"I drive my Lotus Elan for pleasure - not because I have to," said world champion, Jim Clark. So the famous poster slogan goes. Clark, then a driver for Colin Chapman's racing team, might be smiling as he sits on the Carmen Red bonnet of 997 NUR in the photo, but it probably wasn't too long before he was grimacing at a his Series 1's next problem. "That never-reliable motor car, the Elan, has broken down again and is at the factory," he wrote in a letter to Team Lotus manager Andrew Ferguson during his custodianship.
No, the Elan has never been celebrated as a marvel of reliable motoring. In its earliest S1 format (like Clark's car), it was notoriously unreliable and perfectly befit of the well-known acronym: lots of trouble, usually serious. Not only that, the Elan's soft-top didn't stand up well to heavy rain - so much so that a fixed head coupe version was produced with a bonded-on hard top to appeal to customers not so keen on water ingress. Running an Elan, even the better developed later generations, required constant TLC.
But it was worth it, because the Elan felt light years ahead of its time. The ingredients were compelling enough. It was built on a seperate steel chassis, used an ultra lightweight fibreglass body and was powered by a twin-cam 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine with a syncho'd four-speed manual gearbox. Chapman's company then merged these controls with a tactility that provided its driver with the means for 'pleasurable' - to use Clark's description - driving. Jump in an Elan even today and you'll quickly find that the weighting and responsiveness of the controls are still nigh on perfect.
It's all about feel and communication, of course. The gear lever throw is short and assertive and the throttle instantaneously impactful on engine revs. The brake pedal jostles feedback into your foot while the steering wheel - aside from a small amount of numbness around centre - is brimmed with information. There's no power assistance, but the wheel is light to turn because you're influencing tiny 145-section tyres on 13-inch steel wheels. Grip is therefore not particularly high, but with just 680kg to shift, the rubber is more than up to the job. And with so much feedback on tap, you're always a step ahead of what's happening.
The peak of Elan performance came with the Sprint, of course, and this is reflected in pricing. Sprints on the classifieds regularly cost more than £40,000. Prices for regular Elans can start from just over half that, unless you opt for one of a growing number of fully restored examples. Take the S2 in striking Medici Blue that we've spotted today, for example. This car was stripped and then rebuilt by highly respected Elan specialist Ken Myers 10 years ago, but it has only covered 4,800 miles since, all of which have been in the dry. As such, it looks to be one of the finest examples available, and we don't say that just because of its gorgeous paint job; among its history files are various concours award wins. It's a stunning example, awaiting only a lucky buyer and, we'd venture, the warmer weather of 2019.
LOTUS ELAN S2
Engine: 1,558cc four-cylinder
Transmission: Four-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 105@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 108@4,000rpm
Year registered: 1965
Recorded miles: 4,800 (after restoration)
Price new: N/A
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