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Mike Barney Assumes The Lotus Position

Lotus Cars of WNY now in Amherst

Fans of the British sports car Lotus will be happy to know that the Buffalo area is now home to the newest (and probably last to be awarded) dealership in America. Matt Serwacki, one of the principals at Mike Barney Nissan, will head up the new store at their Sheridan Drive and Millersport Highway location.

Serwacki is not only an executive, he’s a Lotus enthusiast. You’d have to be to jump through the hoops necessary to bring the store to—let’s face it—not one of your higher-profile markets for cars like Lotus. As of this writing, Lotus Cars of WNY is selling cars; a few T’s need to be crossed and I’s dotted before the new owners of Lotus (another transaction which was taking place as the wheels were turning for the Western New York store deal) are authorized for factory service. Serwacki didn’t seem phased by the legal boondoggle. After decades in the car business, it’s just another day at the office.

First, a little Lotus history. Lotus was founded in 1952 by British racing legend Colin Chapman, whose basic theory was to build as simple a car as possible, but one that was balanced, handled precisely, and kept the driver engaged. Probably one of the better-known Lotuses over the years was the Europa, a mid-engined coupe built from 1966 to 1975, which looked like you’d have to be a contortionist to get in due to its low-slung body. More modern-day models include the Elan (a two-seat convertible) and the Esprit.

A recent visit to the new Lotus store turned up three cars, the likes of which most Western New Yorkers have not seen much around town: firstly, a white 2011 Evora. The chassis is a lightweight yet stiff aluminum unit which not only allows for great handling but cradles the cockpit like that of a race car. With a top speed of 163 miles per hour, and a zero-to-60 time of 4.3 seconds, you can tour all of Western New York in no time.

Also on hand is a mustard yellow 2001 Esprit, one of the few made with a black and yellow interior. The Esprit, which replaced the Europa in the lineup, went out of production (for now) after the 2004 model year, with over 10,000 of them leaving the factory. The wedge shape was nothing like the Europa’s, and it went through a restyling or two over the years, never losing its sexiness, but evolving with the times.

Lastly, a black and gold 2012 JPS Evora S 2+2. JPS, as any Lotusphile will point out, stands for John Player Special. John Player is a British cigarette brand (known as Player’s), and the company has been a huge motorsport sponsor for years. This black beauty has the optional 2+2 “seating” arrangement, but before you start planning on it as the perfect family chariot, keep in mind that whoever sits in the back seat—well, let’s just say they should be very short, because it’s a back seat in name only. The car has a reported zero-to-60 time of 4.6 seconds, powered by a supercharged 3.5-liter V-6 mounted behind the seats. As zoomy as it looks and sounds, sitting inside will reward you with the comfort of the perfect GT cruiser; and with an EPA estimated 17/26 miles per gallon city/highway it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to drive—at least once you buy the thing.

Serwacki wouldn’t say if Lotus Cars of WNY would have a wacky, off-key radio jingle, but he did answer another question that’s been in the minds of many Western New Yorkers for years: Yes, Mike Barney was a real person. He passed away some years back, but his name has lived on thanks in part to that jingle. Which is now in your head. You’re welcome.

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Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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