“You Only Live Once – Go For It!” Lotus Elise Coupe Captures Heart Of Grandmother, 72

There are very few people I have met in my life that after just a few minutes, have been such a positive influence.  Ruth Bryson is just that.  She has an aura of class, genuine kindness and a pure love of cars.  I can only wish all you racerchicks could have the chance to meet someone so incredible

Nika

“Perhaps I was getting rather old for this kind of car”

Feb. 4, 2006
NIKA ROLCZEWSKI

In my mind, I’ve always had a black-and-white image of the perfect grandmother: kind, generous, someone who could bake the best cookies as well as knit a warm scarf. She would also share her memories while being modern in ideas and thoughts.

And, of course, she’d love cars!

Ruth Bryson is just that kind of woman. Instead of being in black and white, though, Bryson’s image is green — British racing green, to be exact.

For this articulate, loving woman of 72 has just become the owner of a new Lotus Elise sports coupe in that storied colour.

Bryson, who lives near Kingston, fell instantly in love with the powerful sports car while in England on a walking trip in 2004.

“Strolling down Chapel St. in Penzance I saw a drop-dead gorgeous little British racing green sports car — a Lotus Elise — parked outside the Admiral Benbow.”

Outside that legendary pub, Bryson and her husband felt nostalgic, having just sold their beloved Ferrari Dino after 17 years of ownership, mainly because of difficulties having it serviced near their home. “The Dino is undoubtedly the most beautiful car in the world, and the Elise is like a little Dino — a British Dino!” she adds.

Shortly after, Bryson went to Gentry Lane Automobiles in Toronto (the only Ontario dealer for the Elise) to put her name on the waiting list.

“I’m not sure I ever really expected that the car would actually be imported and available in Canada,” says Bryson. “Perhaps I was getting rather old for this kind of car. But I rationalized that I intended it for my husband to be a last-fling successor to the Dino.”

She says she’s not a wealthy senior with a stable of million-dollar Packards, Tuckers or Duponts. Her day-to-day vehicle is a 1997 VW Golf, and her garage is a gathering of the eccentric and eclectic vehicles, including a 1970 Renault Alpine and a 1980 Chevy El Camino.

Each car has been enjoyed at the many club events the Brysons have taken part in. She did, after all, meet her husband at a vintage car event. (“It was love at first sight for the MGs at least,” she says with a laugh.) Since their wedding 51 years ago, the garage has held many sporty cars — “some of them temperamental, and all of them slower than this one will be,” she adds, gesturing to the Elise.

Picking up her newly bought machine at Gentry Lane, Bryson is clearly thinking of things other than sheer speed. “There is a great pleasure in letting the car discover the road,” she says. “You and the car and the road. Not competitive, not illegal or foolishly fast — just right.” She admits enjoying even her slowest car, a Citroen Deux Chevaux, as much as any other.

Her automotive passions would seem to be hereditary, as she fondly remembers her mother tooling around Toronto in her Fiat 124 sports coupe well into her 70s.

For her part, Bryson says she won’t be driving the Elise anywhere near the GTA. Living in rural Ontario, she says she knows her limitations and prefers back roads to city streets.

One of the main attractions of the Elise was that it is a new production car, a welcome change of pace after so many vintage vehicles. Her 55-year-old MG TD, for example, was affectionately known as “Tired Dog.” Unlike Bryson, it was starting to show its age.

The solution? “It was time for a new car,” says Bryson. “One you can confidently drive home at night without worrying whether you will make it, and which will meet the minimum speed requirements on the 401.”

Then there’s the added bonus that comes with a car under warranty: “Someone else will do the maintenance and repairs — a luxury!”

The Elise, with its four-cylinder, 1.8-litre engine, seems to fit the bill. It has an impressive 0-to-100 km/h time of 4.7 seconds, thanks to its 190 horsepower in a relatively lightweight (900 kg) car.

“The car is not only beautiful, but a perfect package of performance,” says John Simoes, managing director of Gentry Lane, who says its base price of $58,550, is “a bargain for a supercar.”

Being just shy of five-feet, Bryson feared that a good seating position for driving was going to be an issue for her, but that proves unfounded.

Though her age hasn’t slowed her down, it did give her pause for thought when she chose the low-slung Elise. “I was afraid once I get in, someone would have to pry me out,” she says with a laugh.

Once she slips behind the wheel of her new purchase, she easily goes through the gears and finds herself comfortable in the driver’s seat.

Will she ever run it on a track? She explains that while she has learned to race, she lacks the edge it takes to be fastest in the corner. “I love the windy roads where I have the right speed in the right gear,” she adds.

Bryson’s not above having fun at her own expense. “It’s a pity such an old gal is buying it,” she jokes.

“It should go to a youngblood that can drive it ten-tenths. But that is a fact of life: by the time you can afford it, you’re too old to enjoy it.”

Clearly not in her case: she’s a grandmother who can still appreciate the Elise’s beauty and performance.

“My advice to other grannies is that you only live once,” she adds. “Go for it.”

Nika

Nika

Nika has had a love for cars and racing since childhood. A regional racing license holder she has been involved with the industry, working with racers, teams, journalists and automobile manufacturers in sponsorship solicitation, logistics, hospitality, road show and communication program implementation.