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Many vehicles are uniquely named. But there are few named after people. One special example of this is the Lotus Elise. Developed by Romano Artioli in 1993, just before the car was released, it was his decision to name this new version after his beloved granddaughter Elise.
Twenty-two years later, the Lotus Elise is still an iconic and appealing attribute to the Lotus motorcar line-up. So here, we catch up to Elise, the woman, to share her story with our exclusive interview of what life is like to have her named adorned within automotive history.
SG: Elise, thank you for taking the time to chat. Can you start by telling us a bit of how the Lotus Elise came about?
Elise: Well, my Grandfather was born with the big passion for cars and his deepest dream has always been the Bugatti re-launch. He worked a lot to make this happen and he realized his dream by launching the Bugatti EB110 in 1991. At the time when he was the owner of Bugatti Automobili he was able to buy the Lotus Company. Thanks to an amazing team together with my Grandfather, they managed to create a new car that is still nowadays an icon for the car scene: the Lotus Elise.
SG: So the biggest question -- how did your grandfather decide to name the Elise after you?
Elise: At the time the Elise was designed, my grandfather was the chairman of Lotus, and he wanted to give to the car an international character and furthermore he wanted to carry on the Chapman’s tradition of the cars name beginning with the letter “E.” He thought that the name of his first granddaughter could bring luck to it!
SG: The Lotus was certainly and international hit. During the car’s design period, what was it like growing up around the company, and seeing the vehicle come to life?
Elise: Well, honestly I was very little so I don’t remember so much about it. But I have a lot of pictures of me at the factory and my family always tells me some nice stories of that time.
But a fun fact is that when I was little, for a long period of time I thought my name was Lotus Elise, and I kept introducing myself like that!
SG: But then your grandfather eventually sold the company; to have your name and identity still adorning the cars, do you still feel attached to the brand?
Elise: Yes, my grandfather sold the factory and we all went back to Italy, where I started a “new” life, but the weird thing is that I feel linked to Lotus, ever since I was little. I don’t know how to explain it . . . but for example every time I see a Lotus I turn really, really, happy. Even more if it is an Elise, and even better an Elise S1!
Some weeks ago I was driving my Elise and suddenly I see an Esprit in the mirror, so I slowed down and the moment after he was driving next to me and we were waving to each other with a big smile on our faces. I felt like he was a friend of mine even if I had never seen this person before. Anyway, when I turned left and he turned right at the end of the street I felt disappointed that our “drive together” had to end there.
The point is that I have the feeling that we (the Lotus owners) are like a big family. That is also what makes me feel linked to Lotus.
SG: That is quite a bond. One can assume it is an honor.
Elise: Yes. I feel really honored to have a car named after me, I can’t take the credit for how amazing the car is. It is a real stunner to drive and it is a fun car, I couldn't ask for a better car to own and the crazy fact is that it was named after me.
SG: So we can assume your first car was an Elise?
Elise: Yes, indeed! It was my Lotus Elise S1 that I own since I was little. It was a present of my grandfather, but I had to wait a long time until I could start driving it. But nobody can stop me now! (Laughing)
SG: What is your relationship like now days with Lotus Motor Co?
Elise: I am often invited by dealerships for gatherings and meetings of different Lotus clubs. Last year I’ve been to many meetings around Europe but also in the USA. And I normally attend Lotus meetings, since I am a Lotus owner and enthusiast. I have to say, Lotus owner are really nice people, I have always a nice time . . . and I am not biased. (Laughing)
But overall, every gathering and event to which I have been to, had something special; something that I will always remember. I can definitely say that every Lotus meeting won a piece of my heart.
SG: When you participate in these events, how do normally people react to your participation?
Elise: It depends on the situation, but usually I’m invited to Lotus events as a “special guest” so the people already know I will be there. Nevertheless Lotus owners are often thrilled to hear my story and to know that I am a Lotus driver and enthusiast myself.
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