED tail lamps, a thinner and longer third brake light, and bigger exhaust pipes. Finally, the rear bumper will get an air diffuser and two horizontal air vents, design cues that will give the car a more muscular look.
At launch, the original Elise was powered by a Rover-sourced 1.8-liter K-Series four-cylinder engine that made 118 horsepower, which was plenty in a car that weighed less than 1,600 pounds. The K-Series was notorious for blowing head gaskets, so it’s not surprising that Thomson’s reinterpretation of the original Elise will pack a more reliable Honda-sourced VTEC engine. Similarly, the five-speed manual will be tossed out and replaced by a sequential gearbox.
The redesigned first-gen Elise is Thomson’s personal project, and Lotus isn’t about to re-release the car. The designer will build his dream Elise in his spare time, so it’s far too early to tell when it will be ready to hit the track.