The Elan was launched in ’62. Lotus – based at Hethel, in Norfolk, England – instantly joined the ranks of quality sports car manufacturers. Petite though it was, it packed plenty of muscle. Beneath its lightweight glass-fibre skin, both engine and chassis were rock-solid. Acceleration was searing, handling supple, the ride comfortable. In short, Lotus had hit the automotive jackpot!
The Elan’s power was produced by a twin-cam in-line four. The Ford motor made 105bhp. Top speed for the Elan was 115mph. It was fitted with a 4-speed ‘box – also sourced from Ford. That all sat within a taut and tidy Lotus chassis. The frame was steel backbone. Suspension featured coils and wishbones up front – with Chapman struts and lower wishbones at the rear. Triumph provided the steering rack. Steel wheels were centre-locking. All four were stopped by Girling disc brakes.
Lotus’ Elan Sprint arrived in ’71. As its name suggested, it took the standard Elan’s performance up a gear. Key to that was the Sprint’s big-valve cylinder head. It had been expertly fettled by Tony Rudd. He and his team upped the output by 25% – to 126bhp. The new motor was more oil-tight, too – and quieter. It was attached to a set of Weber carburettors. The Sprint marked a turning-point. From then on, Lotus began to move more up-market. In so doing, it slid ever further from its kit-car roots. The Elan remained in production for ten or so years. During that time, it helped turn Lotus into a serious player in the sports car business!