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Lotus Elite, Eclat, Excel

Lotus Elite, Eclat, Excel Published: 1st Feb 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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The car that the late Colin Chapman planned to make, in order to take on Porsche and other similar high-brow sports cars, had all the right ingredients on paper but they failed to materialise on the road. And that’s a shame because, for all its faults, the Elite and Eclat/Excel were modern GTs that, while designed in the ’70s, are right at home in the 21st century.

DRIVING

The front-engine Lotuses may have their faults but the driving qualities of a good one are not in question, especially the handling and road holding that humbled not only the older Elan and Europa: an Excel lapped the Lotus test track only fractions slower than the mid-engine Esprit Turbo! With an overhaul of the suspension and some modern tyres, these are driver’s cars of the highest order as you’d expect from Lotus. The 16 V Vauxhallorientated engine is no paragon of refinement, and lacked torque in 2-litre form, but goes well and gives fair economy. All are quite family friendly with the hatchback Elite fairly practical, too.

BEST MODELS

Essentially there’s two models, the hatchback Elite and the fastback Eclat, which then evolved into the Excel. The Elite’s looks didn’t appeal to everybody so Colin came up with the Eclat, featuring a separate boot and a shapelier tail. Three years later, the Series 2 range arrived and in ’82, the Excel bore the fruits of Lotus teaming up with Toyota to improve the quality of its cars. On the face of it, the Excel seemed like a simple facelift, but it was virtually a new car with Toyota running gear but retaining the now redeveloped Lotus engine. These later cars are considerably improved and the best bets.

VALUES

There’s little difference between Elite and Eclat values (around £4.5K for the former and £5K for the latter), but Excels have a price band of £5k/£9K. A restoration project will set you back anything from £750 upwards, while the best examples are worth barely ten grand or so with tidy cars selling for around £5000.

It’s a car that’s best to buy on condition because restorations will always outweigh their street value. Will they become classics? Probably but not for many years yet say experts. So get in while the going is good?

BUYING ADVICE

All vary enormously in condition and you should check out a few to gain a datum. Rust is a problem with the chassis on pre-May 1980 cars, which weren’t galvanised. The Excel’s bodywork is much better than before. The area that’s most likely to rot is the front and rear cross-members plus the steering mounts. Other trouble spots include the windscreen surround and wiper wheelbox. Excel engines are the most trouble-free, but their special Nikasil coating on the bores gets worn away and that leads to worn pistons and liners. Exhaust manifolds crack and expect out-of-tune and clapped out carbs. Four-speed cars rare, but the Maxi-based five-speed gearbox gives trouble and parts are getting hard to find. The front suspension bushes wear and maintaining the inboard rear drum brakes is nothing short of a nightmare. Expect the trim to be poor and leaks almost a given.



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