However, Steel decided not to be so reverential with the engine. He felt that, although the original four-potter was a thing of beauty and really the genesis of the car, stock displacement wasn't going to cut it. The same basic architecture stays true to Chapman's vision: an eight-valve, dohc, cross-flow, alloy cylinder head sits on top of a five-bearing block. The intake manifold is integral with the head and two Weber 40DCOE carburetors hang horizontally off the side. Steel has improved upon it with JE Pistons, stroker crank and a ported and polished head. Displacement is now up to 1,775cc and power is pushing 120 hp. The original car was rated at 105 hp, which many people feel was rather generous since the identical engine in the Elan was rated at 90 hp.

The transmission also came straight out of the Elan; a close-ratio manual with synchros on all four forward gears. Lotus went through three different ratio sets during its production run in an attempt to find the best compromise between street and track use. Steel decided that the optimum for his purposes had still not been found. So when he rebuilt the rear end, he went from a 3.91 to a 3.55 final drive. While he was in there, he figured a Quaife limited-slip differential would help put the extra power to the ground. Revs at 80 mph are now down from a raucous 5000-plus rpm down to more reasonable 4000 rpm.

As any Lotus fan will tell you, if there's one thing Chapman knew better than anything, it was handling. The first run of Lotus Cortinas received a rear suspension system consisting of a floating rear axle located by trailing A-arms, and deployed coil springs and dampers. This design proved unreliable and the leaf spring arrangement from the standard Cortina was adopted. The front utilized MacPherson struts with an anti-roll bar. The cars were known for their cornering attitude on the track. Vintage race fans giggle with pure automotive glee at the thought of Jim Clark slicing through a turn with the inside front wheel in the air. Steel is no different and restored the suspension to stock specs to preserve everything the original car was about.

Being a homologation special, the car came from the factory with what was cutting-edge braking technology at the time. Girling calipers grip 9.5-inch rotors up front, while nine-inch drums handle stopping duty in the rear. The Lotus Cortinas were equipped with a vacuum booster, considered unique on a racecar of that vintage. The combination worked well, especially considering the car's 1,900-pound curb weight.

The vehicle is not quite 14 feet long and can easily carry four people in comfort. This really is the precursor to GT cars like the M3 and Audi S4; a useful saloon for the week that can be raced on the weekends. The Lotus Cortina could be considered far ahead of its time or maybe just in time for enthusiasts. Apparently, Lotus has test mules running around Europe of another new four-seater GT. You may see Dave Steel standing in line for one, but you can bet his Cortina won't be traded in for it.

By Michael Febbo
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