Few cars have created so much controversy as Vauxhall’s 10th Decade-a-Day offering. The Lotus Carlton – celebrating its 30th anniversary this year - was a gift from heaven for the tabloids’ headline writers, and even prompted debate in the Commons. But beyond the press furore was a car with impeccable credentials – and one with Ferrari-matching performance.


Nearly 70 years before Vauxhall’s Lotus Carlton was launched, the company’s top brass were being lauded for bringing the 100mph 30-98 to market. But in 1989, Paul Tosch – Vauxhall’s then Chairman and MD – was thrown on the defensive with the mainstream press when the Lotus Carlton became the world’s fastest four-door saloon car, with a top speed of 176mph.

Using GM’s 3.6-litre straight-six, with the addition of two Garrett T25 turbochargers and twin water-cooled intercoolers, the Lotus Carlton produced a quite shocking 377bhp and 419lb ft of torque, giving it its headline top speed (later found to be conservative) and acceleration to beat a Ferrari Testa Rossa.

Lotus Engineering was responsible for developing the LC’s MacPherson strut front suspension and multi-link rear set-up, and the result was a superbly assured and blindingly fast GT of the highest order.

Only 286 Lotus Carltons were sold in the UK, the first of which rolled off Lotus’s production line at Hethel 30 years ago. Its cost when new? £48,000.

Technical Data:

Body: 4-door saloon

Engine: 6 cylinders in-line, twin-turbocharged

Engine Capacity: 3,615cc

Top Speed: 176mph

0-62mph: 5.4 seconds

Fuel Consumption: 17.5-35mpg


Previous instalments of Decade-a-Day can be found here:

1903 5hp –

1910 C-10 ‘Prince Henry’ -

30-98 -

H-Type -

Churchill Tank –

PA Velox and Bedford CA –

XVR Concept –

Firenza HP –

Astra Mk.1 GTE -