1 Of 1! Lotus M90 Prototype

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Yes, this most assuredly is a Lotus, yes, it is a one of one prototype, and yes, it’s in Houston, Texas, of all places. It’s also for sale here on eBay, where the opening bid is $10,000 — chump change for a prototype, don’t you think? To be honest, I was shocked to find this car for sale at all, never mind with complete history and documentation.

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Can you imagine a real Corvette or Mustang prototype ever escaping into the wild, especially a running, driving, street legal version? And yes, I know Ford sold of some of it’s non-running/non-street legal prototypes a while back, but this is a genuine street legal prototype that’s covered 12,000 miles. However, as with all things that seem too good to be true, there’s a catch.

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Ok, here’s the catch. The X90 doesn’t look like a full car anymore. Oh, all the pieces are there (obviously, this is just the chassis) but it was disassembled for a full restoration that hasn’t been finished yet.

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The seller is a little cryptic as to what state the car is actually in right now, but if I understand their phrasing correctly, the above is a current picture. The car is described as “partially re-assembled after painting and interior refurbishment.” That actually sounds like a lot of the hard work is done, especially when the car pre-disassembly is described as “fully working prior to restoration, and is complete.”

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The more observant of you will have already noticed the Toyota wheels, and now you see the Toyota steering wheel and switch gear. Not everyone will remember this, but Lotus and Toyota were pretty chummy at one point in time. The story of this particular prototype can be found in detail here, but suffice it to say that a somewhat half-hearted development effort got sidetracked originally by Colin Chapman’s lukewarm reception of some models, then his death, and eventually the front-wheel drive Elan took this rear-wheel drive prototype’s place. The car was shuffled off to a warehouse and probably forgotten about. It was auctioned off in 1998, presumably to the current seller as there is mention of them being from Texas. Much work went into making the car US-legal prior to importation.

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If the lines look like the 70’s Elite and 80’s Eclat, you’d be correct; Oliver Winterbottom designed this prototype to compliment the larger coupes. The seller has the car for sale on two other sites here and here, with a price of $30,000 on each. Honestly, I don’t think that’s too bad for the chance to own a one of one prototype from such an iconic sports car manufacturer, and the car actually doesn’t look bad to these eyes that grew up in the wedge era. And in case you are teetering on the edge of pursuing this car, know that you’d be the star of any British car show around!

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Comments

  1. Joe Nose

    Maybe the current owner forgot to document the disassembly and didn’t number the parts. And it’s not like you could go to the manual or find clues online…

  2. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    An early super Supra?

  3. Dolphin Member

    I admit I am not the person to ask about this, because a partly assembled prototype like this needs a truly dedicated Lotus person to even consider taking it on, and I am not that person.

    The description reads like text from a Lotus history website, and some of it can be found on existing websites. Very confusing trying to sort out what’s from other websites, and what’s fact about this car in its current state.

    The “Hundreds of photographs document the restoration to date” that the seller has might help, but not if they are just photos of components and areas on the car that have been cleaned and painted. If so, it will be a challenge getting it back together correctly. If the owner spent a lot of $ and effort making the car US-legal and is selling it at this point it sounds like he’s trying to get out from under it. Sorry to say, but it’s not a reassuring sales listing, and with that body, a Toyota engine, and RHD it’s not the lotus I would want to buy.

    • Russell

      And why is a Toyota engine a bad thing (Elise, Exige, …)? Would you expect this car not to be RHD? I think that this deserves to be in the hands of a Lotus collector, and I’m sure there are a couple I know of that are concidering it, at least I hope they are. May not be the find of the century, but it still deserves to be preserved.

    • Dolphin Member

      Russell, if you read what I wrote again you will see that I was speaking only for myself. I would not put a lot of money and effort into a prototype that never led to production; RHD cars are fine but I do not like to drive RHD cars on a LHD continent; and a prototype with a Toyota engine might drive well but it would not appeal to a lot of people as a collectible car, so the risk in buying and holding it would be high.

      And notice that I said that with a Toyota engine and some other features that I don’t favor it would not be a car that I would want to buy. I didn’t say the Toyota engine would be a bad thing.

      I would rather put my money and effort into an early Elan. But I agree this car deserves to be preserved, so if you end up buying this car I’m sure we would like to hear about your experience putting it back together and then driving it.

      • Russell

        Dolphin,

        I understand.

        I’m not interested in purchasing it, but I do hope it goes to a Lotus collector.

        FYI, I have an early Elan, but it’s not for sale right now, but may be soon. I must be one of the few who finds RHD cars on a LHD continent equally desirable. I live in a rural area, and we have RHD postal cars delivering our mail. I’ve asked a couple of mail carriers their thoughts on RHD, and they said its never been an issue, and they don’t even think about it. I tend to agree as I’ve owned 3 RHD British cars and its never been an issue for me either. The car in question being one of one and built in England I wouldn’t expect it to be anything but RHD.

  4. Grr

    Handsome period design, would’ve been a good complement to the Elite/Eclat/Esprit lineup. Was this intended as the new Elan? Too bad they subsequently went with the FWD car…

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Yes, it was. I actually like the lines of the Elan better, but I’d trade that for RWD…

  5. Chuck Foster Chuck F 55chevy

    Wow, that’s a find for a Lotus fan, which I am as an owner of a FWD Lotus Elan M100. I think this car is pretty nice looking, the 1991 M100 I have looks like a more rounded version of this body, the fiberglass panel lines are real similar. When GM bought Lotus in late 80s? they changed the development of this to utilize an Isuzu 1.6L 4cyl turbo engine, which mine handles really great, some have said the best fwd sports car ever. I can’t wait to post this on LEC Lotus Elan Central, and challenge the UK crowd to bring this back to it’s motherland. Someday I need to write an article called ‘How I turned a $950 Porsche 944 into a Lotus.
    Anyway, this chassis looks the same as mine as well, and it’s roots go back a ways, the frame I had on a 1968 Lotus Europa looked very similar. That was one of those ‘I should have kept that car” a Series 1.5 with a French owners manual, removable side windows, dual Weber carbs and an aftermarket header, it was like a big, over powered go kart. Did anyone think midget Delorean when the first saw this?

  6. Alan (Michigan)

    Wheels sourced from the Celica/Supra?

    • Chuck Foster Chuck F 55chevy

      Yes, Supra wheels, I also had a 1985 Celica GT-S that had those wheels also.

  7. BradL

    Let’s hope this didn’t get mixed up in the flooding we had here in Houston this week.

  8. renzo

    eBay rant: I hate it when Sellers have photos that you cant zoom. What’s with that, anyway? Is it an option when listing?
    End of Rant: Amazing opportunity for the “Lotus-Centi” (is that a word for Lotus-lovers?) a one-of-a-kind prototype that can be street-driven

  9. John

    Nothing wrong with a 4-AGE, especially one with only 12,000 miles! But to be honest even though I love this set up I think that I would rather have a Toyota AE-86 to play with.

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