Lotus

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An overview of The Lotus Elite Sports Car, covering development, important features, and technical information of this the inaugural version in the Lotus range.

In this Article, I offer a nostalgic look at the Lotus Elite, among an elite group of classic cars, which was fabricated during the period 1957 to 1962.

In 1956, Colin Chapman created the Lotus Elite sports car for a street car, in the first case.

The first two door, two seater prototype was presented in the 1957 Earls Court Motor Show in London.

Following its debut, the Elite spent a further year undergoing a programme of development before production.

It was the very first production car to be built with a fibreglass monocoque construction.

It succeeded the Lotus Seven, with its sheet metal body and tubular space frame chassis.

On the other hand, the Elite was a trendy, fixed head coupe, with a drag coefficient of just 0.29, which was astonishingly low for this time.

Also known as the Lotus 14, it was launched in 1959, and has been conceived as a competition sports car.

The standard version used an aluminium, 1216 cc, directly 4-cylinder, overhead cam, Coventry Climax engine, creating 71 bhp, and with a single SU carburettor.

It had four wheel, 9.5 inch Girling disc brakes, without servo assistance, had a top speed of 113 mph, and a 0-60 mph time of 13.2 secs.

The four wheel independent suspension used coil springs in the front, and a form of MacPherson strut at the rear. The steering was by Rack and Pinion.

A higher performance, special equipment (SE) version was introduced in 1960, also featured a ZF gearbox, two SU carburettors, and a modified exhaust manifold, which developed 85 bhp.

This was followed by the Elite Super 95 variant, which developed 95 bhp from a greater tuned engine, with a higher compression ratio, and a modified camshaft.

Limited edition variants included the Super 100 and Super 105 models, fitted with two, twin choke Webber 40DCOE carburettors, developing 130 bhp and 137 bhp respectively, and made specifically for racing.

The Elite used a glass reinforced plastic (GRP) monocoque body structure, together with the front part of the construction incorporating a steel subframe, which affirmed the engine and front suspension.

Maximar Mouldings, a well known boat builder, have been given the initial contract to construct the first 250 body structures, giving rise to the Series 1 Elite.

This used a single SU carburettor, had a compression ratio of 10.0:1, and gave an overall fuel consumption of 40 mpg.

As a consequence of early difficulties, this work was then handed over to the Bristol Aeroplane Company, who produced both a lighter and more powerful structure, which was designated the Series 2.

This model was fitted with two SU carburettors.

The Series 2 featured an improved rear suspension, with upgrades being made to the interior panels, as well as increasing the level of engine tuning.

However, there were early failures in Bristol in relation to the mounting points for the differential and rear suspension, but these were soon rectified with the addition of metal reinforcements in the weak points.

Subsequently, production methods were refined so that these inserts were no longer required.

However, the problems related to GRP were, at the moment, still not fully understood, with the consequence that it was not uncommon for the suspension attachment points to pull away in the fibreglass structure.

Further, a number of components situated in the drivetrain were exposed to high levels of stress, which necessitated regular re-greasing.

The Elite was offered as a kit car, which was considered as a mistake for a business regarding itself as a quality manufacturer.

It has been estimated that Lotus dropped #100 on each Elite built, because of the fact that the car was underpriced, quality control was poor, and the production process was too expensive for a business that has been, in effect, underfunded.

Its racing accomplishments included six Class wins at the Le Mans 24 hour race, and two wins at the Index of Thermal Performance.

Maybe this stroll down memory lane might have answered, or at least shed light on, a possible question:

Which Morgan Sports Car is Your Favorite?

However, should this question still remain unanswered, I will be reviewing, in some detail, in future content in this website, the entire variety of Morgan sports cars which were featured in the unforgettable era spanning 1911 to 1996.

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