LOTUS ENGINEERING, a services company separate from the car-making business, supplied more than 200 of the L850 engine's 250 full-time engineers.
Lotus, based in Hethel, England, was once a GM possession. Romano Artioli, creator of the revived Bugatti brand, purchased the company from GM in 1993.
Artioli took over money-losing Lotus under the stipulation that GM keep the firm busy with work for two years after the sale. GM was scrambling to find work for Lotus when the L850 project was born.
'We hired Lotus because we had an obligation to spend some money there,' said Willenbockel. 'On the other hand, we needed resources, we needed designers, and we needed engineers. As it turns out, it was an excellent idea to get somebody outside of Opel Engineering and outside of (GM) Powertrain engineering.'
GM nearly took the L850 project away from Lotus when it looked as though Korea's Daewoo Motor Co. Ltd. - at the time in dispute with GM - would purchase the company. But Malaysian automaker Proton eventually won out, and the L850 project stayed at Lotus.