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Lotus Elan

Lotus Elan Published: 26th May 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Lotus Elan
Lotus Elan
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Why should i buy one?

Elan is the stuff of legends, and one of the purest sports classics on the block, proving that high performance doesn’t automatically equate to brawn over brain or size over substance, as was the case before 1962 when the delicately lithe Lotus came along.

In fact, it was such a landmark that Hethel didn’t emulate the car’s magic until the Elise débuted over 30 years later. Today, Elans are highly prized– and priced– but a good one is always sound investment, particularly as most have been rebuilt and restored to better than new by now, thanks largely to good specialist support.

What can i get?

The pecking order is drop heads, fixed head coupés and the four-seater Elan Plus2. As a design, the later the car the better it became but earliest models are wanted for their historic motorsport status.

Series 3 Elans, on wards, are the best all rounders although initial S4s, from 1968, are the least wanted due to a switch from sexy Weber carbs to sulky Stromberg instruments that caused running issues – that said, many specialists now claim they are not as bad as they were painted out to be. Sprints of the ’70’s came with much more power and, in many cases, fivespeed gearboxes while Plus2s have added space and refinement on their side.

What are they like to drive?

Any good, well sorted Elan lives up to its name and has poise, agility plus much more zest than you’d think possible for a 56 year old – especially considering those skinny Cortina-sized tyres; apart from the Lotus Seven, Elan was the first sports car that had to be driven via fingertips rather than by white knuckles and the scruff of the neck. Early editions are a bit frenzied for cruising mind; later cars gained higher gearing, although a variety of axles were always optional so it depends upon what’s been fitted.

Elan was quick in its day. Autocar clocked a Plus2S 130/5 at 121mph dead after it sprinted to 60 in a rapid 7.7 seconds (the smaller, lighter Elan Sprint is quicker still), although even a standard one is still GTi fast if in good tune. Yet, what makes the Elan so zippy point-to-point is not just its power to weight ratio but – like the Mini Cooper – those diminutive dimensions allowing much more road room to play with. Some specialists believe the larger, wider tracked Plus2 has superior handling over the normal Elan, too. With its supple ride, Elans are more than up for long touring jaunts. The snug cabin offers enough room and in Plus2 form is a pretty civilised GT and pretty practical.

What are they like to live with?

Economy is good and as the Lotus was a parts bin special, routine running costs are quite low – unlike major work – plus all you need is available, including chassis frames.

Elans have rocketed value-wise and specialist Paul Matty believes the 100K car isn’t far away, witness the very average ex-Peter Sellers car selling for some £60,000 at auction some years back.

Apart from those of historic interest Sprints are worth the most and £50-£60K for top examples common currency, with decent cars for half this. Good Plus2s can be found for under £20,000 however.

Projects need careful budgeting as Elans can cost an exorbitant amount to bring back to life and in many cases it is better to buy the best you can run to than resurrect a basket case. Standards vary enormously however so check out and drive as many as you can to set a benchmark. In contrast, the mechanics, such as engines, are quite tough and you can make a better one now than ever.

We reckon

It’s common knowledge that Mazda used the Elan to design its MX-5 but the original blueprint still shines like beacon, making you question how little progress has been made over half a century – even by Lotus…

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