Compared to some other British car manufacturers, Lotus is a relative newcomer, founded by Colin Chapman in 1948. But Lotus has built a legend around its incredible history, including a long string of celebrated sports cars and seven Formula One Championships. Chapman's innovative designs emphasized simplicity and lightness. In 1957, Chapman introduced two cars that exemplified this approach: the elegant Lotus Elite sports coupe and the Lotus 7, a minimalist high-performance roadster. The 7 remains in production after almost 50 years, built by Lotus until 1973, then by Caterham Cars, which bought the manufacturing rights. Lotus won its first Formula One victory in 1960, and its first World Championship in 1963. The Lotus Esprit sports car, produced from 1976 to 2004, turned heads from the start, particularly when it appeared in a James Bond movie as a car with submarine capabilities. After Chapman died in 1982, the company changed hands. Under GM ownership from 1986 to 1993, Lotus turned the modest Vauxhall Carlton sedan into a 176-mph 'super-saloon,' the first of the genre that has been adopted by many manufacturers today. Current models include the Elise roadster, the Exige coupe, and the Evora. These diminutive composite-bodied sports cars on aluminum frames maintain Lotus' reputation for obtaining big performance from lightweight packages.

Read MoreRead Less