909 V8 History

3946 cc | 240.8 cu in. | 3.9 Litres

335 BHP (246.56 KW) @ 6500 RPM

295 Ft-Lbs (400 NM) @ 5500 RPM

Bore:    3.8 in | 95 mm.
Stroke:    2.7 in | 69 mm.
Compression:    11.2:1
Valvetrain:    32 DOHC 4 valves per cyl

Were it not for the "oil crisis" of the 1970s and rising petrol prices, the Lotus Esprit would have gained the V8 engine that its chassis was originally designed to accommodate and, indeed, an in-house designed V8, derived from a doubling up of the slant 4 cylinder 900 series, was developed and reached the test stage but never put into production

The story of the Lotus designed V8 is told (along with many other notable triumphs, like the famous BRM V16) in Tony Rudd's autobiography, "It was fun!"

Tony recalls the original Lotus Project M71 from 1970 (before the inseption of the Esprit program), when Colin Chapman had just moved to East Carleton Manor (his purpose built new home near Hethel & Ketteringham Hall)

Colin outlined his plans for the Lotus model line-up in the garden. Quoting...

 "The programme started with the M50 (the new Elite), the M51 (an Elite with a 4 litre V8 and the M52 (a 2+2 version of the 4-seat Elite to be known as the Eclat and later the Excel) . The M53 was the 2+2 with a V8. The M70 'a wedge theme' mid engine Europa replacement with as many common parts with the M50 as possible, including the 2 litre engine. This became the Esprit. The M71 was, of course, a V8-engined Esprit"

The type 909 is pictured above and on the right - I actually laid hands on one of the rare examples of this engine during a visit to the Hethel Lotus factory in the early 90's ..... food for thought!

The photo on the left shows the 909 V8, with a prototype induction plenum for the type, under test in an engine cell 

Below Tony Rudd is showing the Duke of Edinburgh a Lotus 907 4 cylinder engine with the induction and cooling modifications that were to be used on the type 909 V8

Not a Lotus engine on the left but the LT5 V8 from the Corvette ZR-1

The induction system bears an uncanny resemblance to the Lotus 909 V8 but then Lotus did a great deal of design development for  that too!

The Lotus type 909 V8 was later destined for the ill-fated Lotus Etna, as shown on the cover of Car magazine in 1984

Giorgetto Giugiaro's services were once again used for the styling of this technically advanced concept car, code name M300, but only one example was ever built

Below the Lotus Etna was exhibited at the 1984 Car Show at the NEC Birmingham but it was actually only a mock up at the time and not a usable car

Lotus prepared a lengthened Esprit chassis for the Etna and some employees took the car to the  Italdesign studio in Turin to style the Etna bodywork

Giorgetto Giugiaro had previously, ot course, designed both the original Esprit S1 and the updated Turbo Esprit but here the brief was to upstage the supercar market

Looking at the results, it seems that Ital did not disappoint

Click the logo for the Etna design page at Ital Design

Here is the 909 V8 engine installed in the engine bay of the Etna

The interior and dash of the Lotus Etna were quite futuristic for the time

The Esprit restyling completed in 1987 is credited to Peter Stevens, who famously went on to pen the curves of the McLaren F1 road car...

The comparison of the two cars below is quite revealing though - Above is the Etna, designed by Giugiaro and made public in 1984 and below is the "Stevens" X180 Esprit launced in 1987 - Perhaps the artist was more than heavily influenced by his peers!

It's not hard to understand Peter Stevens feelings on meeting Giugiaro after this work on the X180, as he describes here...

''I was nervous of what Giugiaro would think,'' says Lotus chief designer Peter Stevens, reflecting on the reaction to his redesign of the Esprit. ''

Charmingly, the first time I met him after its public launch he gave me a big cuddle and said: 'Ahhh, perrr-fect' - Giorgetto is obviously a gentleman, as well as a great designer - more about his design of the Lotus Esprit here

With design, "what goes around, comes around" and so it is with the original Giugaro lines - read more from the motoring press in 2006

After the 1984 Car show, news about the Lotus Etna went quiet and the car was put into storage at the Lotus Factory, remaining little more than a Lotus Legend and the subject of some notable motoring books - in 1998 it was auctioned at Silverstone and was bought by the Lotus dealer Paul Matty

In 2004 the car was bought by Olav Glasius at a Coys auction and he set about turning the show car, constructed with wood, clay and fibreglass into a running machine, as he describes in the video below...

Olav found that, altough the car had no suspension, brakes, wiring, cooling etc. as he explains in the video above, what it did contain hidden beneath all the mock up materials, was one Lotus 909 prototype V8 engine - one of only two ever produced!

Employing the expert help of the Ken Myers and Neil Myers, Lotus dealers and Alan Nobbs, who worked had responsinility at Lotus for development of the 909 V8 engine, Olav had the Etna finally brought into running order for the first time

Interestingly, the 909 suffered problems with the left inlet cam belt drive, which was unreliable at high revs, as its sprocket only had 5 teeth of the belt engaged - this was solved with more wrap/tension and a different, specially engineered crank pulley

The ony exisiting Lotus Etna when sold off at a Coys auction in 2004

So it was Lot 401 with No Reserve...

Wouldn't it have been ironic if the 909 V8 wouldn't start and Coys listed it as U/S or Unservicable... or LOT U/S, which is rumoured to be the origin of the name of Lotus itself