Mission RAL 2005: Lotus Elise Cup 250 Final Edition
Stuttgart is not Monaco. If you want to stand out with a car here, it’s still relatively easy to do with a production-run sports car from an Italian manufacturer. Even the paint job doesn’t have to be anything special. The standard red at no extra charge will usually suffice for people to shoot you glances, albeit rather furtive ones. Mock coolness and a bit of envy prohibit an all too open display of admiration in most major German cities.
The Lotus Elise Cup 250 is a completely different story. Coolness or even restraint on the part of the onlookers? Forget it! Lots of upheld thumbs. Appreciation, interest, curiosity. And always the same question: “Where did you get that color?” We also wanted to know. So we met up with owner, Chris Hrabalek, to find out more.
Mr. Hrabalek, what color is that exactly?
This fluorescent color has its origins in motorsport. It has been associated with Lotus since the 1960s, when the manufacturer competed in American open-wheel racing wearing the STP livery. The color was quite unusual back then and it still is today.
But it has been used by other brands too, hasn’t it?
It has. In 1971 Lancia presented its prototype of the Stratos dressed in this color. Porsche finished a prototype of the 911 Carrera 2.7 RS in the same color. That was in 1972.
It looks somewhat like the color a fire engine would have.
The official designation is RAL 2005. In Europe, private motor vehicles are not allowed to use this color. It is reserved exclusively for emergency vehicles used by the fire department, rescue services and police. This varies from country to country. The color is used for police cars in Switzerland, by the fire department in Germany and by ambulances in Austria.
“It was difficult to convince Lotus to deliver a car in that color.”
So normally you wouldn’t be able to order this color from Lotus?
Yes and no. In my case, it was easier because I ordered the vehicle after Brexit. Since the UK is no longer part of the EU, it no longer falls under EU guidelines, which made the color strictly speaking legally possible. But even so, it was not that easy to convince Lotus to deliver a car in that color. I sent Matt Windle, the Lotus CEO, emails for something like a year, constantly asking for permission to have this color precisely because it is so closely linked to the brand’smotorsport history.
What was the problem?
In part the manufacturer’s guidelines for quality. The color is extremely unstable, meaning it is not very resistant to UV radiation, for example.
How were you able to convince Lotus to give you the color anyway?
It was quite simple, really. “Matt,” I said, “don’t you think that the last Elise built should leave Lotus with a glow?” I further backed up my argument by making the comparison to designer furniture, like an Eames Lounge Chair, which also changes with time. The leather looks different ten years later than on the first day. But that doesn’t make the chair any less desirable. On the contrary. I would argue that with design classics like the Eames or a Barcelona chair an original is much more desirable than a new edition or a current collection. And the patina on an armchair like that is comparable to that of an automobile. We are now living in a world where people cultivate a certain mileage or kilometer cult – they pick up their cars and put them in a museum. I want to do things differently. I believe that a car has to be driven. And when you drive it, you’ll end up with a scar or two. There’s no avoiding some minor stone chips and you can’t keep the color from fading. That’s life. Every little thing is part of the story. The car is a living work of art.