CHECK IT: License to Drive 80's Cool
BEING 80’S COOL IS NO RISKY BUSINESS OR WEIRD SCIENCE, IT’S MORE ABOUT A LICENSE TO DRIVE COOL.
Words by Tony Matthews & Luke Gilbert for Superfly Autos
The golden 80’s have to be my favourite decade, as my childhood and teenage years were mostly spent riding bmx bikes with no helmets, watching epic movies like the ghosterbusters, Porky’s and Back to the future, to playing Mario Brothers on my Gameboy and heading down the local arcade to play SEGA Outrun. Man those times were just amazing and to me and when it came to cars, my two favourite had to be the Lamborghini Countach and Ferrari Testarossa. I remember the posters I had on my bedroom wall of these two and dreaming about owning them one day.
So we were super excited when we got to meet the owner of this SuperFly 80’s Lotus Elite, Luke Gilbert. It was clear from the get go that this cool dude was an 80’s geeza through and through. I mean take for example his vehicle off choice…something that isn’t the usual of what you see rolling the streets right. So as we started to snap away with the camera, the conversation started…
To fully appreciate this car and the ethos behind it explains Luke, we need to go way back to my childhood to try to understand the influences that have contrived to produce the car. I grew up in a golden age of children’s tv watching such legendary shows as The Banana Splits, The Monkees, The Red Hand Gang, Sesame Street, The Hairbear Bunch and many more. It’s here in amongst the subconscious child’s mind influenced by the cars, clothes, skateboards, roller-skates and pop socks that The Red Panther Slammed Lotus Elite was conceived.
In the preceding years and as I grew up I had always had the niggling question buzzing around my head of ‘Who built these cars?’ ‘Where did they come from?’, a question that had intensified and began to burn. So after some research it soon became clear that such epic names as George Barris, Ed Roth, Dean Jeffries, came to light and later on with the advent of Sky TV Boyd Coddington, Chip Foose and even recently with the Fast n’ Loud crew have all inspired me in my quest to produce a car that winks back at such legendary cars and builders.
I come from a design background and have always been into cars and the way that they look, anybody that knows me knows that I’m a completely frustrated car designer at heart! I mean I was drawing and designing cars from an early age and I could have quite easily followed a path into automotive design but one thing and led to another I ended up selling my soul to the devil and started a career as a commercial artist, what a waste!
There’s an interesting story behind the purchase of the car says Luke. So I’d been without a classic car for a year or two and the itch had started to niggle again. So out came the laptop and the search was on. Couple of months had gone by and nothing had caught my eye and I was starting to lose a little faith, until my mind hit on the idea of stepping back into a 70’s Lotus wedge of which I had previously owned and restored a ’78 S2 Esprit.
It was very tired and in need of much love, with badly faded paint, oxidised wheels, bumpers cracked, the most hideous interior you will ever see and mechanically in need of a new clutch. I had the car trailored home and once it was in my garage I wasted not second one and started to rip out all the crap that had accumulated over the years.
But this time I thought, no I’m going to have a build thread, open to criticisms, trolls and haters alike. But to my amazement (after releasing a shop’d photo of a ‘before and after’ of my plan for the car) from the very first post the replies were simple staggering. Particularly on the Retro Rides forum the response was amazing, so much positivity, encouragement and advise just purred in. To quote a member “There’s so much win around this thread it’s making me dizzy”. Comments like that do everything for the moral, at times when it’s all going pair shaped, when you’re up to your eyeballs in garage crap, when your tools disappear into the 5th dimension, tripping over power cables, but knowing you have a supportive audience that wants nothing but for you to succeed, really really helps. And it was here that the name ‘The Red Panther’ was conceived, again a nod back to hotrod car culture and the very similar swage lines found on the Elite and the legendary ‘Pink Panther’ car.
Engine: Lotus 2.0 Litre, 160BHP, 4 piston on the slant twin cam naturally aspirated Dell’orto DHLA 45 dual carburettors.
Transmission: Lotus 5 speed overdrive.
Suspension: Sport airbag over adjustable Spax shocks up front with custom made brackets, similar set up on the rear, all custom made parts.
Brakes: OEM drum and shoe rear, OEM disc and calliper front.
Wheels & Tires: 15″ ROTA BM8, 7″ front, 8″ rear, sourced from the USA as you can’t get this package fitment in the UK, custom white walled tyres.
Interior: OEM ‘Giugiaro’ original, every dial, switch, knob, radio and tombstone headrest seats with hand finished soft canvas headliner, rails and pillars. Handcrafted custom fit carpets. Completely hidden bluetooth headunit with Vibe surround sound 4″ front and 6″ rear speakers.
Exterior: OEM, semi-debadged and smoothed rear hatch, brushed aluminium bright work, mopped and polished paint. Vacuum to electric MX5 headlight lift motor conversion.