The most significant model to come out of Hethel in recent times is undoubtedly the Elise. Introduced in 1996 when the company belonged to Romano Artioli, the Elise is named after Artioli’s granddaughter Elisa. The young Italian beauty is currently based in Berlin, and we chatted with her during a recent visit to Norfolk. JT: so, Elise, your own car is the original Series 1 that your grandfather Romano gave you, back at the model’s launch?
EA: Yeah, it’s the silver Series 1 that I got from my Grandfather, and actually he gave it to me as a present because I presented the car, and also because it’s named after me. But the thing is, it stayed in the garage many years till I could drive.
JT: So, if you don’t mind me asking, what age were you when he gave it to you?
EA: It was 1997, so I was 4-years old. It was a little bit like a family car. We were living in Norwich at the time, and then when we moved back to Italy when I was 6, he said, “this is for Elisa, you should take it with her,” and so we took it there.
JT: Is it right- or left-hand drive?
EA: It’s left-hand drive.
JT: Do you keep the Elise in Berlin?
EA: Yes, but it’s difficult because Berlin is not really the nicest place to drive one of these, and since I took it there I’m not driving it that much, because it’s not a city car and Berlin’s really big. Outside Berlin there are some nice roads, and they also have the Autobahn where you can go as fast you want, but the Elise is another story. I grew up close to the mountains where there are only curvy roads. I really like Berlin, and I like my job, but my poor Elise she’s suffering here, so I will probably stay a little bit longer and then I will look for a place with more mountains and curvy roads.
JT: It’s a fascinating thing to have a car named after you; every time you see one you must think, yeah, that’s got my name on it!
EA: Yeah, it’s really crazy, because I don’t feel like I’m famous or I’m important because of it, but the weird thing is that, for me the Elise is like a sister: I know it’s not a person, but for me it has this personal factor. It was named after a person, so let’s say a kind of sister, and when I see one on the street I really like that. I’m like, oohh, it’s amazing, and, yeah, it’s fantastic. I really love the car, so it makes me super happy. Thinking of other cars named after actual real-life women, there’s Mércèdes…
JT: Of course, yeah, but the thing is, Mercedes is a brand and the Elise is a model, so I think it is more personal. It must be a buzz if you go to a Lotus gathering.
EA: Yeah, I love those meetings, because in the first place I’m a Lotus driver, so I go there for the cars and the driving, not to say, like, “I’m here”, but sometimes they invite me as a special guest, so people know I’m coming and then they take pictures.
JT: So these are European events, then?
EA: Most of them were in Europe, and I went just once to the USA; that was LOG56, which was two years ago in Princetown, close to New York. It’s so nice; it’s really different from the gatherings in Europe because firstly it’s really big, it was over three days, so we were doing lots of things like visiting a museum. I tried a lot of different Elises, and it was interesting because the S1 is not street legal there, there are no S1s in the USA. But I was more there to talk to everybody and to make a speech. I can speak about how much I love the car and a little bit about my story, but the interesting people are really the guys that worked on the car.
JT: Well OK, but you have immortalised the car, and vice-versa, and that makes you a figurehead.
EA: Yeah, well, we’ll see what they do with that. I think Lotus will present a new Elise in 2020.
JT: Some people think the original version of the Elise is the purest, in terms of styling. Which model do you like best?
EA: Actually, I like the way the styling has moved on from the Series 1, but it was quite a radical change that they made, especially to the headlights, though of course a new model doesn’t have to look the same as the previous one. I really like the face of the S1, it’s like a smiling face, and also the back; I think it’s so nice with the curves, and the lines and the side view are really nice. I just love the car. It’s beautifully balanced, and the thing is, it looks so modern, but it also looks back to an era when sports cars had those beautiful rounded contours.
JT: What’s the longest drive you’ve done in your car?
EA: I spent six months in Madrid as a student, and from there I did a huge road trip around the whole of Spain and then France and Italy, several thousand miles, and I got truly sunburnt because I had the top off all the time!
JT: Electric cars and hybrids are in the news: what do you think about that?
EA: Well, the Tesla was made on the Elise chassis, and this is also really nice. I saw one at LOG in the USA, but in Europe I’ve never seen one. It would be nice if they give this option because there are people that want an electric car, so I think it can be the future, but I am not so sure about it to be honest, but at least Lotus has that expertise, having created the Tesla.
JT: What’s your favourite colour for an Elise?
EA: I like titanium grey, and in silver it’s nice, but it’s a little bit too shy as a colour. But I got it like that, and I think if I changed the colour it would be a little bit weird because that car has been with me all my life. If they gave me a press car to promote the brand it would have to be a yellow one. Thank you very much; here’s hoping!