The Legendary Car That Evaded The Police: The Lotus Carlton/Omega
When Lotus and GM worked together to create a super sedan, they created a legend that could outrun the police.
DISCLAIMER: Please do not EVER get into a high speed chase or any chase for that matter. Please drive safely and obey the rules of the road. I do not advocate putting your own life or the life of others in danger on public roads.
Cop chases can be very entertaining to watch especially to us car enthusiasts. I find myself watching a chase purely because of the car that's involved. I often find myself rooting for the car (not the criminals). Some cars can be just as famous as a chase themselves. Case and point, does a white Ford Bronco ring any bells for any of my fellow Americans? After the OJ chase Ford saw a rise in Bronco sales after the infamous safe speed chase. Across the pond there was another car that became a legend in automotive folklore that a good amount of people have never heard of.
In 1990 GM wanted to have a performance sedan that could beat the E34 BMW M5 and Mercedes 500E. Unfortunately GM didn't really a performance group to do this, so they turned to Lotus and gave them a Vauxhall Carlton/Opel Omega. Lotus did some impressive magic and turned this boring executive sedan into a sedan that gave a Ferrari Testarossa a run for it's money. It received more aggressive looks thanks to a more aerodynamic body kit and rear wing. Lotus also bored the inline-6 engine from 3.0L to 3.6L and strapped not one but two turbochargers to it. These changes bumped power up to a stout 377hp and 419lb-ft of torque. The power was sent to the ground through a 6-speed manual box from a Corvette ZR-1. All of these changes allowed the Lotus tuned Carlton to go 0-60mph (0-100kmh) in a blistering 5.2 seconds and reach a breakneck speed of 177mph (285kmh). The Lotus Carlton quickly became popular, but it was pretty expensive. It had a steep price tag of 48,000 GBP ($90,000) at the time and Britain was in a recession so people weren't lining up to buy them. Those who did buy them had to keep them safe because they were also a hot commodity to those on the wrong side of the law.
Multiple Lotus Carltons were stolen but there was one in particular that turned this absurd sedan into an absolute legend. On November 26th, 1993, a Lotus Carlton was reported stolen from a home in the West Midlands with the plates 40RA. In the following months, a gang of thieves used the car to conduct ram raids between 12am and 5am stealing around 20,000 GBP worth of liquor and cigarettes. A local police officer, David Oliver said, "We simply haven't been able to get near the thing and it looks unlikely that we ever will". This is because the local police cars could only barley hit 90mph while the Lotus Carlton almost doubled it. The ram raiders also hid their precious stolen Lotus Carlton during the day and no one could ever find it. Legend has it that the Lotus Carlton outran the West Midlands police helicopter up the M6 but no one has been able to confirm this claim. To this day no police reports have shown that the 40RA Carlton was ever recovered. Unfortunately this means that, the car is either at the bottom of a lake, crushed into a cube, or rotting in a barn somewhere.
Because of these ram raids involving the Lotus Carlton, the U.K. government deemed the car "unsafe" and "unreasonable" for anyone to need to own a sedan that could go 177mph. Despite gaining traction, the campaign to ban the Lotus Carlton ultimately failed plus the car had already gone out of production in 1992 with just under 1,000 units built.
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