This Lotus Was Once the Fastest Sedan in the World
The storied BMW M5 has long been the perfect example of what a fast sports sedan should be. Sleek, powerful, yet with businesslike poise. Many times, it’s also been one of—if not—the fastest of the four-doors. But then out of nowhere, General Motors came along in the early ‘90s and said “nuh uh.” The bombshell it dropped was this, the Lotus Carlton: a Vauxhall Carlton/Opel Omega that was pumped up to the nth degree and capable of hitting a top speed of 177 mph, making it the fastest sedan in the world. Despite its GM origins (Lotus was owned by the General at the time), the Lotus Carlton was never intended for US shores, nor was it ever officially imported. That said, given the US government’s 25-year import restrictions, that means these early ‘90s super sedans can now come stateside with relative ease. Oh the temptation. RELATED: Take a Closer Look at the Super-Fast Lotus Carlton
The Lotus Carlton was first born in 1990, and its transformation from ordinary Vauxhall to highway-crushing supercar began at Lotus’ Hethel, UK headquarters. Under its hood the donor Carlton GSi gave up its 3.0-liter straight-six, which was heavily reworked to produce 3.6-liters of displacement and a goliath 377 horsepower and 419 lb.-ft. of torque. That was frankly unheard of in sedan land at the time, and it came courtesy of two Garrett T25 turbochargers.
The Carlton then adopted the six-speed manual gearbox from the legendary Corvette ZR-1, plus a set of big AP ventilated racing brakes, and the limited-slip differential from a Holden Commodore. Racy stuff. And being a Lotus, its chassis was comprehensively tuned.
The end result was zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds, the quarter mile completed in 13.6 seconds, and of course, that vaunted 177 mph top speed—all achievable in a car that wouldn’t pique too much interest in an office carpark.
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The Lotus Carlton successfully pulled off the subtle-yet-sporty look, and came dressed exclusively in a dark Pearlescent Imperial Green. Differentiating it from a standard Carlton is its body kit, vented hood, swollen wheel arches, sleek curved boot spoiler, and five-spoke alloys. There are the Lotus badges too.
25 years later and it’s still a quick car by modern standards, and a fantastic looking one at that. However, it didn’t quite meet sales expectations. The Lotus Carlton was slated to be in production until 1994 but a dip in the economy and the car’s sky-high price of £48,000—$94,000 in those days—held total yield to just 950 cars in total (Lotus Omegas included).
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This 1991 car is one of the few, and the 134th built, having rolled off the production lines on August 1st of that year. It’s said to be bone stock apart from a stainless steel exhaust and an aftermarket alarm (surprise, many got nicked), and this past weekend it sold for £20,250 at the UK’s Silverstone Auctions (about $28,200). Pay close attention to these in the coming years… that price is only going north.
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