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    Customer Stories pt. 7: The Lotus of F1 legends

    Customer Stories

    Name: Leigh Greenham

    The classic: Lotus Elite

    ‘The leather was all dried; it creaked and groaned and was faded. There was dust trapped in the crazing of the fiberglass body so overall it looked really bad, but you could tell that underneath all of that that it was a solid car. I thought to myself, ‘I’ll do some work to this car and bring it back to the condition that it was in when new. It will be a long process, but it will be worth it.’’

    ‘It was the mid-1990s, and I’d been looking for a Lotus Elite for some time,’ Leigh tells us. ‘I came across a ‘For sale’ poster on a stand at a Lotus exhibition, which had been put up by a gentleman in Holland selling his entire collection of around 20 cars, including the exact Lotus model I was searching for. I contacted him and before I knew it, I was on my way to Holland to see it!’

    Leigh Greenham, owner of a classic Lotus Elite and part of the Heritage Customer Stories project
    Leigh Greenham, the proud owner of a beautiful classic Lotus

    Although the previous owner had an enormous basement garage to house his fleet, his 1980 Lotus Elite proved to be one car too many, and was sheltered in a barn by the time Leigh went to view it. ‘When I first saw it, it was covered in dust,’ Leigh recalls. ‘The leather was all dried; it creaked and groaned and was faded. There was dust trapped in the crazing of the fiberglass body, so overall it looked really bad. Nonetheless, you could tell that underneath all of that, it was a solid car. There was also a hint of its history of having been used as a team car for the Lotus F1 team in the early ‘80s. I thought to myself, ‘I’ll do some work to this car and bring it back to the condition that it was in when new. It will be a long process, but it will be worth it.’’


    Leigh Greenham's Lotus Elite, the car of F1 racing legends
    Leigh’s stunning Lotus Elite, the car of F1 racing legends

    A month later, in May 1997, Leigh returned to Holland and drove his new classic home. ‘The decision to drive it all the way home was a bit of a leap of faith,’ Leigh laughs, ‘but the gentleman I bought it from knew his stuff and made sure it was in a road-worthy condition. I didn’t really have any reservations about bringing it back. In fact, I was excited! I knew it was running well; I didn’t have any time constraints so if there were any problems on the way back, they could be sorted out without much fuss. I had full insurance, breakdown cover, and letters of authority from the DVLA, so I was well prepared.’

    On the trouble-free journey back, Leigh had two things on his mind, first of which was to register it in the UK. ‘I was very lucky that the DVLA allowed me to put the original registration back on car,’ says Leigh, ‘as I could provide photos of the car in its previous life. The second thing was that I needed to get it MoT-ed to the UK standard and give it a thorough safety check: the brakes, the rubber components, suspension joints – everything like that needed a mechanical overhaul. I took it to a specialist who spent several weeks getting it to a good condition. It was an exciting time!’

    Lotus Elite next to F1 car
    Leigh’s Lotus Elite next to an F1 car
    The Lotus at the Hockenheim Grand Prix, 1980. Image from Sutton Motorsport
    The Lotus at the Hockenheim Grand Prix, 1980. Image from Sutton Motorsport

    A decorated history with F1

    One of the most striking things about Leigh’s car – aside from its beautiful blue hue – is the documented time it spent with the Lotus F1 team during the ‘80s. ‘I first discovered the history of the car from the Dutch gentleman I bought it from,’ Leigh explains. ‘When he purchased the car in 1987, he wrote a letter to the Lotus team manager and had received a short reply to say ‘yes, I know that car; we used to drive it to all the circuits for Colin Chapman and the F1 drivers to use during GP weekends. I remember Mario Andretti leaving his sunglasses in the glove compartment!’’

    The fascinating history of the car sparked Leigh’s interest and he began his own search for information, finding pictures of the car in F1 photo archives and magazines. ‘It became a matter of contacting the people who might have seen the car during its life in the Lotus team,’ Leigh says.

    The Lotus at the Monaco Grand Prix, 1980
    The Lotus at the Monaco Grand Prix, 1980

    Perhaps the best experience during Leigh’s search was getting in touch with Classic Team Lotus, who manage old Lotus racing cars today. The company is run by Clive Chapman, the son of Colin Chapman CBE: the founder of Lotus Cars.

    ‘Although Clive told me that he was too young to remember the car himself, he kindly assured me that if anything came up, he’d get in touch. As luck would have it, I came home from work one day to a big brown envelope waiting for me, full of files on the car and a handwritten note from Clive himself. They’d found insurance documents, service information and a host of other bits of information in the drawer of an old desk, and sent me the entire lot! They even included the ferry tickets that were used to transport the car to the 1980 Belgian Grand Prix just after the car was built. So, all of its original history, I’ve received directly from Classic Team Lotus: it’s phenomenal.

    ‘Every so often, I’ll be inspired to look in a new archive or approach a new person, and something else comes up. Even now, the car is providing me with a hobby in the winter months, there’s still a trickle of information to find. And in the warmer months of the year the car has been able to revisit some of the circuits it was at in the ’80s; for example, I’ve taken it back to Zandvoort and Monaco.’

    What is it like to own something with so much history?

    ‘That’s what makes it special,’ Leigh tells us. ‘It’s the history of the car that makes it so different to owning any other classic car. It’s knowing that when I’m driving it, I’m sitting in the same seat as people who are very special in the motor sport world.’

    In preparation for classic car shows and events, Leigh printed off some photos of his car in its heyday, along with some text explaining its important history. ‘Sometimes, when I’m at a show such as Silverstone Classic, I’ll be standing near the car and see people lean over, read the text and get out their cameras to take photos. Once, a gentleman inspected the car for 20 minutes, so I wandered over and said, ‘you seem to be particularly interested in this car’. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘that’s actually because I’m a car designer for Lotus.’ It turned out that I was speaking to Russell Carr, Lotus’ Head of Design. He told me that he gets inspiration from looking back at the previous Lotus models, especially when it comes to things like aerodynamic styling and luxury interiors from decades ago. It was wonderful to chat with him about the car; I even offered him to sit in it, which he did!’

    When it comes to awards and recognition, Leigh’s Lotus has certainly taken the spotlight a few times. ‘It’s won some slightly informal awards,’ Leigh tells us, ‘specifically at the NEC, where it was named one of the best classic cars on display in 2011. In Lotus shows it’s been voted the best car by Lotus club owners. It’s certainly not a concours car though; it often gets fly-splatted when I’m out on the road and whatnot, but that’s exactly the way I want it!’

    When we ask Leigh about his favourite memory of the Lotus, there’s no hesitation behind his answer. ‘It was definitely the trip my wife and I took to the Isle of Man,’ he recalls. ‘The special part of the trip was being able to drive the TT course across the spine of the Isle of Man, which is a long and fast road. My wife and I took a couple of trips around, but for me to be in the passenger seat while she was driving was really special. She has a great interest in motorbikes and speed, so it meant a lot for her to drive along the course, and it meant a lot to me to be with her on the road – I’ll never forget it.’

    Lotus Elite at Silverstone Classic in 2007
    Leigh in the Lotus at the Silverstone Classic, 2007
    Ian Cook drawing of a classic blue Lotus Elite
    Ian Cook’s drawing of Leigh’s Lotus Elite

    Would you like the chance to be part of our Customer Stories project?

    If you’re a Heritage Car Insurance customer and you’d like your classic drawn on one of our live drawing sessions, please send a maximum of 150 words about what your classic means to you and at least 2 images to We’ll send the original drawing to you for free, as well as a printed T-shirt and mug. It’s a wonderful project to be a part of, so if you’re interested simply get in touch!


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