A Photographer’s Dilemma: Selling Photos from Public Car Shows

Several Lotuses, and a certain Shinsen Miata.

A funny thing happened the other day…

I went to a recent car show, doing my usual thing taking photos of some of the excellent pieces of automotive machinery. There, I found this car that I absolutely fell in love with. I decided to take a few photos focusing on the car and its various details, with the goal of selling photos on the Corkscrew’d online store.

After I had finished taking the photos, I managed to run into the owner of the vehicle itself and gushed about how gorgeous his car was. After we finished talking, I offered my business card so he could see the photos of his car on my website. That’s when he asked me if I can make print-ready versions of the photos.

Of course, I said yes, as this seemed to be a perfect opportunity to plug the new online store for Corkscrew’d! I told him that if he wanted a print-ready photo, I could make the photos of his car a store item and I could give him a large discount since it’s his car. Otherwise, the free photos would have a watermark, but he could easily download those and share them among his friends. This way, I can advertise this blog to more people who might be interested in owning some of my other work!

I felt pretty confident that we could work something out. However, I could feel the mood shift as he clammed up and asked incredulously “Oh, really?” As it turns out, he was not OK with that at all. He started to let me know in no uncertain terms that what I was doing was “unethical” because, by his logic, I was “making a profit off of other people’s hard work in building these cars.” He went even far as to say to be careful because what I was doing was likely “illegal.”

I’m still a pretty new photographer, so I didn’t have the knowledge to disagree with the owner. However, I did question if a release form is necessary for public events, as I believed that when an event is in a public space, there’s an expectation that photos can be taken and that consent is not needed unless stated otherwise. He disagreed with this however and was adamant that I needed to provide a release form to publish and sell pictures of people’s cars on my website.

At the end of our awkward conversation, he let me know that he wasn’t comfortable with me posting pictures of his car in any shape or form. So I relented and told him that I wouldn’t publish the photos of his car on Corkscrew’d or any other social media accounts out of respect for his wishes. After that, we parted ways, and I continued focusing on other cars at the show.

Was he right?

I left that conversation-turned-scolding second guessing my current Corkscrew’d endeavor. Was I, in fact, breaking the law by offering pictures of other people’s cars for sale on my store? Was I wrong about what is allowable for photography in public spaces? I decided to ask several of my friends what they thought of my interaction and what I just learned, including my mentors; one of whom is an actual automotive journalist.

As it turns out, literally anyone else I’ve asked has said that this gentleman was being unreasonable by suggesting what I was doing was “unethical” and that when private property is presented in a public setting, there is a reasonable expectation that photographs could be taken of said property for various purposes. If they’re not comfortable with that, they can easily request anyone with a camera not to take pictures of their property, or display a sign that says “No Photos Allowed.” That, or they can simply not come to the event and avoid this issue altogether.

After conversing with my friends, I came to the conclusion that I was definitely within my rights as a photographer to publish and sell my photos from a public car show as long as I didn’t take any pictures of people without their consent. After doing some research, I learned there is a surprising lack of concrete answers when it comes using a release form for publishing photos of cars from public events. Again, this might deal with the reasonable expectation to be photographed during a public event. Where the waters get muddy however is what is allowed under this pretense.

Navigating a Legal Minefield

When it comes to photographing someone’s property at a public event, there are more than a few caveats. First, the type of event can limit what you could do with the photographs. If I’ve been invited to a private party on someone’s property and I was allowed to take photos, this does not give me the right to publish the photos unless I give the property owners a release form. When I attended the Annual Morgan Club Dinner in 2018, I photographed the event with the permission of the host with the understanding that I would only take pictures of the cars and some of the festivities to document the event. This meant that legally, I would not be able to sell the photos of the event but I could put the photos in my portfolio gallery with a watermark.

Public events, on the other hand, don’t have the same caveats, especially during events held at public venues like WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. At a race, it’s pretty much fair game to take pictures of the cars and post them online for sale, since it’s more likely that the drivers and their teams have already signed release forms in order to be photographed at the racetrack. Cars and Coffee events are slightly different because usually they are open to the general public and can be considered an informal gathering. Therefore, unless stated otherwise, there is no absolute need for a release form for just photographing the cars present.

In addition to the type of venue, the type of car and it’s uniqueness needs to be considered when publishing photographs for commercial use. If someone has a car present at a public event like a cars and coffee gathering, and it is a production car of which more than several were made (like a dozen Ford Focus RS’s all lined up), then you likely don’t need a release form, although you can provide one if you want to. However, if the car is very rare, or completely customized, it may be better to err on the side of caution and provide a release form as the car is very unique and easily recognizable. Imagine the difference between a pristine Mazda Miata M-Edition, and the Hot Wheels Twin Mill™. There are thousands of the M-Edition, but there is only one Twin Mill™.

Lastly, there’s Consent. Remember when I wrote, “when private property is presented in a public setting, there is a reasonable expectation that photographs could be taken of said property for various purposes”? Well, the general rule of thumb is: if you showcase your property in a public setting, then you consent to pictures being taken of your property unless stated otherwise. This means that unless you actually tell people that they cannot take photos or if you post a sign that says as much, then you automatically give your consent. This is especially important, since the owner of the car I conversed with told me he did not consent to me taking photos of his car for commercial purposes, and in a show of goodwill I agreed not to publish the photos in any form.

So, what should I do?

In the end, the relationship between property rights in a public setting and photographer’s rights are pretty nebulous and rely on many exceptions and tenuous definitions. In most testimonials I’ve read on different forums, some photographers don’t even bother with release forms as it becomes cumbersome to have to provide release forms for every single car, especially when a car show can have up to 1000+ cars present. It is indeed a general understanding that you can take photos of cars at events and publish them for commercial and non-commercial use as long as you are in a completely public setting, the car is not totally unique and/or instantly recognizable, and you have the general consent of the owner unless stated otherwise. When you find yourself questioning whether or not you can publish pictures of someone’s car though, just remember this adage: “When in doubt, just print the release out.” A little ink and paper now won’t hurt but can save a lot of pain later.

There’s one more thing to consider though: As a photographer, your photos are your property, and you have rights to your property. As long as you follow the rules and guidelines, then no one has a right to prevent you from showcasing and selling your work, and no one is entitled to royalties to your work unless stated otherwise in a release form.

So, I’ll come up with my own guidelines for myself and audit my store content to avoid issues like this in the future, as well as come up with my own release forms, just in case. Although I didn’t make a sale, I did learn something important that only serves to make me a better photographer.


Almost done!

A few things are still missing, but I’m almost at the end of the race!

I started the New Year with a plan…

…and I’m nearly at the end of the finish line!

In my “Big Changes are on the Horizon” Post, I outlined a detailed plan for what I was changing in the new year, and what I wanted to accomplish with this blog. First, I was getting rid of some services that I either didn’t need anymore or was changing to the point where using them was no longer viable. Case in point: Flickr had changed it’s Free User photo limit to 1,000 photos, and Visual Society simply wasn’t working for me anymore. So I backed up my Flickr account and finally closed it down after 2 years. Then, I closed down my Visual Society account.

Next, I decided to create three-pronged social media strategy leveraging my already up-and-coming Instagram account, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page. I’m happy to say that I have both Twitter and Facebook up and running and interconnected with each other! If I make a post (like this one) here on Corkscrew’d, then WordPress will automatically push a notification to both Twitter and Facebook with a link to a post. My Instagram account is now also set up the same way.

Lastly, the final phase of the New Year plan is to upgrade the Corkscrew’d site to a Business plan, and then build an internal print shop where you could buy prints or downloaded copies of my best shots. Today, I’m absolutely thrilled to say that Corkscrew’d is officially on a Business plan! The final thing to do now is to find a suitable plugin for selling prints and downloads of photos.

The finish line is in sight! Now for the final push!

The Vector WX-3 is the most 90’s car to ever exist

The Vector WX-3 prototype. I would do unholy things to drive that car…Photo © Erik Fuller and RM Sotheby’s

The Vector has always had my imagination…

There’s something about the pseudo-vaporware All-American Supercar that just stays with you. Is it the wild carbon-kevlar body? The movable aerodynamic surfaces? The three-across seating arrangement? Maybe it was the use of aeronautical technologies, like the aerospace-grade bolts? Or, maybe it has more to do with the massive 7.0L Twin Turbo V8, making somewhere between 600-1200 horsepower? The Vector WX-3 is all and none of these things; alongside the WX-3 Roadster, the WX-3 ended up being a footnote in American automotive history thanks to a hostile takeover by Indonesian automotive firm Megatech in the 90’s. But for a time, it seemed that WX-3 was ready to take the supercar market by storm and put America at it’s forefront. And yet, it was largely forgotten as Vector simply phased out of the public eye and occupied that space where broken promises and failed dreams go. You know; like most things in the 90’s. It seems sort of ill-fitting then, that such a machine is being auctioned off for Lexus LFA money.

Photo © Erik Fuller and RM Sotheby’s

RM Sotheby’s recently listed the Vector Avtech WX3 and WX3 Roadster on their website, and now, I’m suddenly reliving my early childhood playing Gran Turismo 2 and racing in Red Rock Valley with my trusty red Vector W8 Twin Turbo. It was one of my favorite cars in the game thanks to its futuristic (to me) looks and massive horsepower (in game, you could upgrade the turbos to put out 800+ horsepower), and high top speed (240+ miles per hour). As far as I know, the last time you could drive a Vector in a video game was in Gran Turismo 2; unless you count the modded cars you could add to Need For Speed High Stakes. That being said the last time Vector was ever mentioned again was in 2007, when Vector announced the development of a new car; the WX-8. In fact, the WX-3 prototypes are being sold partly to fund development of the new Vector supercar.

Photo © Erik Fuller and RM Sotheby’s

First offered for $3.5 million for both prototypes, RM Sotheby’s have listed the lot for $450,000-$550,000. One has to wonder if this is because the name “Vector” is pretty much synonymous with “vaporware”; a conceptual product that’s always being advertised, but never available to buy. In fact, that last time the new Vector WX-8 was even mentioned was several years ago, with no road going versions sold yet (that we know of).

Even so, the WX-3 and 3R are absolutely bonkers. Finished in the famous Jazz-pattern Solo Cup colors of Teal and Fuchsia, both cars are an insane amalgamation of styling cues; from the influence of other wedge-shaped sports cars from the 70’s (the original Vector W2 was heavily based on the Alfa Romero Carabo Concept Car from 1968), to the organic shapes and styling cues that defined the 90’s. But, styling is nothing compared to the unique combination of automotive and aerospace technologies present in the WX-3

Photo © Erik Fuller and RM Sotheby’s

What made Vector’s cars famous was their use of aerospace materials and technologies, including aerospace-grade bolts to hold the aluminum honeycomb monocoque together, and the use of carbon-Kevlar composite for the body. However, nothing was more in-your-face then the inclusion of the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon’s Multi-Function Display Unit, modified to give you information readouts from the cars numerous sensors, and featuring a graphical representation of the car! And if that wasn’t enough, the WX-3 and 3R also used a unique, left-handed shifter arrangement meant to emulate the throttle on a jet-powered aircraft. Granted, the shifter was linked to an ancient Oldsmobile TH-425 Three-Speed transaxle, but still. And of course, you could entertain your wife, and your girlfriend with the three-across bench seat, and Sony 6 Disc CD Changer; assuming they can get past just how massive that windshield actually is (Vector once held the record for largest production windshield ever made)!

Photo © Erik Fuller and RM Sotheby’s

The WX-3 prototype first debuted with the same 6.0L Rodeck Twin Garrett Turbocharged V8 that was first used in the Vector W8 Twin Turbo, but when the WX-3 was reintroduced at the Geneva Auto Show in 1993, Vector had managed to squeeze in their 7.0L Rodeck V8, twin-turbocharged to 1000 hp! Despite being mated to a sluggish three speed transaxle, the car’s projected top speed was around 250 miles per hour; 12 years before Bugatti debuted the legendary Veyron.

With this combination of aerospace technology, insane looks, and massive horsepower, The Vector WX-3 is essentially the optimism of the 1990’s distilled into a single, high-speed form. It really is a shame that this car never got the chance to go into production, as Megatech locked company founder Gerald Wiegert out of his own building during the hostile takeover, and Wiegert countersued to prevent Megatech from building the WX-3 twins. Instead, we got a rebodied Lamboghini Diablo in the form of the Vector M12. In the end, Megatech also failed with their approach, as the slow sales of the M12 failed to keep the lights on, but not before Megatech tried to rectify the situation with a modified GM LT1 V8-powered version of the M12 dubbed the SRV8.

Still, it’s nice to imagine how the Vector WX-3 could have redefined exotic cars in the 1990’s, and rival other legendary cars like the Jagaur XJ220 and the McLaren F1. And for around $500,000, you could have two!

Do you think the bank would give me a loan?

Photo © Erik Fuller and RM Sotheby’s

So now I have a Twitter and a Facebook page

I had no choice little Miata. I had no choice.

I’ve finally joined the 21st Century and created a Twitter account, and a Facebook page for Corkscrew’d! Now, you can follow me on Twitter @corkscrew_d, or like my Facebook Page!

Now on to upgrading my WordPress account, and selling some prints!

I wanna put Alfa Romeo wheels on the Shinsen Miata

My ideal rims! Photo taken from Google somewhere

Have I gone mad?…

…or is it just the sex appeal of those five spoke “Teledial” wheels on the 2000’s Alfa Romeo 156?

I have a fondness for wheels with simple geometric shapes. It must be because one of my first car obsessions; the 1990 Lamborghini Diablo. The wheels on that car had a simple five spoke design that consisted of basically a solid wheel with five circular holes cut out of it. It was so simple, when I sketched cars in my composition book during class, I always drew those wheels. In fact, I still do!

Hnnnnng! Photo taken from NetCarShow.com

Recently I was chewing the fat with one of my best friends, and the subject of wheels came up. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting something a little more eye-catching for my Shinsen Miata, but finding wheels that I think look better than the stock five-spoke alloys is easier said than done. I could do what everyone else is doing and buy some JDM-style rims, but that option can get pretty pricey. Plus, I’m not exactly standing out at any Cars and Coffee events since there’s always a Miata with JDM rims anyway.

I started to lament that there weren’t a lot of aftermarket options that looked like my ideal design. I’d love to put Teledial-style wheels on the Shinsen, but my options were severely limited. Then, I had a thought: Why not look at used wheels from cars that used the Teledial design? I started doing more research, and almost immediately I found the ideal wheel.

And it belongs to a car never sold in the USA.

The Alfa Romeo 156 and the gorgeous Teledial alloy wheels. Photo taken from

The (near) Perfect Wheels

Alfa Romeo has been using the Teledial-style wheel designs for decades, especially most recently in their current lineup of US-import vehicles. Of course, those newer wheels are pricey and too big for my diminutive Miata. Thankfully, Alfa Romeo made a 16-inch wheel that is nearly identical to the Miata’s stock wheels, and they’re pretty inexpensive (not factoring shipping)! The 2003 Alfa 156 and 147 had the option of a lightweight aluminum wheel with five circular “Teledial” spokes, and they look gorgeous. Aside from being based on a classic Alfa design, the treatment of the wheels is also nearly identical to the Miata’s, so they aren’t gaudy or too distracting like some other wheels I’ve seen.

I dug deeper trying to learn as much as I can about these particular wheels. I was worried that the wheel size and the lug pattern was too different from the stock Miata wheels to even consider as a replacement, but then I stumbled across Wheel-Size.com; a massive database for wheel fitment and tire sizes. With it, I was able to find the the exact specifications for both my Shinsen Miata’s Wheels, and the Alfa Romeo Teledial Wheels:

2003 Shinsen Miata 1.8L 5spd:

  • Wheel Size: 16in x 6.5in J
  • Lug Pattern: 4x100mm
  • Offset: 40mm
  • Center Bore: 54.1mm
  • Tire Size: P205/45R16

2003 Alfa Romeo 156 1.6L-2.5L

  • Wheel Size: 16in x 6.5in J
  • Lug Pattern: 5x98mm
  • Offset: 41.5mm
  • Center Bore: 58.1mm
  • Tire Size: P205/55R16

As you can see, not only is the rim size practically the same, but the Offset, Center Bore and Tire Size are incredibly similar! The only drawback to these wheels however is the lug pattern. Instead of the 4 lug, 100mm diameter pattern, Alfa Romeo utilized a 5 lug pattern 98mm in diameter. This means that if I were to find these wheels somewhere, I would need to rely on a PCD Wheel Adapter that changes the lug pattern from 4x100mm to 5x98mm. And that’s even if I find the wheels; because Alfa Romeo never sold this car in the states, all examples of this particular wheel is sold overseas. That means more shipping costs!

Alas, it might be more trouble than it’s actually worth. Still, I’d like to imagine how surprised people would get when I roll up with a Shinsen Miata using Alfa Romeo rims!

You know what? I don’t think Navy Blue Powder-Coated rims look half bad on the Shinsen either!

Saying goodbye to Flickr

What my Flickr Albums looked like on New Year’s Day, 2019.

The hardest part of making a positive change…

…is having to make sacrifices. In my last post, I outlined my new plan for Corkscrew’d moving forward through 2019. Because of changes in the services I use to share and backup my photos, I’m now planning to consolidate everything I do on this website and utilize a few select social media services. Unfortunately, this also meant cutting services I’ve used for years; Flickr being one of them.

As of this writing my Flickr account has around 10,000 photos dating back to 2016, when I first started borrowing a camera from work to pursue photography as a hobby. In a way, my Flickr albums work like a sort of time capsule where I could instantly travel back to when the photo was taken, and what my life was like then. It’s frankly amazing how far I’ve come in just two years! Alas, things change and I simply need more from my social media.

Why Flickr?

Back in 2016 when I started my Flickr account, I needed a cheap and easy storage solution for backing up photos. This was a hard lesson to learn, as the catalyst for me looking for this solution was the death of a massive three terabyte hard drive filled with a few hundred photos, including ones I took at the Porsche Rennsport Reunion V in 2015. After getting another hard drive and rebuilding my lost files from random portable storage drives, I began looking for an online solution that doubled as a way to showcase my photos.

At the time, Flickr was owned by Yahoo, and by creating a Yahoo account you would be able to get one terabyte(!) of free storage. Combined with Flickr’s powerful photo organization tools and sharing options, it was a no-brainer. I began uploading photos after my latest excursion to Laguna Seca for the 2016 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.

9,199 photos later, and my Flickr account had become an impressive repository of images of automotive culture in the Bay Area. Not only that; you can see my evolution from a hobbyist photographer borrowing a camera on the weekends, to a professional with an obsession for capturing panning shots. Additionally, Flickr made it very easy to share photos from my Flickr account to other social media sites like Instagram. Flickr essentially became the storage solution for my needs, without breaking the bank.

Why leave now?

As I said in my last post, Flickr was acquired Smugmug and is now limiting its free accounts to 1000 photos. In order to keep my current collection of photos, I would need to cough up an extra $50 a year for the Pro account and get unlimited storage. Honestly, it seems like a good deal for what Flickr Pro can offer, but I think cutting that cost and refocusing on my blog is a better use for the cash. This is especially true since that money could go toward upgrading my WordPress account to a Business plan and creating my own “in-house” print store, which was also something I was toying with in my last post. Also, My Instagram is far more effective at bringing new readers to my blog, as I’ve set it up to cross post to Facebook, and I have plans to integrate it with more social media accounts. And since Instagram also works as image storage, Flickr is more or less redundant for me.

Should I leave Flickr too?

Here’s the thing: if I were using only Flickr, I think that $50 a year is actually a very good deal for what’s offered. With the Pro account, you get Unlimited Storage, Analytics, Ad-free browsing, and discounts for other services like Smugmug. You could even advertise your business on Flickr and link directly to a shopping cart for your own online store. Lastly, Flickr has the advantage of having an established community of longtime users, so your uploaded work could potentially get some exposure.

In the end, I think the decision to leave Flickr or to keep using it is purely based on what your budget is and what you’ll primarily use it for. Since I’m only using it for image storage and basic sharing, I find it hard to justify the new costs. However, if you’re looking for a way to get started into photography and join an already established community, $4 a month isn’t that bad.

So, farewell Flickr. It’s been enlightening.

UPDATE: My Flickr has officially closed down on Jan. 4th 2019. If you want to see my photos, check out my Instagram at www.instagram.com/corkscrewd, or just check out my Portfolio!

Big Changes are on the Horizon

The New Year is coming…

…And that means it’s time to reflect on the year and recognize ways to improve! This new year, I’m going to make big changes to the website and how I share my work. This past year, I’ve been using a four-prong approach to share my photography and try and get more exposure:

  1. Corkscrew’d: My blog was created as a way to showcase my best work as a portfolio, with an added bonus for being able to write a blog. Lately though, I’ve been using it more as a blog since things are pretty slow during the winter season.
  2. Flickr: My Flickr account serves as an online repository for most of my photos, and it makes it easy to share my photos on Instagram.
  3. Instagram: Instagram makes it very easy to share my photos, and currently, it’s the most effective way to bring more people to my blog.
  4. Visual Society: Visual Society is a great way for beginning photographers to post some of their work and then make a profit. One of their trademarks is giving independent photographers 90% of the profit from their own sales.

So far a few things have stuck, and others haven’t. So in the spirit of improving for the next year, I’m coming up with a new plan to share my work and get more exposure (and more sales)!

The New Deal

So a few things are guiding my new plan:

First off, Flickr is changing its business model from one terabyte of free storage, to only 1,000 photos for free accounts. This is because Smugmug acquired Flickr and is doing away with a lot of free services in order to bring more quality photographers to the platform. Frankly, it seems like another money-making scheme to me, but it’s hard to argue their logic. Secondly, Flickr isn’t as effective as Instagram for sharing my photography and bringing viewers to my portfolio. In fact, I only ever use Flickr to share my photos to Instagram anyway. Flickr also requires me to manage and carefully curate my photo selections into albums; something I already do with this website. It seems to me that Flickr is essentially redundant.

Next is my Visual Society Portfolio. As of today, I’ve only ever made a handful of sales for my Visual Society account, despite it making a profit of 90% of all my sales. However, the Plus plan only gives me three gigabytes of storage for my photos, so I have to constantly curate my collections and remove older ones. Since I’ve barely broken even on the website, it doesn’t make sense to me to continue using it.

Considering the above, my new plan is this:

  1. Remove my photos from Flickr and close the account: Sadly, I’m going to have to close my Flickr account. Adobe Lightroom’s integration with Flickr made it very easy to publish photos for sharing on other social media platforms, but with the new plan eliminating a lot of free features, it doesn’t make sense for me to continue using it, especially since my Instagram is doing the same thing and attracting more people to the blog.
  2. Cancel my Visual Society subscription: Visual Society unfortunately never fulfilled my needs, though it was simple to make a few sales with it. I just don’t see myself continuing with the service into the next year.
  3. Upgrade Corkscrew’d to a Business plan, then add a dedicated shop: With my Flickr and Visual Society accounts closed, I can upgrade Corkscrew’d to a full Business plan, which allows me to add an online store for downloading photos and ordering prints. In addition, I would have unlimited storage for photos, videos, and other media. Lastly, I’d be able to use specialized plugins for the blog, expanding its capabilities further.

All of the external circumstances are pointing toward me making Corkscrew’d a one-stop-shop for my own blogging, photography portfolio, and print shop, with my Instagram acting as my main social media account. Personally, I like this solution since I wouldn’t have to worry about managing multiple websites and making different versions of the same photo.

Going forward, I think this is the best way to start the new year and get serious about what I want to accomplish with this blog!

I better get to work then!

Merry Christmas!

Photo © NostraCARmus

Nothing Says “Merry Christmas”…

…more than a red, Italian, wedge-shaped concept car! Santa Claus would be rolling in style with the Lancia Stratos Zero!

Merry Christmas!


Opinion: A 1000HP Hybrid Lotus completely misses the point

The Hot Wheels Lotus 40th Anniversary Concept. Photo © TopSpeed.com

Lotus is reportedly making plans to create a 1000HP Hybrid Hypercar…

Is it just me, or does that statement seem kind of…wrong?

I know more than a few people that own a Lotus sports car. I also know a handful of people that have more than one Lotus. When I asked them what got them into Lotus in the first place, the most common answer is “Because they drive like nothing else.” Any Lotus is the culmination of a single ideal: to create a sports car that enforces the connection between man, machine, and the open road. To drive a Lotus is to eschew modern amenities for the sake of an unparalleled driving experience; without unneeded distractions, the need for more horsepower, and a high price tag. 

In other words, Colin Chapman said it best when it came to designing his cars: “Simplify, then add lightness.” A 1000HP Hybrid Hyper-Lotus then, would be the exact opposite of what a Lotus should be.

The Lotus Exige Cup 380; So fast and light, it could only be used on a track! Photo © Road & Track

When the Chinese automotive giant Geely purchased a controlling stake in Lotus back in 2017, a lot of Lotus owners held their breath. What would Geely do now that they controlled a small British sports car company with deep racing roots? Most feared that Geely would pivot Lotus from a boutique sports car maker into something that wouldn’t have stayed true to the brand, and Colin Chapman’s ideals.

However, with the introduction of newer and more powerful models of their current line up (including the fastest road-going Lotus ever, the Evora Sprint 430), most of those fears were abated. Recently, Geely announced plans to make a super SUV that utilizes Lotus’ suspension technology and tuning techniques, likely to be introduced as a vehicle under another marque within the Geely portfolio: Volvo. While that’s all fine and dandy (there have been cars with Lotus-tuned suspensions before, like the ill-fated DeLorean DMC-12), Lotus announcing that they are beginning development on a $2.2 million hypercar with a hybrid drivetrain seems to be a slap in the face of the brand itself.

When is a Lotus not a “Lotus”?

The fabulous 1991 Bertone-Lotus Emotion Concept. Photo © Motor1.com

Lotus has never been a super-exotic car marque like Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, or even Bugatti. Anyone can learn to drive one without breaking the bank: Lotuses are not that expensive compared to other marques to own and maintain, and they have a cult following of like-minded and esoteric individuals who are simultaneously cocky and super-friendly (“Nothing drives better than a Lotus! Jump in; I’ll show you!”).

On top of that, Lotus cars are designed to follow Colin Chapman’s philosophy right down to the nuts and bolts. If a part is unnecessary, it’s tossed in an effort to save as much weight as possible. And with a lightweight car, minimal amounts of power is needed in order to create a sporty driving experience. This was how the legendary Lotus Seven was created. It was essentially a go kart with some creature comforts like lights, electric start, and not much else. Therefore, if Geely does create a Lotus hypercar with an electric hybrid drivetrain making over 1000HP, it can be argued that it’s no longer a Lotus since it’s such a large departure from what Lotus should be.

The “Lotus” Alternative

The “Blue Lightning” Electric Lotus Evora. It uses the battery pack from the Chevrolet Volt, mated to the Tesla Model S 85 drive unit. Photo © OnPointDyno.com

Instead of spending ridiculous amounts of money developing a one-off hypercar with an electric hybrid powertrain, why not refocus on developing a lightweight car designed to take an existing electric powertrain? Several car companies have already used the Lotus Elise as a template for a sporty, fully electric car, including Detroit Electric’s SP:01, and the original Tesla Roadster. However, the design limitations of the Elise chassis meant that the hardware had to be designed around the body. This meant that room for the AC motors and the battery packs were severely limited, which translated to lower ranges for these electric sports cars.

Instead, Lotus could use existing hardware, and then design a lightweight chassis to house the powertrain. In fact, Lotus has always used off-the-shelf parts for developing the engines for their sports cars. The engines used in the Elise, Exige, and Evora are all Toyota engines with Yamaha-tuned top-ends. What’s not to say that Lotus couldn’t take the engine and drivetrain from the Prius Hybrid, lighten the engine and the battery pack, and then wrap the whole package in a new chassis design based on an existing product? Maybe Lotus and Geely could develop a faster, electric successor to the Elise, or even the Evora?

In the end, it all boils down to market share. Lotus has captured less than 0.01% of the European Market since 2001. Even if Lotus were to develop an electric sports car using existing technologies, then they would have to build to volume in order to recoup the the money spent in development. If that’s the case, then it does make sense to build a multi-million dollar hypercar. 

That being said, Geely runs the risk of alienating the core fan base of Lotus by developing this proposed hybrid hypercar. Then again, if it does help Lotus recoup losses because of it’s minuscule market share, we’d all have to be content with Colin Chapman rolling in his grave.

Maybe we could hook up a dynamo to him then?

I’m obsessed with the Mazda Autozam AZ-1

Fiberglass body, gullwing doors, and mid-engined with a redline in the 9’s. It’s the Pagani Huayra of Kei Cars. Photo © The Drive

I’ve always liked Kei-Cars…

Designed to skirt around engine size regulations, Kei Cars are an interesting by-product of Japan’s need for personal transportation. These JDM-only cars are as unique as the country itself, often with interesting features that we could only dream about in the North American Market. Because of the regulations that birthed these cars, Japan ended up with a widely diverse group of vehicles designed with a certain-size footprint, and a maximum engine capacity of 660 cubic centimeters (0.66 liters). The Autozam AZ-1 was Mazda’s sportier interpretation of these regulations. 

Designed with a mid-mounted transverse 657cc Inline-3 motor making 63 horses, a fiberglass reinforced plastic body on a steel chassis weighing 1600 pounds, a 5-speed transaxle, and gullwing (!) doors, the AZ-1 had exotic looks and features in a minuscule package.

And I’ve got to have one.

Mazda only made about 4500 for the Japanese Domestic Market, but now that the car is more than 25 years old, you could legally import them into the United States and get them registered as a “gray market” import. In fact, there are several importers around the United States that would help you locate a foreign car, take care of the paperwork, and have the car shipped to you!

I want it…

After some looking around, I found a pretty decent if not heavily used example with around 120,000 miles on the odometer, and some body modifications. For a rare JDM-only car, this doesn’t seem that much of a bad deal for around $7,300! These cars are appreciating though as they’re now past the 25-year import rule, so now it isn’t uncommon for seeing low-mileage examples fetch around $15,000.

I guess I better start saving some money!

Photo © Bring A Trailer. Wouldn’t this thing look cool with Bolt-On Rim Fans?