Here's what you get when you cross a Lotus 2-Eleven with a Caterham 620R
By Cam Tait / Thursday, 16 November 2023 / Loading comments
Zenos had all the makings of a great British sports car maker. Founded by two former Lotus engineers, the Norfolk-based company was determined to build lightweight, driver-focused sports cars that would be available at an affordable price (where have we heard that one before?). It delivered on that promise, too, with the E10 offering huge performance and featherweight thrills for less than a Lotus Elise. This was no man-in-shed operation – Zenos was the real deal.
Why don’t we hear about it anymore then? Money mostly, and not having enough of it. Despite selling over 30 cars in both the UK and overseas markets over a three-year period, the company closed its doors in 2017 and hasn’t been heard from since. A glimmer of hope came when AC Cars took over the company’s assets, but that was nearly seven years ago and AC currently has its hands full with reviving the Cobra. So don’t expect a new Zenos any time soon (or ever), which means your best bet of getting your hands on one is to hit the classifieds.
If you do just that, you’ll see this Zenos E10 R. In all, the company produced three different derivatives of the sports car in its short lifespan, starting with the standard 200hp E10 and swiftly followed by the E10 S with an extra 50hp (or 80hp with an optional upgrade kit). The E10 R, however, represented the biggest step change of the lot. Out went the 2.0-litre Ford Ecoboost motor that powered the first two models, and in its place sat the 2.3-litre four from the third-generation Focus RS. That means 350hp and 350lb ft of torque in a rear-wheel drive, mid-engine car weighing just 700kg dry. Think Caterham 620R meets Lotus 2-Eleven.
However, whereas Lotus and Caterham have primarily focused on naturally aspirated or, in extreme circumstances, supercharged engines (aside from the latter’s 660cc Suzuki engine for its entry-level models), the Zenos line-up hunted for horsepower through turbocharging. This not only gave the E10 a different character from its rivals (yes, light turbo lag is a thing on the E10 R), but it was accompanied by a soundtrack of whistles and whooshes. This onboard video from Blyton Park we filmed back in 2016 should give you a good idea.
Engine aside, there’s some serious kit underneath that sleek (if a little characterless) glass fibre-reinforced plastic body. The whole thing is based around an aluminium spine and a tub made from recycled carbon fibre offcuts and plastic. Each corner has double-wishbone suspension with pushrod springs up front, while E10 R Drive Edition models like this one come with fully-adjustable Bilstein suspension. Cars were offered without a windscreen as standard, but you could option one if you didn’t fancy having your face blasted by flies and road gunk. Mercifully, that option was ticked for this car.
By that measure, this one looks to offer the complete Zenos experience. And it’s certainly one you’ll want to try, because the E10 represented a refreshing new take on the British sports car (which is easier said than done) and was built by people who knew what they were doing. Granted, a £31,995 price tag does put it in Lotus Elise territory, but the reality is they’re fundamentally different characters. Looking for the obvious choice? Get a Lotus. But if it’s a challenge you’re after, then look no further.
SPECIFICATION | ZENOS E10 R
Engine: 2,261cc four-cylinder, turbocharged
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 350@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 350@4,000rpm
Year registered: 2016
Recorded mileage: 3,500
Price new: £43,995
Yours for: £31,995
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