The Lotus Carlton / Omega Sedan Was a World-Beating PR Nightmare | Revelations - Ep. 28 - Hagerty Media

Lotus’ first and only-ever 4-door sedan was badged the Lotus Omega (left-hand-drive versions) or Lotus Carlton (RHD.)

Based on the European Car of the Year award-winning Opel Omega and Vauxhall Carlton twins, it was the fastest regular production sedan in the world, and that caused major controversy in the socioeconomic class-conscious United Kingdom.

180-mph supercars like the Ferrari Testarossa had already been around for years, but when a pedestrian brand like Vauxhall endeavored to sell a sedan that could be purchased by non-aristocrats, it rocked the establishment.

Still, the Lotus Carltomega was a tour-de-force, offering 377 hp — 2 hp more than the also Lotus-engineered, 4-cam, 32-valve, 5.7-liter LT5 V-8 from the C4 Corvette ZR-1. The Carlton/Omega sent that outrageous power (and 419 lb-ft of torque!) from its 3.6-liter twin-turbo, DOHC 24-valve straight-six to the rear wheels via the same ZF 6-speed manual used in that King of the Hill Corvette. It was the only 6-speed manual in the world that could cope with the Lotus’ power.

The Lotus Type 104 sedan was more than just a straight-line rocket, with huge Ronal wheels, AP Racing brakes, and a fully revised suspension. Period road tests demonstrated it would leave its contemporary competition (the E34 BMW M5 and W124 Mercedes 500E) for dead, both in acceleration and top speed.

Revelations goes into the history of why this Lotus was made — thanks to Bob Eaton’s desire to make GM Europe cool using newly purchased Lotus’ engineering — and how engineers at Opel’s Rüsselsheim factory tried to stand in its way.

But perhaps the most interesting part of the Lotus Carlton’s history was the ironic PR fallout when Autocar Magazine’s editor-in-chief asked Vauxhall to consider limiting its top speed — as the Germans had just voluntarily agreed to a 250 km/h (155-mph) limit. The British Parliament even got involved, with hearings condemning the Lotus’ performance, suggesting that because it was a “cheap car,” it could be purchased by those incapable of driving it safely. Or, worse, people who would use it to commit crimes.

The other great irony, Alanis (lol), is that this happened 5 years later when a stolen Carlton with the now-infamous license plate “40 RA” was used in a crime spree — but was too fast for the police to catch.

Of course, we’d be remiss in not mentioning Carlton Banks — the lovable character in Will Smith’s cotemporary-to-the-Carlton early-1990s TV hit “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” whose energetic dance to Tom Jones’ “Not Unusual” created a meme from which the talented dancer/actor Alfonso Ribeiro still cannot escape.

If you know Jason Cammisa, then you’ve already guessed that he spent hours learning the Carlton, so that he could perform it in the most pants-splitting way possible.

But only after having brutalized a windy back road with the Carlton’s enormous power. While in the factory Cheater Mode engine programming. Of course.

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