The Lotus Elan was the first Lotus road car to use a steel backbone chassis with a fibreglass body, created as a more upmarket alternative to an MGB or Triumph Spitfire. It also set the precedent for Lotus’s construction methods for all of it future models until the Elise.
It was a lightweight car as per Colin Chapman’s ethos, weighing just 680kg or roughly the same as an Austin Mini.
It was also technologically advanced with a DOHC 1,558 cc engine, four-wheel disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, and four-wheel independent suspension. The handling and steering are still considered incredible today, six decades since it first appeared.
The styling was by Ron Hickman, who also designed the first Lotus Europa but was more famous (and extremely wealthy) as a result of designing the Black and Decker Workmate.
Because of its successful design and rigorous attention to cost control on the body, chassis, engine and transmission, the Elan became Lotus' first commercial success and contributed to funding its achievements in racing over the next decade. 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 short production run of just 22 cars the engine was enlarged and the car was re-designated the Elan 1600, replaced by the Elan S2 in 1964. In 1965 the Type 36, a fixed head coupé version of the car, was launched and was always less prevalent than the roadster. And that’s what we have here – a very early coupé from the first full-year of production.
The car had a replacement chassis fitted a few years ago, but is otherwise unrestored with its original interior and paintwork.
While the early history of this car isn't documented, it has had a surprisingly low number of owners for a vehicle of its age. It was supplied new In 1966 by Proud Motors of Stonehouse, Gloucestershire. Indeed, one of its nicest features is a brass plaque from the supplying dealer that still has pride of place on the glove box lid.
It then appears to have gone into long-term ownership with its second keeper before re-emerging in the late 2000s when it was carefully mounted on a brand new chassis.
The current owner acquired the car in 2012 just after the new chassis was fitted and has used it regularly since, attending many historic motoring events. He's selling the car in order to rationalise his collection.
There isn't a huge amount of supporting history with this vehicle, but it is clearly a very original car that has been well looked after throughout its life. It does however come with a full UK V5 in the current owner's name, plus some bills documenting recent work that has been carried out during his ownership.
In respect to the slight lack of supporting paperwork, the true mileage is somewhat hard to track. The seller has indicated that it would be safe the "add a 1" to the current indicated mileage, with best guesses putting it at around the 135k mark.
Also included is photographic evidence of the car receiving its new chassis to reassure the next owner that the Elan is solid and ready to be enjoyed for many decades to come!
There isn't a huge amount of room to move inside the cabin of a Lotus Elan but that also means that there really isn't much to go wrong.
On this example, the black vinyl seats are in exceptional condition and while there is some age-related wear to the word on the dashboard, this gives the car a gentle and quite charming patina.
All of the dials and controls work as they should, with generic Smiths instruments as found in many a British sports car of the era and a delicate period wood-rimmed steering wheel.
In the centre of the dash between the Elan’s twin bonnet release levers sits a wonderfully retro Motorola radio cassette player, which probably dates from the late 1970s or early 1980s and – love it or hate it - is in itself a piece of the car’s history.
Type 36 Elans are fairly rare because most owners opted for the open top model. However, they're also well-liked by enthusiasts as the coupé bodywork is stiffer and more rigid.
This car is mostly original and has never been repainted. As a result there are a couple of very minor blemishes on the paintwork but these just add to the car’s authenticity.
Like most Lotuses, the panel fit is a bit hit and miss. Anyone who's ever owned a Lotus will tell you that this is 100% normal.
One of the most charming features of this Elan are its commemorative badges celebrating Lotus’s victory at the 1965 Indianapolis 500. These were only fitted to cars built between June 1965 and June 1966 so are a delightful period feature.
The car has nearly new Firestone tyres all round.
The twin carb, twin cam 1,588cc engine is an absolutely fabulous unit. It's lively and free-revving and this particular example sounds fantastic, in part thanks to a pair of K&N filters that amplify its intake noise.
The current owner has maintained the car carefully during his ownership with regular fluid changes and routine maintenance but the car has needed for nothing other than that.
It starts instantly on the key and sounds to be in rude health.
A couple of additional noteworthy points are that the car has also had a new exhaust system and manifold fitted as well as having the original rubber donuts of the drivetrain replaced by the Tony Thompson 'solid connection' kit.
The vendor advises us that the left headlight has recently stopped working (within the last month) and hasn't had time to fix it yet.
The Lotus Elan is one of the finest cars of its era both in terms of its technological design and its wonderful engineering.
But more than that it is also one of the finest drivers’ cars ever made, with wonderful point-and-squirt handling and steering feedback that over five decades on is still among the best ever developed.
This particular car is charming and mostly original but, thanks to its new chassis, shouldn't be hiding anything of major concern to its next owner.
Whoever that next owner is, they're getting a fabulous little car that will delight and reward every time they use it.
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