It won't have escaped your attention that many if not most nineties performance car heroes are now bonafide, big buck classics. For those who grew up fantasising about such cars, that's rather a shame. It's everywhere, too: the cheap M3 or M5 is a dream of yesteryear, that £17k Ferrari 456 (however mad the decision to buy it was) seems a lifetime ago and even the humble hot hatch can now command serious money. Bargains are now noticeable by their scarcity.
So a lightweight and fast sports car with a legendary badge on its nose should be worth a mint, right? Well, no, actually. Because as this Elan proves, Lotus's foray into front-wheel drive can still be picked up relatively cheaply. If a Nova can be worth more than £15k and a Sierra the best part of a hundred thousand pounds, then what's keeping the little Elan pegged at well under £10k?
An assortment of reasons, to be brutally honest, though some are more understandable than others. There's no denying that front-wheel drive won't have helped the Elan's cause. Lotus hadn't dabbled in it before, and hasn't returned to it since, which probably says a lot. Some purists will dismiss it immediately on that score, regardless of what else might be opined on the little Lotus. Using a turbocharged Isuzu engine, when the Elan's fabled predecessor rasped along with its fizzy twin-cam, probably convinced the hardcore Lotusisti that the M100 was the work of the devil.
For others, the fact that the Elan was replaced by the sublime Elise will be too much to ignore. Mid-engined, rear-drive and naturally-aspirated, the latter became the defining Lotus of the era, and deservedly so. Let's also not forget the arrival and accessibility of the Mazda MX-5 either, and its shameless reimagining of the Brit sports car formula.
The case is strong against it, then. But the much maligned M100 can also be considered another way: here is a sub-1,000kg, 165hp sports car which, despite its front-wheel drive, is still quicker to 60mph than an Abarth 124. Here's a Lotus sports car, moreover, that received praise for its dynamics on launch, for its unflappable poise and uncanny ability to carry speed. How often do you hear that as a compliment now in a contemporary hot hatch? In addition, while this is an entirely subjective point, the low, wide, squat and compact Elan looks to be ageing pretty well aesthetically. Don't forget this was a car launched in 1989, the same year as the Ford Fiesta Mk3 (so yes, it's 30 in 2019); considered like that it looks remarkably fresh.
This 1995 Elan Turbo is for sale at a Lotus dealer, albeit as a p/x to clear and with "perfect light summer project" in the description. Despite that, it's hard not to be encouraged by three owners (the last for eight years), 14 service stamps (with subsequent receipts for home maintenance kits) plus a cambelt five thousand miles ago (and a relatively low overall mileage of 70,000). British Racing Green always looks good on a Lotus too, doesn't it? Obviously a car listed overtly stating that work is required should be approached with caution, though it's hard to see any sports car now in its third decade not requiring some sort of tinkering.
The best bit? This very smart looking Elan is for sale at £6,750. In the current classic car market, when an Elise with similar mileage is £15k and even an MX-5 can justify more than £10,000, that looks enticing value - even with the work that needs to be done. For those even more committed to the cause, this Cat C version is just £5,750.
The front-wheel drive Elan is never quite going to match the Elise for dynamic finesse, whatever the price difference, though its array of talents surely deserves greater recognition that it currently attracts. Well, we reckon so, at least - what about you?
SPECIFICATION - LOTUS ELAN M100
Engine: 1,588cc, 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 165@6,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 148@4,200rpm
Year registered: 1995
Recorded mileage: 70,000
Price new: £19,850
Yours for: £6,750