LOTUS, the sports and racing cars developed by Colin Chapman, were as British as a chip butty.
So why was a Lotus Elan on display in the museum at Kia’s R and D centre at Namyang, South Korea?
Turns out Kia bought the licence to make the famous sports car after Lotus stopped building the Elan in 1995.
So the red sports car in the museum really was, as its badge said, a Kia Elan.
But unlike the original with a Lotus-Ford twin-cam 1558cc engine, or later models which used a 1.6litre Isuzu motor, the Kia Elan was a home-spun 1.8litre.
It had a 113kW ‘Hi-Sprint’ 16-valve twin-cam engine of its own design, a lightweight reinforced plastic body and a five-speed gearbox. The neat two-seater could get to 100km/h in 7.4 seconds and had a top speed of 220km/h.
The first one came off the line in July 1996, but at W27.5 million (about $30,000) the Elan was an expensive beastie at the time, and production stopped three years later after about 2000 were built.
Still, it has the distinction of being Korea’s first sports car and boasted 85 per cent local content. They were sold only on the Korean domestic market.
Kia started producing bike parts in 1944, built motorcycles from 1961 and started building and exporting light trucks (to Qatar) in 1974.
Today it is Korea’s second biggest car maker, for the past 30 years sole supplier of military vehicles to its army and a major exporter of cars, buses, trucks and military vehicles.
This year Hyundai-Kia, which has a worldwide workforce of 120,000, will sell 2.3 million vehicles and earn $53 billion.
And Lotus, after a romance with General Motors, is now owned by Proton.