Lotus Elan - Classic Cars

Colin Chapman's Baby - The Lotus Elan

One of the original 'pocket-rockets', the Lotus Elan (along with the Lotus 7) offered stunning performance for its size.

The Lotus Elan is another Colin Chapman car that offered fantastic handling and looks with occasionally dubious reliability, but enthusiastic owners never let that put them off, then or now. The car was released in 1962 with a Lotus-modified Ford 1500 engine but quickly recalled (only 22 had being built) and the newer Ford 1588cc engine installed instead.

Lotus had originally based their twin cam head on the old 1498cc pre-crossflow block but work with Ford on the Lotus Cortina and a change in racing regulations which allowed a 1600cc cut-off limit rather than the previous 1500cc cut-off limit meant the original plans were quickly shelved and the bigger 1588cc engine installed as had being developed for the Lotus Cortina.

Lotus Elan S4
Lotus Elan S4 | Source

Lotus Elan Models

Upgraded to the S2 model in 1964 and the S4 in 1968 which ran until production ceased in 1973, apart from the +2 model which ran on until 1974. The +2 was noticeably wider and longer than a standard Elan in order to allow 2+2 seating. Personally I never liked the looks as I thought the extra length spoiled the dimensions of the car. There was also a Sprint version fitted with a big valve head developed by Tony Rudd which pushed up power from the early cars 105 bhp to 126 bhp, but it could have problems with cracking valve seats.

It's hard to pin Lotus models down to specific specs for cars as a small scale manufacturer they could change things more quickly and easily than the mass-market boys so there were a proliferation of models available. Cars could be had in an SE, Special Equipment, spec which boosted power to 115 bhp as well as a better interior spec

My personal choice would be an S3 Sprint model, either convertible or coupe, I'm not too fussy about that. I just love the cheeky styling and the great performance and handling, even if they can be a bit labour intensive to keep performing at their best.

Most of the cars had a four-speed manual transmission but a few later ones got a five-speed 'box. The four-speed is the more reliable option.

The Lotus Elan was conceived as a car for the American market to challenge the Austin Healey Sprite and MGB, but given that the Sprite had little more than half the power and and MGB was far heavier it trounced both of them in straight line and handling performance.

There were just over 12,000 Lotus Elans built.

Technical Specification: Lotus Elan

Engine: In-line four, 1588cc

Construction: Cast-iron block and alloy cylinder head

Valve gear: Two valves per cylinder and twin overhead camshafts

Bore and stroke: 3.25 in x 2.86 in

Compression ratio: 10.3:1

Induction system: Twin Webber carburetors

Maximum power: 126 bhp at 6,500 rpm

Maximum torque: 113 lb-ft at 5,500 rpm

Top speed: 118 mph

0-60 mph in: 7.0 sec

Transmission
Four-speed manual (five-speed option on final models)

Dimensions
Length: 145.0 in

Width: 56.0 in

Height: 45.2 in

Wheelbase: 84.0 inĀ 

Track: 45.0 in (front) 48.4 in (rear)

Weight: 1,515 lbs

A Lotus Elan Sprint on You Tube

A Lotus Elan

Lotus Elan
Lotus Elan | Source

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