A ROW of lolly-coloured cars is moving down an assembly line as though the colour sequence had been chosen for maximum effect.You wouldn't know it from the production line, but the factory is in the middle of a field in a flat and overwhelmingly agricultural region of east England.
I'm in Hethel, Norfolk, home to Lotus and the factory, part of a surprisingly large complex, lives down an otherwise unremarkable country lane. As well as this building and offices, there's a paint shop, engine testing rigs, emission and anechoic chambers, and extensive engineering facilities.
The 1000 employees on site are divided between car production and Lotus Engineering, a consultancy specialising in electronics, efficient performance, driving dynamics and lightweight structures.
As the automotive world takes another big step towards aluminium with Ford's decision to make its F Series pick-ups in the metal, Lotus's long-time experience shaping and bonding the material is invaluable.
All its cars - the Elise, Exige and Evora - are made from aluminium using the same basic structure. The aluminium chassis are transported to Hethel from Lotus Lightweight Structures in the Midlands, a wholly owned subsidiary which also produces parts for Jaguar and Aston Martin, among others.
At Hethel, the chassis are mated to bodies constructed from various composites - the stuff that used to be lumped together under the name glass fibre - painted, and assembled into finished cars.
Lotus has been through a troubled spell but the mood at Hethel is optimistic. The assembly lines are running again (lack of visible movement notwithstanding) at a rate of 44 cars a week. And the Lotus line-up is expanding.