Lotus Elite

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Not to be confused with the Lotus Elise.

The Lotus Elite name has been used for three vehicles from Lotus Cars.

Type 14 (1957 to 1963)[edit]

Lotus Elite Type 14
Lotus-Elite-'60.jpg
Overview
Manufacturer Lotus Cars
Production 1958–1963
Body and chassis
Class Sports car
Body style 2-door coupé
Powertrain
Engine 1.2 L Coventry Climax Straight-4 75-105hp[1]
Transmission 4-speed manual
Dimensions
Wheelbase 2,242 mm (88.3 in)[2]
Length 3,759 mm (148.0 in)[2]
Width 1,506 mm (59.3 in) [2]
Height 1,181 mm (46.5 in)[2]
Kerb weight 503.5 kg (1,110 lb)
Chronology
Successor Lotus Elan

The first Elite or Lotus Type 14 was an ultra-light two-seater coupé, produced from 1958 to 1963.

Making its debut at the 1957 London Motor Car Show, Earls Court, as chassis #1008 ,[3] the Elite had spent a year in development, aided by "carefully selected racing customers",[4] before going on sale.

The Elite's most distinctive feature was its highly innovative fibreglass monocoque construction, in which a stressed-skin GRP unibody replaced the previously separate chassis and body components. Unlike the contemporary Chevrolet Corvette, which used fibreglass for only exterior bodywork, the Elite also used this glass-reinforced plastic material for the entire load-bearing structure of the car, though the front of the monocoque incorporated a steel subframe supporting the engine and front suspension, and there was a hoop at the windscreen for mounting door hinges and jacking the car up.[5] The first 250 body units were made by Maximar Mouldings at Pulborough, Sussex.[6] The body construction caused numerous early problems, until manufacture was handed over to Bristol Aeroplane Company.[4]

The resultant body was both lighter, stiffer, and provided better driver protection in the event of a crash. Sadly, the full understanding of the engineering qualities of fibreglass reinforced plastic was still several years off and the suspension attachment points were regularly observed to pull out of the fibreglass structure. The weight savings allowed the Elite to achieve sports car performance from a 75 hp (55 kW) 1216 cc Coventry Climax FWE all-aluminium straight-4 engine with fuel consumption at 35mpg.[1] All production Lotus Elites were powered by the FWE engine. (Popular mythology says that cars left the factory with a variety of engines, but this is incorrect.) The FWE engine, derived from a water pump engine usually found bolted to a fire truck,[7] was used by Lucas Electric for electrical component life testing in the presence of intense vibration.

The car had independent suspension all round with transverse wishbones at the front and Chapman struts at the rear. The rear struts were so long, that they poked up in the back and the tops could be seen through the rear window.[1] The Series 2 cars, with Bristol-built bodies, had triangulated trailing radius arms for improved toe-in control. Girling disc brakes, usually without servo assistance, of 9.5 in (241 mm) diameter were used, inboard at the rear. When leaving the factory the Elite originally fitted Pirelli Cinturato 155HR15 tyres (CA67)

Advanced aerodynamics also made a contribution, giving the car a very low drag coefficient of 0.29 – quite low even for modern cars.[1] This accomplishment is all the more remarkable considering the engineers did not enjoy the benefits of computer-aided design or wind tunnel testing. The original Elite drawings were by Peter Kirwan-Taylor. Frank Costin (brother of Mike, one of the co-founders of Cosworth), at that time Chief Aerodynamic Engineer for the de Havilland Aircraft Company, contributed to the final design.

The SE was introduced in 1960 as a higher performance variant, featuring twin SU carburettors and fabricated exhaust manifold resulting in 85 bhp, ZF gearboxes in place of the standard "cheap and nasty" MG ones,[4] Lucas PL700 headlamps,[8] and a silver coloured roof. The Super 95 spec, with more power,[4] from a higher-tuned engine with raised compression and a fiercer camshaft with 5 bearings. A very few Super 100 and Super 105 cars were made with Weber carburettors, for racing use.

Among its few faults was a resonant vibration at 4000 rpm (where few drivers remained, on either street or track)[9] and poor quality control, handicapped by overly low price (thus losing money on every car produced) and, "perhaps the greatest mistake of all", offering it as a kit, exactly the opposite of the ideal for a quality manufacturer.[4] Many drivetrain parts were highly stressed and required regreasing at frequent intervals.

When production ended in 1963, 1030 had been built.[10] Other sources indicate 1,047 were produced.[11]

A road car tested by The Motor magazine in 1960 had a top speed of 111.8 mph (179.9 km/h) and could accelerate from 0–60 mph (97 km/h) in 11.4 seconds. A fuel consumption of 40.5 miles per imperial gallon (6.97 L/100 km; 33.7 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1966 including taxes.[2]

The ownership and history of the over 1000 Lotus Elites is maintained by the Lotus Elite World Register.[12] There are several active clubs devoted to the Lotus Elite.[13]

Motor sport[edit]

A Lotus Elite in racing trim.

Like its siblings, the Elite was run in numerous formulae, with particular success at Le Mans and the Nürburgring. Elites won their class six times at the 24 hour Le Mans race as well as two Index of Thermal Efficiency wins. Les Leston, driving DAD10, and Graham Warner, driving LOV1, were noted UK Elite racers. In 1961, David Hobbs fitted a Hobbs Mecha-Matic 4-speed automatic transmission to an Elite,[14] and became almost unbeatable in two years' racing – he won 15 times from 18 starts. New South Wales driver Leo Geoghegan won the 1960 Australian GT Championship at the wheel of a Lotus Elite.[15] After winning Index of Thermal Efficiency prize, Lotus decided to go for an outright win at Le Mans in 1960. They built a one-off Elite, called the LX, with a 1,964 cc FPF engine, larger wheels, and other modifications. In testing, it proved capable of going 174 mph. Unfortunately, the lead driver withdrew the night before the race, so the car did not have a chance to prove itself.

Types 75 and 83 (1974 to 1982)[edit]

Lotus Elite Types 75 and 83
Lotus Elite Brentwood 1976.jpg
Overview
Manufacturer Lotus Cars
Production 1974–1982
2535 made
Body and chassis
Class Sports car
Body style 2-door station wagon
Related Lotus Eclat
Powertrain
Engine 2.0-litre I4
2.2-litre I4 (from 1980)
Transmission 5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase 2,490 mm (98 in)
Length 4,470 mm (176 in)
Width 1,820 mm (72 in)
Height 1,210 mm (48 in)
Curb weight 975 kg (2,150 lb)[16] (approx)

From 1974 to 1982, Lotus produced the 4-seat, considerably larger Type 75 and later Type 83 Elite.

Lotus' first saloon car was front engined with rear wheel drive. Like all production Lotuses since the Elan, the Elite used fibreglass for the hatchback bodyshell, mounted on a steel backbone chassis evolved from the Elan and Europa. It had 4-wheel independent suspension using coil springs. The Elite was Lotus' first car to use the 907 aluminium-block 4-valve, DOHC, four-cylinder, 1973cc, developing 155 bhp. (The 907 engine had previously been used in Jensen-Healeys.) The 907 engine ultimately became the foundation for the 2.0 L and 2.2 L Lotus Esprit powerplants, the naturally aspirated 912 and the turbocharged 910. The Elite was fitted with a 4 or 5 speed gearbox and from January 1976 automatic transmission was optional.

The Elite had a claimed drag co-efficient of 0.30 and at the time of launch it was the world's most expensive four cylinder car.

Elites were available in 4 main specification variations, 501, 502, 503, and later on 504.

501 was the 'base' version.

502 added air conditioning to the specification of the 501.

503 added power steering to the specification of the 502.

504 added automatic transmission to the specification of the 503.

The Elite was the basis for the Eclat, and the later Excel 2+2 coupes.

Regarding performance, the Elite and the related Éclat are notable in that the stock kerb weight is not much over 2,000 lb (907 kg). Once the motors reach their power band, both acceleration and handling are impressive for cars of the era.

2014[edit]

On September 20, 2010 Lotus unveiled photos of an Elite concept that was publicly released at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. The vehicle is expected to go into production in 2014 and will cost in excess of £100,000.[17]

2014 Elite at the 2010 Paris Motor Show

The power train will be a mid-front mounted V8 engine, chosen to distribute weight evenly to all four wheels. This power train will optionally use a KERS hybrid system, a kinetic energy recovery system that feeds electricity generated by braking to motors in the transmission. The car will feature a 5.0-litre V8 sourced from Lexus, delivering over 600 hp. The 0–100 km/h time is reported to be as low as 3.5 seconds, with a top speed of 315 km/h.[18]

The vehicle also features a GT body with a 2+2 seating configuration.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Willson, Quentin (1995). The Ultimate Classic Car Book. DK Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-7894-0159-2. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "The Lotus Elite". The Motor. May 11, 1960. 
  3. ^ Elite #1008 - The 1958 Earls Court Show Car Club Elite Newsletter, Issue 31, December 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e Setright, L. J. K., "Lotus: The Golden Mean", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 11, p.1227.
  5. ^ Setright, p.1226.
  6. ^ Colin Chapman – The Man and His Cars, Gerard Crombac, Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1986, Page 93.
  7. ^ Coventry Climax Industrial Water Pump Engine Club Elite North America Newsletter, Vol 2, No1.
  8. ^ Lucas PL700 headlamps Lotus Elite World Register.
  9. ^ It was cured by substituting a diaphragm clutch spring. Setright, p.1227.
  10. ^ Ortenburger, Dennis "The Original Lotus Elite, Racing Car for the Road" Newport Press, 1977 p.135.
  11. ^ Trummel, Reid (April 2014). "1960 Lotus Elite Series II". Sports Car Market 26 (4): 71. 
  12. ^ Lotus Elite World Register Lotus Elite World Register
  13. ^ Lotus Elite Clubs Lotus Elite World Register
  14. ^ Hobbs' Mecha-Matic Automatic Transmission Club Elite Newsletter, Vol 1, No1; Motor Sports, December 1962
  15. ^ Australian Titles Retrieved from www.camsmanual.com.au on 16 April 2009
  16. ^ Daily Express Motor Show Review 1975 Cars: Page 28 (Lotus Elit4e 501). October 1974. 
  17. ^ Cropley, Steve (1 October 2010). "Paris Motor Show: Lotus Elite". autocar.co.uk. Retrieved 14 February 2011 
  18. ^ Autos. "Lotus moving beyond hardcore sportscars with new Elite - The Passing Lane". Thepassinglane.ca. Retrieved 2011-03-20. 

External links[edit]