Lotus Elise pedals - Art of Speed

Inspired by the beauty of a Ducati, we explore the origins of the pedals in the Lotus Elise

There were two friends. One was a freelance car designer called Julian Thomson. The other, Richard Rackham, had a staff job at Lotus as a chassis designer. The fact that both men owned Ducati motorbikes perhaps wasn’t so remarkable. Neither was the fact that they owned them for precisely the same reason: not as modes of transport but as fine examples of kinetic art to be studied, understood, admired and, of course, ridden on great roads just for the hell of it. What arose from this set of circumstances, however, turned out to be a particularly serendipitous meeting of minds. When the time came for a chastened Lotus to truly reconnect with its core values after the clever but wrong-headed front-wheel-drive Elan bit the dust, inspiration sprang from the two designers’ shared appreciation for the pared-down beauty of an iconic Italian superbike. The project they were to work on was called M1-11; the car that emerged in 1996 was the Lotus Elise.      

In essence, what Thomson and Rackham wanted to do was build a four-wheeled Ducati – a simple, lightweight sports car true to Colin Chapman’s seminal vision, but with radical engineering solutions and construction-as-art design techniques that owners would be able to see and covet. ‘If you take the clothes off a Ducati, you see lots of nice things,’ commented Rackham in a documentary about the birth of the Elise. ‘There’s a real, jewel-like quality about the way they’re put together,’ added Thomson. ‘They don’t want to sell them in big numbers, only to people who really know what they’re about.’

> Lotus Elise and Exige to sign off with Final Edition models

Central to Project M1-11’s progress in every sense was Lotus’s association with Hydro Aluminium in Denmark, which produced the aluminium extrusions from which the Elise was largely made. To save weight, the parts that constituted the chassis were bonded together with glue rather than welded, resulting in a car that was extremely rigid but tipped the scales at just 731kg. Another advantage of the extrusion process was the freedom it afforded. Not only did aluminium look and feel great, you could have it in any shape. This got Rackham thinking.

‘I tried to fit an Austin Metro pedal box in the car,’ he remembers. ‘It looked hideous. I thought, hang on a minute. I’d sketched out an ideal pedal shape and suddenly I saw an extrusion there. If we hadn’t been tuned into extrusions it would never have happened. I think the pedals caught a lot of peoples’ imaginations. It’s something which is easily held in the hand. It’s got a nice curvy shape to it. Julian actually wanted to turn some into telephones that could be sent to clients.’

The pedals’ fragility has turned out to be something of an Achilles’ heel for the S1 Elise. But as evidence of the Ducati-esque ‘exposed form’ engineering Thomson and Rackham set out to achieve, their emblematic status lives on.

Recommended

Nissan R34 Skyline GT-R multifunction display – Art of Speed
Nissan R34 GT-R display
Nissan GT-R

Nissan R34 Skyline GT-R multifunction display – Art of Speed

The R34 GT-R came with Nissan’s interpretation of a games console crowning the dashboard. A gimmick? Big time, but entertaining all the same
4 May 2021
Ford Racing Puma bodykit – Art of Speed
Ford Racing Puma
Ford Racing Puma

Ford Racing Puma bodykit – Art of Speed

The Ford Racing Puma's bodykit is an iconic piece of automotive design, but there's more to it than meets the eye
20 Apr 2021
Porsche Carrera GT centre-locking wheel nuts – Art of Speed
Carrera GT wheel nuts
Porsche

Porsche Carrera GT centre-locking wheel nuts – Art of Speed

Porsche's iconic colour-coded wheel nuts were just one of many iconic details on the naughties icon
7 Apr 2021
Pontiac GTO hood tach - Art of Speed
Pontiac GTO hood tach
Art of Speed

Pontiac GTO hood tach - Art of Speed

A prototypal head-up display predating digital examples by decades, the Pontiac GTO's bonnet-mounted tach was both flamboyant and flawed
23 Mar 2021

Most Popular

It’s time for some home truths about the Toyota GR Yaris, reckons Porter
Richard Porter opinion
Toyota GR Yaris

It’s time for some home truths about the Toyota GR Yaris, reckons Porter

‘It looks stretched and contorted, like someone who’s had too much cheap plastic surgery’
22 Jun 2021
2022 Ferrari 296 GTB unveiled – V6-hybrid to pack 818bhp punch
2022 Ferrari 296 GTB AF – front quarter
Ferrari

2022 Ferrari 296 GTB unveiled – V6-hybrid to pack 818bhp punch

Ferrari’s revolution is now up to full speed with its new plug-in hybrid V6 mid-engined supercar
24 Jun 2021
992-gen Porsche 911 Carrera GTS revealed – drivers’ Carrera debuts
Porsche 911 GTS 992
Porsche 911 Carrera GTS

992-gen Porsche 911 Carrera GTS revealed – drivers’ Carrera debuts

Goldilocks 911 returns with more power and less weight
22 Jun 2021
Triumph Lynx – Dead on arrival
Triumph Lynx
Features

Triumph Lynx – Dead on arrival

With a 3.5-litre Rover V8 under the bonnet and TR7 fastback styling, the Lynx could have been British Leyland’s answer to the Ford Capri
18 Jun 2021
New Audi RS3 technical details revealed – torque-vectoring differential confirmed
Audi RS3 mule 2020 SB – rear
Audi RS3

New Audi RS3 technical details revealed – torque-vectoring differential confirmed

Hyperhatch war resumes, with a new focus on handling, and not just power
21 Jun 2021
Project Horizon - CEO Tobias Moers maps Aston Martin’s future
Tobias Moers
Aston Martin

Project Horizon - CEO Tobias Moers maps Aston Martin’s future

A wider portfolio, V8 mid-engined supercars and every new Aston beyond 2025 to be electric. CEO Tobias Moers reveals his plans for Aston Martin
22 Jun 2021
BMW M3 Competition 2021 review – still the benchmark performance saloon?
BMW M3 Competition
BMW M3 saloon

BMW M3 Competition 2021 review – still the benchmark performance saloon?

It’s bigger and heavier than before, and is now auto-only. So can it copy the new M4’s trick of still being fun to drive? You bet it can
19 Jun 2021
The reluctant LaFerrari driver – evo archive
evo archive – LaFerrari truck extraction – stop!
Ferrari

The reluctant LaFerrari driver – evo archive

How do you get a £1million hypercar out of the back of a delivery truck? Very, very, slowly…
15 Jun 2021
New 992 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring revealed – now available in manual and PDK
Porsche 911 GT3 Touring – rear profile
Porsche 911 GT3

New 992 Porsche 911 GT3 Touring revealed – now available in manual and PDK

The Touring pack has returned, combining the 992 GT3’s set-up with more understated looks
15 Jun 2021
Aston Martin sues Swiss car dealer over Valkyrie deposits
Aston Martin Valkyrie
Aston Martin Valkyrie coupe

Aston Martin sues Swiss car dealer over Valkyrie deposits

Aston is suing Nebula Project over Valkyrie deposits worth £15m that were allegedly taken from customers but not passed on to the parent company.
22 Jun 2021
Used car deals of the week
Used car deals
used cars

Used car deals of the week

Here's what caught evo’s fancy this week on the second hand car market
17 Jun 2021
MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn
MAT Stratos – front tracking
Lancia

MAT Stratos 2021 review – Lancia’s iconic Stratos reborn

It’s been a long time coming, but this Ferrari F430-based reimagining of the Lancia Stratos is finally here
11 Jun 2021
2022 Toyota GR 86 coming to Goodwood Festival of Speed
2022 Toyota GR86 FoS
Toyota GT 86

2022 Toyota GR 86 coming to Goodwood Festival of Speed

The Toyota GR 86 will have its public and dynamic debuts at this year's FoS
24 Jun 2021
BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance
BMW M5 CS – front cornering
BMW M5 saloon

BMW M5 CS 2021 review – a class act that reaffirms the M division’s brilliance

Nonsensical on paper, but sublime in practice. Never has a modern supersaloon been more tactile or more engaging
14 Jun 2021