Customers line up to buy the Lotus Evora

Matthew SparkesThe first Lotus Evora destined for a paying customer rolled out of the Norfolk factory yesterday , marking the beginning of returns from years of development.Matthew Sparkes

The first Lotus Evora destined for a paying customer rolled out of the Norfolk factory yesterday, marking the beginning of earnings from years of development.

Demand for the four-seat car has already been strong, with 800 people joining the owner's club and enough orders already taken to keep the factory busy for five months.

Because of the high level of demand, the company has taken on 150 new staff in order to achieve a target output of around 2,000 cars per year.

Lotus director Luke Bennett said of the Evora: "It's relatively quite a small investment, but for Lotus it's one of the biggest we've ever made. It's a significant milestone in the life of the company."

Development of the �50,000 sports car began in 2006, long before the credit crunch and it is the first new model since the Elise emerged in 1996.

"This is the next generation of technology on from the Elise," said Mr Bennett, explaining that the Evora represents a new direction for the firm.

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"It's actually moving us from something that's an indulgence to something that's a more everyday car. It's a pretty exclusive club that we're after here. Somewhere in the order of 300 to 400 will go to the UK."

The owner of the first car, Matthew Melling, placed a deposit with Stratton Motor Company in Long Stratton before even test-driving the car, because of the manufacturer's reputation and exclusivity.

"I could have driven one, but I just didn't need to," he said, while picking up his car from the factory yesterday.

"I knew it was going to be a fantastic car to drive. You don't see that many around, I don't want to have a mass-market sports car."

"It's a bit of a trek back," said Mr Melling, who lives in Twickenham, west London.

"I'm not a fan of your A11, but it won't be a chore driving back."

Reviews of the car have been positive, with Autocar magazine labelling it as the best driver's car of 2009.

Andy Betts, who runs the unofficial Evora owner's club, described his own experience driving the car.

"When you have a go, the physics don't seem to make sense. You think 'how can a car be doing this?'"