My motoring writer colleague had travelled the world, stayed in the best hotels and driven the world’s most exciting cars but he stood open-mouthed at the array of motoring wonders on view on a former Second World War bomber base in Oxfordshire.

“This is a motoring wonderland,” he mused as we peered into a range of delicately restored buildings where engineers worked on priceless gems of motoring history ranging from rallying Minis to Rolls-Royces.

We were at the former RAF Bicester site that just a decade ago was a crumbling ruin and on Historic England’s ‘At Risk Register’. In just six years it has been transformed by Bicester Heritage into the UK’s only hub for historic motoring excellence and a tree-lined home to more than 40 specialist businesses.

The 420-acre site with its own test track and active airfield is now held up as a national example of constructive conservation by Historic England, with even the paint colours being correct to 1930s British Standards.

But we hadn’t come to look around, we were there to drive a range of Lotus cars brought 125 miles from the company’s base in Hethel, Norfolk.

Like the Bicester Heritage site, Lotus has a self-assured spring in its step, thanks to new investment from the Chinese company Geely and that confidence is reflected in the classy finish and unexpected luxury of the Evora GT410 Sport.

Available as either a two- or four-seater, with a choice of six-speed manual or paddle-shift automatic transmissions, the £89,000 Evora can be constructed either for grand touring comfort or for batting around a track.

The cabin includes beautifully detailed race seats, with steering wheel, dashboard, door panels, transmission tunnel, centre console and instrument binnacle are all trimmed in black Alcantara, complemented by contrast twin-colour stitching.

An integrated seven-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth telephone link, satellite navigation and reversing camera are also available.

So forget the racy statistics – 186mph, 410 horsepower, 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds – this is a classy and remarkably quiet grand tourer capable of covering huge distances in serious comfort.

From the soft-touch refinement of the Evora I jumped into the altogether more performance-focused Elise Cup 250. The £50,000, 245 horsepower two-seater only needs a roll cage before it could take to the racetrack and that shows in its lean, stripped-out circuit feel.

The all-alloy, 1.8-litre supercharged four-cylinder engine can rocket the Elise Cup 250 over the 0-60mph time as fast as the Evora, testament to its light weight, derived from the liberal use of carbon fibre, titanium and aluminium.

The Cup 250 features, as standard, a lithium-ion battery, carbon race seats, ultra-lightweight motorsport forged alloy wheels and a polycarbonate rear screen.

Bolt on the beautifully finished, optional carbon fibre aero pack with its front splitter, rear wing and bargeboards, hard-top and engine cover and you have a sports car that sticks to the road like glue.

On then to the fearsome £83,000 Exige Sport 410, blending extreme looks, mighty power and a supercar ability to turn heads.

Drop into Lotus’ own carbon fibre sports seat, grip the Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel and the centre of attention is the aluminium open-gate manual gear shift, giving quick, precise and tactile changes.

Despite the greater consideration for road use, the Exige Sport 410 shares many of the uprated components with the Exige Cup 430. The oil cooler, larger clutch, AP Racing brake discs and three-way adjustable Nitron dampers have been re-tuned for road use.

Weight saving options include a titanium exhaust and high-gloss, visible weave carbon fibre parts including sill covers, barge boards, instrument binnacle and roof.

If those are not eye-catching enough, the addition of a small button on the dashboard to increase the force of the exhaust sound helped turn the car into an attention-grabber on the Bicester Heritage site which continues to be developed.

A planning application has been submitted to create new employment space near Skimmingdish Lane and work on a 344-room hotel, leisure and conference centre, within the same footprint as one of the existing Grade II-listed 1936 hangars, is due to start later this year.

As my motoring colleague continued to revel in the motoring excellence on display all around he pondered: “I wonder what sort of car it would take to make these folk stop in their tracks and stare.”

I think our little loud band of lovingly-crafted Lotuses might just have done it.