Lotus founder Colin Chapman died in 1982, but he left behind a legacy of race car engineering and innovation unmatched by other notable pioneers of the automotive industry. Its steel backbone chassis and suspensions were unique, and his rear strut designs (the equivalent of MacPherson struts) are still referred to as Chapman struts. While racing, Chapman popularized the monocoque chassis and led the use of aerodynamics for Formula 1. He was an innovator of ‘ground effects’, but perhaps his most notable achievement was his ‘adding lightness’ car design philosophy.
When Lotus engineers designed the 3-Eleven, they followed Chapman’s ethos of simplicity and emphasis on weight reduction. The 3-Eleven produced from 2015 to 2018 weighs just 2,028 lbs. Power generated with a revised Toyota-sourced supercharged-and-tuned 3.5-liter V-6 engine power of 450 hp at 7,000 rpm and 332 lb-ft of torque from 3,500 rpm to 6,500 rpm. The power-to-weight ratio is a remarkable 467 horsepower per ton.
Lotus offered the 3-Eleven in two configurations: Road and Race. The Race version features paddle shifters, an oil cooler, a six-speed sequential transmission with a semi-dry sump and a differential lock, while the Road variant features an oil cooler, a six-speed manual transmission with a high performance clutch and a Torsen differential lock.
Both versions have an open cockpit design with resin-infused body panels that Lotus claims are 40% lighter than GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic). However, the Race roll cage uses more side impact protection than the Road version to comply with motorsport regulations.