Lotus Elan

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Lotus Elan
Four Elans.jpg
Top: S4 DHC, S3 FHC; Bottom: M100, +2
Overview
Manufacturer Lotus Cars
Production 1962–73 (+2 1967-1975), 1989-95
Assembly Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, England; Hethel, Norfolk, England
Body and chassis
Class Two and four seat, two door sports car
Layout 1960s Elan: Front engine, rear wheel drive; 1980s Elan: Front engine, front wheel drive

Lotus Elan is the name of two separate ranges of automobiles produced by Lotus Cars.

Circa 1962 to 1975 the first range of cars comprised:

  • Two seater sports cars:
    • Lotus Type 26 drop head coupes (convertibles), marketed as the Elan 1500, Elan 1600, and Elan S2 (Series 2)
    • Lotus Type 36 fixed head (coupés) and drop head coupes, marketed as the Elan S3
    • Lotus Type 45 fixed head and drop head coupes, initially marketed as the Elan S4 then, later, in a higher performance model, marketed as the Elan Sprint
    • Lotus Type 26R racing version of the Type 26
  • Four seater sports car (rear seats suitable for children):
    • Lotus Type 50, fixed head coupe, marketed as the Elan +2

Once the S2 was released the original Elan 1500 and Elan 1600 models were typically referred to as the S1 (Series 1) although the car was never explicitly marketed as such. Today, all models (S1-Sprint) are often cited collectively as the 1960s Elans.

A Elan-inspired model similar to the 1960s original called the Evante was produced from mid-1980s in very low volumes by British Lotus specialist Vegantune.

Circa 1989 and 1995 the second range of cars comprised:

  • Two seater sports cars:
    • Lotus Type M100 drop head coupe, initially marketed as the Elan S1 and, later, for the UK market, the Elan S2.

This second model was also produced in South Korea by Kia Motors between 1996 and 1999, rebadged as the Kia Elan.

Lotus Elan 1500, 1600, S2, S3, S4, Sprint[edit]

Lotus Elan 1500, 1600, S2, S3, S4, Sprint
Lotus-Elan-'66.jpg
Overview
Manufacturer Lotus Cars
Production 1962–1973
Assembly Cheshunt, England; Hethel, England
Designer Ron Hickman
Body and chassis
Class Sports car
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door roadster
Layout Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Powertrain
Engine 1,498 cc later 1,558 cc Lotus TwinCam I4 (petrol)
Transmission 4 speed manual (all synchromesh)
Dimensions
Wheelbase 84.0 in (2,134 mm)
Length 145.0 in (3,683 mm)
Width 56.0 in (1,422 mm)
Height 45.5 in (1,156 mm)
Curb weight Approximately 1,500 lb (680 kg)
Chronology
Predecessor Type 24 Lotus Elite
Successor Type 79 Lotus Esprit

Overview[edit]

The Lotus Elan was the first Lotus road car to use a steel backbone chassis with a fibreglass body. This style of construction was to be repeated in subsequent Lotus models for nearly three decades. At approximately 1,500 lb (680 kg), the Elan embodied Colin Chapman's minimum weight design philosophy. The Elan was technologically advanced with a DOHC 1,558 cc engine, four-wheel disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, and 4-wheel independent suspension. Gordon Murray, designer of the McLaren F1 supercar, reportedly said that his only disappointment with the McLaren F1 was that he could not give it the perfect steering of the Lotus Elan.[1]

In 2004, Sports Car International named the Elan number six on the list of Top Sports Cars of the 1960s. The original version of the car was designed by Ron Hickman[2] who also designed the first Lotus Europa as part of Lotus' GT40 project bid and made his fortune having designed the Black & Decker Workmate.

Because of its successful design and rigorous attention to cost control on the body, chassis, engine and the transmission, the Elan become Lotus' first commercial success and contributed to the funding of its achievements in racing over the next ten years. It revived a company stretched thin by the more exotic, expensive to build, and rather unreliable Lotus Elite, which used a fiberglass monocoque body/chassis and all-aluminium Coventry Climax engine.

The original Elan 1500 was introduced in 1962 as a roadster. After a very short production run of just 22 cars the engine was enlarged and the car was redesignated the Elan 1600.[3] The Elan 1600 of 1963 was replaced by the Elan S2 in 1964.[4] An optional hardtop was also offered. The S2 gave way to the S3 in 1965, which provided a fixed-head coupe (FHC) alongside the drop head coupe (DHC).[4] The S4 followed in 1968 and the Elan Sprint was introduced in 1970, both available in DHC and FHC form.[4] Production of the Sprint ceased in 1973.[4] The standard (Std) S2, S3 & S4 models were also available in a slightly more powerful and luxurious "Special Equipment" variant, generally referred to as the SE (e.g. Lotus Elan S3 SE)

In the U.K. the Elan was offered as a fully assembled vehicle and, for tax avoidance purposes, as a lower cost kit for final assembly by the customer.

Reviews[edit]

The Elan was widely admired and praised by customers and reviewers, noted for its exceptional handling, roadholding, steering, acceleration, braking and comfort:

Car and Driver: The Elan very simply represents the sports car developed in tune with the state of the art. It comes closer than anything else on the market to providing a Formula car for ordinary street use. And it fits like a Sprite, goes like a Corvette, and handles like a Formula Junior. Driving it is very simply another sort of automotive experience altogether. Most people tend to come back from their first ride a little bit glassy-eyed...[5]

Road and Track: The light and tactile steering, combined with supple suspension and a weird, physics-defying sense of zero weight transfer in corners, provides a sensation akin to flying just over the ground. I'm convinced there's a powerful pleasure center in the brain that remains untapped until you drive an Elan. It's almost a drug.[6]

Motor Sport: The tremendously responsive steering and handling requires similar qualities from the driver and the speeds achieved round corners and on the straight are deceptively fast. This, therefore, calls for a lot of concentration on the driver's part. Once mastered, however, the Elan is the nearest thing to a single-seater racing car one is likely to be able to drive comfortably on the road. To master the car and explore its tremendous handling potential along that delightfully twisty piece of road one knows so well is close on perfection for the sporting motorist.[7]

Production[edit]

The total production number for the Lotus Elan is not definitively known; however John Bolster, in his book "The Lotus Elan and Europa: A Collector's Guide" provides a number of 12,224 (S1-3: 7,895; S4: 2,976; Sprint: 1,353).[8] This number was occasionally used by Lotus itself. See below for +2 production.

Meanwhile, Paul Robinshaw and Christopher Ross, in their book "The Original 1962-1973 Lotus Elan" assert that Lotus' somewhat erratic record keeping at the time meant that vehicle serial numbers were not entirely sequential or consistent. Their assessment suggests an actual count to be in the range 8,676-9,153 (S1: 900; S2: 1,250; S3: 2,650; S4: 2976-3,000; Sprint: 900-1353).[9]

As of April 2018, the voluntary, and thus inevitably incomplete, Lotus Elan registry lists approximately 1,100 known remaining vehicles (including approximately 330 +2 models) in over 30 countries.[10]

Influence[edit]

While the structure of the Elan followed a entirely traditional approach for sports cars of the time - front engine, rear wheel drive - its design included novel ideas that found their way into the designs of other manufacturers' vehicles.[11]

Examples include:

  • The Mazda MX-5 (Mazda Miata in North America). The original Elan is usually credited as being the design inspiration for this sports car in 1989.[12] Two Elans were intimately evaluated by Mazda in the process of designing the MX-5.
  • The Toyota 2000GT. This sports car used a chassis that bears a striking resemblance to the Lotus Elan.[13][14]

Owners, Drivers and in the Media[edit]

This generation of the two-seater Elan was famously driven by the character Emma Peel in the 1960s British television series The Avengers.

The reference to a car accident in the Beatles song A Day in the Life was apocryphally based on Tara Browne's fatal accident in his Lotus Elan.[15]

Famous Lotus Elan owners and drivers, past & present, include:

Racing[edit]

Despite the fact that the Lotus Elan has been (and continues to be[21][22]) used extensively for racing it was Lotus' first car that was not designed with racing in mind. (The earlier Lotus Elite was designed as a road car and also to compete in high-efficiency classes at Le Mans.[23]) Nevertheless, because owners assumed that all Lotus cars were designed for racing, it soon found its way onto the track, however unsuitable. Lotus resisted modifying the car to make it more suitable for racing but eventually created a racing version of the Elan. Robinshaw/Ross quote Colin Chapman[24]:

"When we announced the Elan we said 'This is a touring car, it is not intended for racing and have done no competition development on it.' The fact that customers bought them and tried to race them was originally no concern of ours, but in the second year we thought, well, if these people insist on racing them then we'd better get down to some proper development. They were too softly sprung, too softly damped, tore their doughnuts apart and had all sorts of drama, but it was the name, and people thought they must be racing cars."

The result of the "proper development" was the Type 26R version of the Elan, offered from 1964 at £1995 in kit form.[25]

Motor Sport: Mechanically, the 26R differed by featuring racing lightweight competition-spec wishbones, sliding spline driveshafts in place of rubber joints, bigger anti-roll bars and a degree of reinforcement around the suspension pick-up points. Pedals were repositioned to aid heel-and-toeing, dual circuit brakes with twin master cylinders and light alloy calipers coming as standard. As did a 140bhp Cosworth-tuned ‘four’ although up to 160bhp was offered in time.[25]

Other changes included flared wheel arches, which allowed for larger wheels and tires, and a lighter body shell.

Construction[edit]

The basic structure of the Lotus Elan comprised a fabricated mild steel backbone chassis, similar to a double ended tuning fork, and a fibreglass body. The chassis was the primary stressed component, providing the necessary bending and torsional rigidity. The fibreglass body was solidly bolted to the chassis at 16 points, fitting over it like a saddle. While not highly stressed the body nevertheless added to the overall rigidity of the structure. As such, the chassis should more properly be considered a subframe - it is readily changeable and most Elans on the road today have had a new chassis fitted at some point, either due to accident or decay.

The engine & gearbox are located between the front fork arms and the differential between the rear fork arms. The front & rear suspensions attach to the ends of their respective arms (turrets at the end of the arms hold the suspension springs & dampers).

1. Pre-restoration engine showing Ford bottom end and Lotus head, timing chest, cam cover

This design resulted in light weight, high rigidity (by contemporary standards), and easy driver/passenger access through wide door openings with low sills. Driver and passenger protection from front and rear impact was acceptable for its time, but side impact protection was minimal.

Drive Train[edit]

The engine, gearbox and differential were all sourced from Ford UK components. See below for details on the engine. The gearbox was a high volume unit used widely across the Ford range (Anglia, Cortina, etc.). Lotus offered regular and close ratio versions. The differential unit was also sourced from Ford but converted for independent rear suspension use (contemporary Ford cars used live rear axles). Three differential ratios were offered at various times during the production life of the vehicle: 3.55, 3.77 and 3.9. Most Elans were fitted with 3.77 differentials. 3.90 differentials, which provided the best acceleration, were often favored by purchasers of early cars, while 3.55 differentials became more common in later cars (especially the more powerful Sprints) to provide more relaxed cruising on newly built highways.

2. Differential: Ford gearcase, Lotus rear carrier, Rotoflex drive

The final drive used four Rotoflex couplings (colloquially called rubber doughnuts)[26] to connect the differential output shafts to the rear hubs. These couplings were widely used at the time for road vehicles (e.g. Hillman Imp, Triumph GT6) and racing (e.g. Ford GT40, Lotus 21), prior to the availability of constant velocity (CV) joints. In the case of the Elan, which had exceptionally supple rear suspension that allowed significant vertical wheel travel, the deformation of the Rotoflexes in operation resulted in some "wind up" of the couplings. This could be readily detected by the driver, especially at take off and during gear changes, and was slightly disconcerting when driving an Elan for the first time. In practice drivers typically adjusted their clutch technique within a few minutes and no longer noticed it. In recent years the uncertain quality of the rubber and bonding of replacement Rotoflex couplings and the availability half shafts built with CV joints has resulted in many Elans being converted from Rotoflex to CV joint drive.

3. Rear hub showing Chapman Strut suspension
Rotoflex drive coupling

A notable feature of the drive train design was its use of standard, mass produced components in combination with a minimal number of specialized aluminium castings to create a power unit and transmission suitable for a high performance sports car:

  1. The engine head and timing chest. Converted the Ford Kent pushrod engine into a twin overhead cam engine.
  2. The differential rear cover & carrier. Converted a live axle to independent suspension operation.
  3. The rear wheel hubs. Required for the Chapman Strut rear suspension.

These three items were unique to the Elan (although the engine was subsequently used widely in other vehicles).

Engine[edit]

The 1,558 cc "Lotus TwinCam" engine was based on the Ford Kent Pre-Crossflow four-cylinder 1,498 cc engine, with a Harry Mundy-designed two-valve alloy chain-driven twin-cam head. The rights to this design was later purchased by Ford, which renamed it the "Lotus-Ford Twin Cam". It would go on to be used in a number of Ford and Lotus production and racing models.

Lotus reported different power outputs for the Twin Cam engine during the production of the Elan. Prior to the release of the Sprint the following outputs were reported in the Workshop Manual[27]:

  • Max BHP @ rpm: 105 @ 5,500 Std; 108 @ 6,000 SE
  • Max torque @ rpm: 108 lbs ft @ 4,000

Lotus marketing material from the S3 period quoted the SE variant at 115 BHP, noting high lift cams, carburetor re-jetting and a four branch exhaust[28].

The final version of the Workshop Manual revised these numbers, as shown in the following tables[29]. The increased power of the Sprint engine was primarily due to larger inlet valves, so it was named the Big Valve engine:

Brake Horse Power
Model BHP (net) rpm
Std 90 5,500
SE 93 6,000
Sprint 126 6,500
Sprint Emission[30] 113 6,500
Torque
Model lbs ft rpm
except Sprint 108 4,000
Sprint 113 5,500
Sprint Emission[30] 104 5,000

Suspension, Steering, Braking[edit]

The Elan utilized modern technologies for its suspension, steering and brakes. The overall design was simple and easily maintained. In common with many Lotus cars they were perhaps the Elan's most highly regarded features.

  • Front suspension: The front suspension was based on Triumph uprights & steering components while the wishbones were of Lotus design. The layout was a classic MacPherson strut with Lotus geometry. Similarly, the steering was of classic rack and pinion design, the Triumph rack being modified for the Elan's narrow track with custom track rods and rack collars that set the minimum turning radius. The steering was not power assisted, which allowed for the visceral steering feel for which the Elan was famous.
  • Rear suspension: The Chapman Strut rear suspension was designed and manufactured by Lotus. This included the brazed A-frame lower wishbones and the aluminum rear hubs.
  • Brakes: The disk brakes were supplied by Girling. Most Elans used a single hydraulic circuit although Federal cars were fitted with dual circuits. Early Elan brake systems were not servo assisted, but servos were fitted to SE and later models. In practice the Elan was light enough that power assistance for the brakes was not required, so the provision of servo assistance may have offered a marketing benefit as much as a functional benefit.

Major Component Suppliers[edit]

Lotus relied heavily on suppliers of mass produced parts to create the Elan. These included:

  • Engine/Gearbox/Differential from Ford UK.
  • Front suspension and steering from Triumph (Herald/Spitfire/Vitesse)
  • Electrical systems from Lucas (dynamo, starter, wiring, ignition, lighting, etc.)
  • Instrumentation from Smiths (speedometer, tachometer, etc.)
  • Carburetors from Weber, Dell'Orto and Zenith-Stromberg (depending on model)
  • Brakes from Girling

Weight[edit]

As with all Lotus cars, attention to minimizing weight was a major factor during the Elan's design and manufacture. Its diminutive size (while offering room for drivers over 6 ft (1.83 m) tall and practical luggage carrying capacity) provided the foundation for its low weight.

The Elan Workshop Manual lists the following weights[29]:

Model Weight (lbs)
Series 1 1,410 lb (640 kg)
Series 2 1,485 lb (674 kg)
Series 3 Coupe Std/SE 1,520 lb (689 kg)/1,530 lb (694 kg)
Series 3 Convertible Std/SE 1,530 lb (694 kg)/1,540 lb (699 kg)
Series 4 (inc. Sprint) Coupe Std/SE 1,540 lb (699 kg)/1,550 lb (703 kg)
Series 4 (inc. Sprint) Convertible Std/SE 1,530 lb (694 kg)/1,540 lb (699 kg)

Lotus marketing material from the S3 period quoted the weight as "from 1,232 lb."[28]

Meanwhile, reported weights in magazine road tests varied from 1,260 lb (572 kg) (Elan 1600, Cars Illustrated, August 1964) to 1,630 lb (739 kg) (S4 FHC SE, Road & Track, January 1969).[31]

The table above shows that the weight of the vehicle changed during its production lifetime, tending to increase. Additional features such as electric windows, more luxurious carpeting, and larger wheels and tyres all contributing to the gain.

Sub Assemblies[edit]

  • Chassis: 88 lb (40 kg)[32] (anecdotal reports in www.lotuselan.net suggest that the weight was around 75 lb (34 kg)).
  • Body: 199 lb (90 kg)[33] (per contract with S. Bourne & Co for early body shell construction (with subsequent variations due to DHC/FHC and S1-4 model differences)).
  • Engine: 260 lb (118 kg).[34]
  • Gearbox: 84 lb (38 kg).[35]
  • Differential: 46 lb (21 kg).

Performance[edit]

The performance of the Elan was derived from the combination of its powerful engine (by contemporary standards) and light weight. The roadholding and agility of the car also meant that high speeds could be maintained on corners, which allowed for high average speeds.

By contemporary standards, the Sprint was an exceptionally rapid car and quite lived up to its name. It embarrassed almost every other supercar at the time in terms of outright acceleration up to about 90 mph. This electrifying performance was accentuated by the brilliant handling and road holding, allied to the small size and weight of the Elan, which meant that a well driven Elan on a dry road could outclass any other non-Lotus road car.[36]

Zero to 60 Times and Car Folio report:

Year Model 0-60 mph (secs) Quarter mile (secs)
1967[37] Elan SE 7.9 16.1
1966[38] Elan S3 SE 7.6 15.7
1964[37] Elan 1600 8.6 16.2

The more powerful Sprint variant offered increased performance. The following table briefly summarizes the performance published by several contemporary magazines[36]:

Lotus Elan Sprint
Source Date Top Speed (MPH) 0-60 (secs) 0-100 (secs) Average fuel consumption (MPG)
Motor Mar 71 121 6.7 20.3 22.2
Autocar Jun 71 118 7.0 20.7 25.5
Motoring News Jul 71 118 7.3 21.0 24.2
Car & Car Conversions May 72 122 6.4 19.9 22-23
Car Oct 72 123 6.6 19.0 30.5
Autosport Feb 73 121 6.6 19.8 20-25

Price[edit]

The price of the Elan changed during its production lifetime. At announcement, in October 1962, the fully built cost was £1,499 (GBP). At the end of production, in April 1973, the fully built cost was £2,436. In comparison a Jaguar E-Type in 1961 cost approximately £2,100.[39]

However, throughout its production the Elan was also available in the U.K. in "kit" form. This was provided for tax avoidance reasons and required the customer to complete the final assembly of the vehicle. The tax savings were considerable, the prices above being reduced to £1,095 and £2,044 respectively.[39]

Kit versions of the Elan were as complete as possible while adhering to tax regulations. The entire chassis, body, electrical systems, final drive/suspension and all trim were delivered fully assembled to the customer. Final construction involved installation of:

  • Engine, gearbox & prop shaft
  • Front wheel hubs, springs/shock absorbers & anti-roll bar
  • Exhaust
  • Wheels/tyres
  • Battery
  • Radiator & hoses

For the typical Lotus customer, an auto enthusiast, final assembly would be undertaken willingly. When complete the owner would take the car to a Lotus dealer who, after checking that the assembly had been performed correctly, initiated the warranty period. This feature of Elan purchase was quite heavily promoted by Lotus, with print advertisements showing how simple and rewarding it was to complete the construction.[40]

Collectability[edit]

1960s/70s Elans are now passing half a century old and, as a well respected Lotus and a fine example of Colin Chapman's design philosophy, are valued today as collectors' vehicles. In the U.K they have an almost cult-like status among auto enthusiasts, commanding higher prices than elsewhere in the world. An undocumented (but thought to be considerable) number of right hand drive (U.K. market) Elans have been privately exported to Japan, where they are admired by collectors. As with many English sports cars of the period there are dedicated enthusiasts around the world, especially in Australia, Canada and the USA.[10]

The simple design of the car, with nearly all parts being readily replaceable, makes it well suited for the collector market. New chassis, bodies and drive train components are all available. There are numerous suppliers of Elan parts and restoration services, worldwide. Conveniently, the fiberglass body is immune to rust.

Current Values[edit]

Current values vary widely around the world, so the following table provides approximate figures for the UK, based on condition. Early cars (S1 & S2) and Sprints are more highly valued than S3s, which are more highly valued than S4s.

Generally, Drop Head Coupes have been more highly valued than Fixed Head Coupes and in the past it was not uncommon to convert FHCs to DHCs, making FHCs rarer. This has tended to stabilize the value of FHC cars.

Approximate 2018 values
Condition UK £ (thousands)[41]
Poor/restoration Teens
Fair Mid teens
Good Low twenties
Excellent Low thirties
Concours Low forties

Gallery[edit]

Elan +2[edit]

Lotus Elan +2
LotusElan+2Side.jpg
Overview
Production 1967–1975
Assembly Hethel, England
Designer Ron Hickman
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door 2+2 coupé
Layout Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Powertrain
Engine 1,558 cc Lotus TwinCam I4 (petrol)
Transmission 4-speed & 5-speed manual (all-synchromesh)
Dimensions
Wheelbase 96.0 in (2,438 mm)
Length 169.0 in (4,293 mm)
Width 66.0 in (1,676 mm)
Height 47.0 in (1,194 mm)
Curb weight Approximately 1,960 lb (889 kg)

Overview[edit]

An Elan +2 was introduced in 1967 with a longer wheelbase and wider track, and two small rear seats, suitable for children. While the Elan was a two seater sports car marketed to the single man/woman or young couple, the +2 was larger and considerably more luxurious vehicle marketed to the established family with children. Reviews reflected this new marketplace for Lotus. Motor Sport magazine reported the design goal as: it was decided to increase the interior dimensions considerably to meet the car's maxim that it "must be capable of transporting two adults and two children 1,000 miles in comfort with their luggage".[42]

While the Elan ceased production in 1973 the Elan +2 continued to be produced until 1975, eventually being replaced by the Elite II and Lotus Eclat.

Construction[edit]

Aside from the increase in size necessary to accommodate two additional seats, the design of the Elan +2 was extremely similar to the two seater Elan. The concept of a backbone chassis with fibreglass body, powered by a Ford UK-derived drive train was maintained. MacPherson Strut and Chapman Strut front/rear suspension of identical design was also used, with some components (e.g. rear hubs) shared with the two seater Elan and others (e.g. wishbones) increased in size. Power assisted brakes were standard, dual circuit in some markets.

In 1968 a more luxurious version of the Elan +2 was released, named the +2S.

In 1971 +2S was upgraded to include the Big Valve engine, and then named the +2S 130. Later models of the +2S 130 were provided with a 5-speed Austin Maxi based gearbox, which greatly improved its high speed cruising capabilities, named +2S 130/5.

Performance[edit]

Tested maximum power: 108–126 bhp (net) (depending on the model); top speed: 120 mph (190 km/h), 0–60 mph in 7.9 seconds, 0–100 mph 21.8 seconds.

Production[edit]

As with the two seater Elan, the exact number of +2s produced is unknown. The estimated total is approximately 5,200. However, John Bolster's "The Lotus Elan and Europa: A Collector's Guide" provides a number of 3,300[43]. Fewer than 1,200 of these cars remain in the roads today.

Elan M100[edit]

Lotus Elan M100
Lotus Elan.jpg
Overview
Also called Galloper Elan (Argentina)
Kia Elan
Kia Roadster (Germany)
Kia Vigato (Japan)
Production 1989–1995
Assembly Hethel, England
Ansan, South Korea (Kia Motors)
Designer Peter Stevens[44]
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door roadster
Layout FF layout
Powertrain
Engine 1,588 cc Isuzu 4XE1 I4 (petrol)
1,588 cc Isuzu 4XE1-MT turbo I4 (petrol)
Transmission 5-speed manual
Dimensions
Wheelbase 88.6 in (2,250 mm)
Length 149.7 in (3,803 mm)
152.2 in (3,870 mm) (US)
Width 68.3 in (1,734 mm)
Height 48.4–48.8 in (1,230–1,240 mm)
Curb weight 2,198 lb (997 kg) (NA)
2,370–2,447 lb (1,075–1,110 kg) (Turbo)
1991 Lotus Elan – Federal (USA) version

The Lotus M100 Elan was launched in August 1989, reviving the Elan nameplate after 14 years. A two-seater convertible sports car, designed in-house by Lotus, it featured an engine and manual transmission supplied by Isuzu, and was built with the development and testing resources of General Motors. Around £35 million (about $55 million) was invested in its development,[45] more than any other car in Lotus history. Its design, featuring a fibreglass composite body over a rigid steel backbone chassis, was true to Lotus founder Colin Chapman's original philosophy of achieving performance through low weight, and the name "Elan" connected the car with its 1960s ancestor.

Origins[edit]

In 1986 the purchase of Lotus by General Motors provided the financial backing to develop a new, small, affordable car in the same spirit as the original Elan (last built in December 1972). A development prototype, the M90 (later renamed the X100) had been built a few years earlier, using a fibreglass body designed by Oliver Winterbottom and a Toyota-supplied 1.6-litre engine and transmission. Lotus was hoping to sell the car through Toyota dealerships worldwide, badged as a Lotus Toyota, but the project never came to fruition and the prototype was shelved (although Lotus's collaboration with Toyota had some influence on the design of the Toyota MR2).

The idea of a small roadster powered by an outsourced engine remained, however, and in late 1986 Peter Stevens's design for the Type M100 was approved and work began by Lotus engineers to turn the clay styling buck into a car that could be built. This process was completed in just under three years, a remarkably short time from design to production car.

Testing[edit]

The M100 Elan was conceived as a mass-market car and in particular one that would appeal to US buyers. Consequently, Lotus put an enormous effort (for such a small firm) into testing the car; over a two-year period 19 crash cars and 42 development vehicles were built, logging nearly a million test miles in locations from Arizona to the Arctic. The Elan was driven at racing speeds for 24 hours around the track at Snetterton. Finally each new car was test-driven for around 30 miles (48 km) at Lotus's Hethel factory to check for any manufacturing defects before being shipped to dealers.

Handling[edit]

The choice of front-wheel drive is unusual for a sports car, but according to Lotus sales literature, "for a given vehicle weight, power and tyre size, a front wheel drive car was always faster over a given section of road. There were definite advantages in traction and controllability, and drawbacks such as torque steer, bump steer and steering kickback were not insurmountable."[45] This was the only front-wheel-drive vehicle made by Lotus. Every model made since the M100 Elan, such as the Lotus Elise, has been rear-wheel drive.

The M100 Elan's cornering performance was undeniable (on release the Elan was described by Autocar magazine as "the quickest point to point car available"). Press reaction was not uniformly positive, as some reviewers found the handling too secure and predictable compared to a rear-wheel-drive car. However, the Elan's rigid chassis minimised roll through the corners and has led to many critics describing it as 'the finest front wheel drive [car] bar none'.[46] Unlike the naturally aspirated version, the turbocharged SE received power steering as standard, as well as tyres with a higher ZR speed rating.[47]

Engine[edit]

The M100 Elan used a 1,588 cc double overhead camshaft (DOHC) I4 16-valve engine, sourced from the Isuzu Gemini and extensively modified by Lotus (a third generation of this engine was later used in the Isuzu Impulse), which produced 162 horsepower (121 kW). 0–60 acceleration time was measured by Autocar and Motor magazine at 6.5 seconds, and a top speed of 137 mph (220 km/h) was recorded.

Significant differences in the Isuzu-Lotus engine from the original include a new exhaust system, re-routed intake plumbing for better thermodynamic efficiency, improved engine suspension, and major modifications to the engine control unit to improve torque and boost response. Almost all models featured an IHI turbocharger.

Sales[edit]

Two variants were available at launch, the 130 bhp (97 kW; 132 PS) Elan 1.6 (retailing at £17,850) and the 162 bhp (121 kW; 164 PS) Turbo SE (£19,850). Initial sales were disappointing, due to the debut of the more affordable "nostalgic" Mazda MX-5 which was arguably similar in concept to the 1960s Elan, in contrast to the M100's deliberately futuristic cant. The Elan was very expensive to make (the cost to design and produce the dashboard alone was more than the total cost of the Excel production line), and sales figures were too low to recoup its huge development costs.

Altogether just 3,855 Elans were built between November 1989 and July 1992, including 129 normally aspirated (non-turbo) cars. 559 of them were sold in the US, featuring a 'stage 2 body' which had a different rear boot spoiler arrangement together with a lengthened nose to accommodate a USA-compliant crash structure and airbag, and 16-inch wheels (optional in most markets, standard in the U.S.) instead of 15-inch as on the UK model.

Series 2[edit]

A limited edition of 800 Series 2 (S2) M100 Elans was released during the Romano Artioli era (produced June 1994–September 1995) when it was discovered that enough surplus engines were available to make this possible. It was only for the UK market. According to Autocar magazine, the S2 addressed some of the concerns over handling, but power was reduced to 155 bhp (116 kW; 157 PS) and the 0–60 acceleration time increased to 7.5 seconds, due to the legislative requirement to fit a catalytic converter in all markets. The S2s have very similar performance to the USA vehicles, having an identical engine management system calibration and a slightly lower overall vehicle weight.

Kia Elan[edit]

Kia Elan

After the final production run of the Elan in 1995, Lotus sold its production rights to Kia Motors, which produced its own version. Outwardly, the Kia Elan looks almost identical to the original. The most obvious difference are the Kia-designed taillights which replaced the Renault Alpine rear lights of the original.

Kia Motech (Kia Motor-technology) produced the car (in Ansan, South Korea) from 1996 to 1999 as the Kia Elan for the Korean market, using a 151 hp (113 kW) 1.8 L T8D engine instead of the Isuzu 1.6 turbo-charged unit. In the Japanese market, the car was sold as the Vigato[48]. .

2013 Elan show car[edit]

Lotus Elan (2013)
Lotus Paris 1.JPG
Overview
Production concept, not produced
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
Layout Mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive

A new Lotus Elan was announced at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. It was hoped to be in production by 2013, but the project was cancelled before the car entered production.[49] The car was to have featured a 4.0-litre V6 engine and was to have weighed roughly 1,295 kg (2,855 lb)[50]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Arnold, G. 1981. The Lotus Elan and Plus Two Buyers Guide 1962–1975. Club Lotus
  • Clarke, R.M. Lotus Elan Collection No.2 1963–1972. Brooklands Books. ISBN 0-907073-68-9
  • Harvey, C. 1982. Lotus: The Elite, Elan, Europa. Oxford Illustrated Press. ISBN 0-902280-85-6.
  • Hughes, M. 1992. Lotus Elan. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-194-7.
  • Lotus Cars Limited. 1974. Lotus Elan +2 Workshop Manual. Lotus Cars
  • Read, Robin (1989), Colin Chapman's Lotus (The early years, the Elite, and origins of the Elan). Haynes/Foulis, ISBN 0-85429-703-0.
  • Road & Track Staff (2012). "50 Years of the Lotus Elan". Road & Track 64 (4): 66–74.
  • Robinshaw, P. and Ross, C. 1995. Authentic Lotus Elan and Plus 2. Motor Racing Publications LTD. ISBN 0-947981-95-0.
  • Robinshaw, Paul & Ross, Christopher (1989), The Original 1962–1973 Lotus Elan (Essential Data and Guidance for Owners, Restorers and Competitors); additional notes by Ron Hickman. Motor Racing Publications Limited, ISBN 0-947981-32-2.
  • Taylor, M. 1990. Lotus Elan, The complete story. The Crowood Press Ltd. ISBN 1-86126-011-3
  • Taylor, W. 1998. The Lotus Book, a complete History of Lotus Cars, 50th Anniversary Special. Coterie Press Limited. ISBN 1-902351-00-2.
  • Wherret, D. 1993. Lotus Elan. Osprey. ISBN 1-85532-377-X
  • Wilkins, Miles (2003), Lotus Twin-Cam Engine. Motorbooks, ISBN 978-0-7603-1692-4.

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Road & Track Staff (2012), p. 71
  2. ^ Smith, Sam (December 2012). "The Lotus Elan 1962–1973". Road & Track. 64 (4): 70–71. 
  3. ^ "Lotus Elan". LotusElan.net. 2017-02-10. Retrieved 2017-02-20. 
  4. ^ a b c d Michael Sedgwick and Mark Gillies, A–Z of Cars 1945–70, 1986, pages 118–119
  5. ^ "1964 Lotus Elan 1600". Car and Driver. USA. January 1970. Retrieved 2018-05-02. 
  6. ^ Egan, Peter (2015-07-10). "The Allure of the Lotus Elan". Road and Track. USA. Retrieved 2018-05-02. 
  7. ^ "Road Impressions: Lotus Elan Sprint". Motor Sport Magazine. U.K. July 1971. p. 36. Retrieved 2018-05-02. 
  8. ^ Bolster, John (1980). The Lotus Elan and Europa: A Collector's Guide. U.K.: Motor Racing Publications. ISBN 0-9005-4948-3.  Page 52.
  9. ^ Paul Robinshaw, Christopher Ross (1989). The Original 1962-1973 Lotus Elan - Essential Data and Guidance for Owners, Restorers and Competitors. U.K.: Motor Racing Publications. ISBN 0-947981-32-2.  Page 22.
  10. ^ a b "Lotus Elan and Lotus Elan Plus 2 Registry". Retrieved 2018-05-02. 
  11. ^ Schreiber, Ronnie (2014-08-13). "The Most Influential Sports Car Ever Made?: The Lotus Elan". The Truth About Cars. Retrieved 2018-05-02. 
  12. ^ Sass, Rob (June 2009). "Worth the Weight". Sports Car Market. 21 (6): 28. 
  13. ^ Mick Walsh, Tony Baker (2014-07-22). "Toyota 2000GT: crowning glory". Classic and Sports Car. Retrieved 2018-05-16. 
  14. ^ "Toyota 2000GT: Chassis". www.2000gt.net. Retrieved 2018-05-16. 
  15. ^ "Tara Browne dies". The Beatles Bible. 1966-12-18. Retrieved 2018-07-18. 
  16. ^ "Peter Sellers' 1966 Lotus Elan goes under the hammer". Silverstone Auctions. 2015-11-05. Retrieved 2018-05-02. 
  17. ^ "Famous Lotus Elan owners: Jim Clark". 2013-02-13. Retrieved 2018-05-02. 
  18. ^ Matt Stone, Preston Lerner (2009-10-15). "Winning - The Racing Life of Paul Newman". Motorbooks. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-7603-3706-6. 
  19. ^ "Jay Leno's Garage". 2013-03-01. Retrieved 2018-05-02.  (and numerous other Youtube videos)
  20. ^ Jean Negulesco (director), André Hakim (producer) (1970). Hello Goodbye (Film). U.K.  Clip at 4m 30s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVe3iBeAXlE
  21. ^ VR staff (2018-05-11). "Lotus 26R Wins the 2018 Tour Auto". Vintage Road and Racecar. Retrieved 2018-05-24. 
  22. ^ "Phillip Island Historic Race 2018". www.lotuselan.net. 2018-06-03. Retrieved 2018-07-13. 
  23. ^ Ortenburger, Dennis. "Elite History - A Short History of the Lotus Elite". Lotus Elite World Register. Retrieved 2018-05-02. 
  24. ^ Paul Robinshaw, Christopher Ross (1989). The Original 1962-1973 Lotus Elan - Essential Data and Guidance for Owners, Restorers and Competitors. U.K.: Motor Racing Publications. ISBN 0-947981-32-2.  Pages 73/74.
  25. ^ a b "Lotus Elan 26R". Motor Sport Magazine. U.K. June 2009. p. 116. Retrieved 2018-05-06. 
  26. ^ Also known as Metalastick couplings
  27. ^ Elan Workshop Manual - Section: Technical Data (36 T 327 ed.). Lotus Cars Limited. March 1970. p. 10. 
  28. ^ a b Information Sheet: Lotus Elan Fixed Head and Drophead Coupe Models. Circa 1966. Lotus Cars (Sales) Ltd.
  29. ^ a b Elan Workshop Manual - Section: Technical Data (X036 T 0327Z Revised Reprint ed.). Lotus Cars Limited. October 1974. pp. 9/10. 
  30. ^ a b Federal (for the US market) cars were fitted with special-purpose carburetor inlet ducting to meet emission control regulations, which reduced the power output.
  31. ^ Paul Robinshaw, Christopher Ross (1989). The Original 1962-1973 Lotus Elan - Essential Data and Guidance for Owners, Restorers and Competitors. U.K.: Motor Racing Publications. ISBN 0-947981-32-2.  Pages 17/18.
  32. ^ Ibid. Page 36.
  33. ^ Ibid. Page 106.
  34. ^ Ibid. Page 64.
  35. ^ "Engine Weight". LotusElan.net. 2006-11-11. Retrieved 2018-05-09. 
  36. ^ a b "Lotus Elan Sprint > Performance Data". www.lotuselansprint.com. Retrieved 2018-05-07. 
  37. ^ a b "Lotus 0-60 Times". www.zeroto60times.com. Retrieved 2018-05-07. 
  38. ^ "1966 Lotus Elan S3 SE". www.carfolio.com. Retrieved 2018-05-07. 
  39. ^ a b Paul Robinshaw, Christopher Ross (1989). The Original 1962-1973 Lotus Elan - Essential Data and Guidance for Owners, Restorers and Competitors. U.K.: Motor Racing Publications. ISBN 0-947981-32-2.  Page 24.
  40. ^ "'You and a few friends could create your own Lotus Elan in less than a week-end of simple constructive pleasure. I did.' says Dr. Hammond". www.lotuselan.net. 2013-05-01. Retrieved 2018-07-13. 
  41. ^ "What's Your Classic Worth?". UK: The Hagerty Group, LLC. Retrieved 2018-05-20. 
  42. ^ "Lotus Elan +2s - Speed in Style". Motor Sport Magazine. U.K. March 1971. p. 28. Retrieved 2018-05-03. 
  43. ^ Bolster, John (1980). The Lotus Elan and Europa: A Collector's Guide. U.K.: Motor Racing Publications. ISBN 0-9005-4948-3.  Page 70.
  44. ^ "Designer". ajovalo.net. Retrieved 2012-02-08. 
  45. ^ a b "M100 Sales Manual". Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  46. ^ Andy Enright (10 October 2008). "Lotus Re-position". Autoweb.co.uk. Archived from the original on 28 July 2009. Retrieved 6 July 2009. 
  47. ^ Quattroruote: Tutte le Auto del Mondo 1992 (in Italian). Milano: Editoriale Domus S.p.A. 1992. p. 447. 
  48. ^ Drimmer, Abraham (2014-06-10). "For Kia's birthday, remembering their oddest (and only) sportscar". Road and Track. Retrieved 2018-05-09. 
  49. ^ James, Jonathan. "Lotus: Five concept cars canned, brand won't be sold". Paultan.org. Retrieved 2017-02-20. 
  50. ^ "Lotus cars website retrieved 2010-09-30". Archived from the original on 3 October 2010. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Holmes, Mark (2007). Ultimate Convertibles: Roofless Beauty. London: Kandour. pp. 94–95. ISBN 978-1-905741-62-5. 

External links[edit]