Lotus Elite: Lotus’ First Real Road Car

The Lotus Elite, introduced in 1957, was Lotus’ first true road car.  Many earlier Lotus 7 cars were on the road, but with the coupe design, the Lotus Elite was a more all-season road car.   I saw the Lotus Elite shown below at the Lime Rock Historic Festival in 2015.

Lotus Elite

In total the Lotus Elite was built from 1957 to 1963.  The cars built from 1957 to the early part of 1960 were the Series 1 cars, while those cars built from 1960 to 1963 were Series 2 cars.  All of the Series 1 cars were built with right-hand drive, therefore I conclude that this left-hand drive Lotus Elite is a Series 2 car.

The Lotus Elite Has A Streamlined Design

The body of the Lotus Elite is made of fiberglass which was not common in the mid-1950s.  In order to keep the weight down the body is an integral with the chassis.  As a result of this design the drag coefficient was a sleek 0.29.  And the weight of the Lotus Elite was just under 1,500 pounds.

The Aerodynamic Design Of The Lotus Elite Was The Work Of Frank Costin

Frank Costin, a full-time engineer working with De Havilland Aircraft Company, had a significant input to the design of the Lotus Elite.  Costin did work with Lotus over the years, but not as an employee; he was a paid consultant or a volunteer.  Costin also did the design of the Vanwall Formula 1 car that won the Formula 1 World Constructors Championship in 1958.  Frank Costin should not be confused with his brother Mike, who along with Keith Duckworth, started Cosworth Engineering, the race engine company in 1958.

The Lotus Elite Was Powered By A Coventry Climax Engine

The Lotus Elite did not have a powerful engine, so the lightweight approach was key to having good performance.  The engine was a 1,216cc 4-cylinder Coventry Climax engine that produced 75 to 105 horsepower.  Top speed was in the 115 – 120 miles per hour range.

The Elite had a good race record.  A Lotus Elite won its class at Le Mans five years in a row starting in 1959.  David Hobbs and Frank Gardner finished 8th Overall at Le Mans in a Lotus Elite in 1962.

Not Surprisingly, The Interior Is Quite Plain

Lotus Engineering founder and owner Colin Chapman was famous for “building lightness” into the Lotus cars, so it is not surprising that the interior of the Lotus Elite is plain.  If it’s not needed, then it’s not there.

For A Small Car The Interior Appeared To Be Comfortable

I did not sit in the car; however, I thought that the Lotus Elite would be comfortable for its two passengers.  I liked the rather neat way the emergency brake handle was provided for in the floor mat.

Lotus built about 1,000 Lotus Elite cars.  The cars were never a commercial success as they were rather expensive.  And in some cases, the build quality was not particularly high, given the selling price. In the mid-1960s the Lotus Elite was replaced by the Lotus Elan.

If you have any comments or questions about the Lotus Elite or this post, then leave a comment below or you can send me a private email at the following address: shanna12 at comcast dot net

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