Lotus Elan

Anyone ever heard of a direct export scheme for Elans?

PostPost by: Greg Cozier » Tue Feb 07, 2017 5:22 pm

I own bits of a Lotus Elan that was exported to Barbados by the (in)famous George Drummond.

George says that Lotus advertised a scheme in the 60s where export customers could buy and collect assembled Elan 'kits' direct from the factory and export them themselves.

He apparently bought the car direct from Lotus (from Chapman personally), drove it in UK for a couple weeks on a Q plate and then drove it to the docks to be loaded for Barbados.

I am specifically looking for the chassis number for this car, any idea where I might find details of cars that were sold or exported this way?
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PostPost by: Orsom Weels » Tue Feb 07, 2017 5:44 pm

Greg Cozier wrote:He apparently bought the car direct from Lotus (from Chapman personally), drove it in UK for a couple weeks on a Q plate and then drove it to the docks to be loaded for Barbados.


'Q' registrations didn't come in until 1983, & were only used for vehicles of indeterminate age !
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PostPost by: Apx » Tue Feb 07, 2017 6:00 pm

Vat free vehicles supplied for export had red borders and had 12 months to leave the UK if i remember correctly. I thought these came about in 1971 but i may be wrong.
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PostPost by: Greg Cozier » Tue Feb 07, 2017 6:00 pm

Orsom Weels wrote:
Greg Cozier wrote:He apparently bought the car direct from Lotus (from Chapman personally), drove it in UK for a couple weeks on a Q plate and then drove it to the docks to be loaded for Barbados.


'Q' registrations didn't come in until 1983, & were only used for vehicles of indeterminate age !


Could he be referring to some kind of temporary garage plate?
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PostPost by: 1owner69Elan » Tue Feb 07, 2017 8:49 pm

I ordered my Elan S4 SE from British Motor Car San Francisco in 1969 for delivery at the U.K. Factory (Hethel). The difference in price was dramatic. US delivery price was $USD5000 vs $3500 export price.

I picked up the car July 9, 1969 at the factory and drove it all over UK and the Continent for 2 months (6000 miles). Car had G registration. Number plate had a yellow border (indicating export). (Number plate still on car underneath California plate)

img_6559.jpg and


I shipped the car to California in late August 69. Cost was about $250-300 (have to check my docs). Car came into Long Beach 6 weeks or so later (have to check). In transit the things in the boot were stolen: tools, Italian air horn I had bought. Jack and k/o hammer and wrench not stolen.

Car should be back on the road after a 15 year hiatus, now with 181 hp.
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PostPost by: Gordon Sauer » Thu Feb 09, 2017 6:30 pm

My 67 build Elan S3 DHC was purchased by a US service man in England and apparently used there and then shipped over as part of the whole package deal for US servicemen and that was a common thing to do at the time apparently. I have a letter of Provenance from Andy Graham that describes this and it is an export model, lhd. I guess it would depend on what bits of the car you have for the number. The chassis number is on different bits like the headlight pod and I believe it was also under the transmission tunnel cover on my car written in grease pencil. Gordon Sauer
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PostPost by: prezoom » Fri Feb 10, 2017 12:15 am

While serving as a threat to aggression in SE Asia, I was able to purchase a 1964 Super 7 Cosworth 1500 in kit form from Navy Auto Sales. Had it shipped direct from the factory to the docks in Long Beach, California, to arrive one month after my release from active duty. The two crates got stuck in a dock strike and finally arrived some 4 months later, no worse for wear. Compared to the quoted prices in the US, the $2200 delivered, for a fairly well equipped car was a bargain. Thus began a very slippery slope.
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PostPost by: The Veg » Fri Feb 10, 2017 3:42 am

My federal Plus 2 was purchased at the Lotus factory by a Yank who drove it around England for a year before bringing it home to USA. Don't know if he was military, but if so it was his last assignment as he and the car stayed at their next address in USA for more than thirty years.
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PostPost by: ivor badger » Fri Feb 10, 2017 6:12 pm

the purchase of vehicles by non resident visitors to the UK was quite normal. You didn't pay purchase tax of 25%. That was what you avoided by buying a kit Lotus. The kit thing failed as soon as they changed to VAT. Purchase tax was payable on the complete car, but not parts. VAT was payable on both car and parts. Purchase of such vehicles was normal by US military personel just before their return to the US and I believe till is. They don't pay the local taxes for exporting the vehicle. The problem at one time was if the vehicle was written off and the vehicle not exported in the 12 months, then the purchase tax was due. This resulted in people loading the wreck onto a boat and dropping it outside the 3 mile limit of the period under the watchful eye of the customs and excise, the vehicle having then been exported from the UK. They are a bit more sensible now.
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PostPost by: gus » Sat Feb 11, 2017 2:16 pm

My +2 was also delivered in the UK
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PostPost by: AHM » Sun Feb 12, 2017 4:03 pm

I always thought that export cars had a red border - seems that on black plates they were yellow. I suppose they could have changed from yellow when we went to yellow plates? I'm too young to know!

The scheme is Personal export rather than direct export. The difference being personal export the vehicle was registered and could be driven on UK roads. Ie for residents and expats who would take it with them. It works the other way around as well.
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PostPost by: StressCraxx » Sun Feb 12, 2017 4:23 pm

My friend bought his 66 S2 direct from the factory. He drove it all over England, Scotland, through Europe to Turkey. He drove it back to England and it was shipped back to Long Beach CA where he picked it up at the docks.

He brought it to Bob Challman, Manhattan Beach Imported Cars for its first service and Challman went ballistic. Challman called Chapman and demanded his commission before he would touch my friend's Elan. From that day on, my friend's relationship with Challman was frosty at best.
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PostPost by: 1owner69Elan » Sun Feb 12, 2017 11:27 pm

StressCraxx wrote:My friend bought his 66 S2 direct from the factory. He drove it all over England, Scotland, through Europe to Turkey. He drove it back to England and it was shipped back to Long Beach CA where he picked it up at the docks.

He brought it to Bob Challman, Manhattan Beach Imported Cars for its first service and Challman went ballistic. Challman called Chapman and demanded his commission before he would touch my friend's Elan. From that day on, my friend's relationship with Challman was frosty at best.


Interesting, as my experience was a bit similar dealing with the Lotus dealer back in the day.

My dealer, British Motor Car(BMC) of San Francisco (owned by Kjell Qvale - an important figure in automotive history) was where I ordered my car in 1969. As noted before, the car was at the export price and to be delivered at Hethel for pickup by me. BMC really did not provide any real service other than create the initial paperwork and collect the money. In fact they were quite haughty when I tried to measure the trunk (boot) of the showroom Elan to see if my suitcase would fit. Basically, they tried to ask this 21 year old punk (me) to leave the showroom, even though I was their customer. I guess I didn't fit the elite customer profile.

Then, after my order was placed they informed me that the delivery date could not be met and the car would not be available for 6-8 weeks later than originally scheduled, screwing up my whole UK/European trip already in place. A family friend (a British automotive engineer, who worked in Lotus circles) called his management friends at the Lotus factory and they moved my production date forward to meet my original schedule. When BMC learned of this they were incensed as to why they had no "clout or priority" while an "average customer" was able to do what they could not.

When the car finally made it to California within a few weeks of being on the road the generator (dynamo) mounting lug on the timing case snapped off. The generator had vibrated loose and finally cracked the timing case mount. Thus, necessitating a new timing case. The car, IIRC, had a 6k warranty on parts. The car had just gone over 6K. BMC said they wouldn't honor the warranty. The repair was quoted as about $1200, a substantial sum since the original car cost was $3500. After much wrangling and threats, they agreed to cover 50% so I had to pay $600. BMC had stated that the timing case replacement was an "engine out" exercise and thus the high cost. I discovered some 47 years later (just now) that what they actually did was cut the sump cross member, drop the pan, and effect the replacement in situ. They then tack welded the cross-piece back in place. What I just discovered is that this weld had finally failed and the cross-piece was hanging on by a thread. (Piece is now replaced with a removable bolted member).

So, my US Lotus dealer relations were not particularly good either, at the time, and even worse, now I realize they were not trustworthy at all. Don't know if this had to do with my second-class status of being an export customer and not paying them the extra $1500 for US delivery. ($5K vs $3.5K).

BTW: The Manhattan Beach Lotus dealer, mentioned above, gave me my first Lotus Elan ride ever. An impressive drive through some nearby twisty hills, impressing me greatly with its cornering ability. I was seduced forever. I also remember him demonstrating the tractability of the car by starting it from a stand still in 4th gear - still not sure what that proved - but he was very proud of it.
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PostPost by: StressCraxx » Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:45 am

1owner69Elan wrote:BTW: The Manhattan Beach Lotus dealer, mentioned above, gave me my first Lotus Elan ride ever. An impressive drive through some nearby twisty hills, impressing me greatly with its cornering ability. I was seduced forever. I also remember him demonstrating the tractability of the car by starting it from a stand still in 4th gear - still not sure what that proved - but he was very proud of it.


Glad to hear Challman treated you well. He cultivated the persona of a curmudgeon; angry at the world from the loss of his wife and daugther in an auto accident. I went in shortly after graduation from college with a good job in hand, ready to pay cash. He didn't like me and refused to sell me a car. He also tossed a young Dave Bean from his showroom as well!

I recall Kjell Qvale was an absolute gentleman with my co-workers wife when she had serious trouble with her brand new Jensen-Healy. The Healy would generate a vibration so severe driving down the Waldo Grade it was impossible to control the car in the lane. Nothing BMC did seemed to help. She went to Kjell in tears and explained how frightened she was. So he took the car across the Golden Gate Bridge, through the tunnel, turned around and drove back down the grade. He came back white as a sheet. He offered her a new Jensen off the showroom floor or her money back. She wisely took the money.
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PostPost by: prezoom » Mon Feb 13, 2017 4:38 pm

Add me to the list of getting a bum's rush by Challman. Ran me out of the showroom as well. Said I was too young to own such a car. Being slightly more than pissed off, I vowed to one way or another to get my Super 7. The first time I was deployed to the Far East, Navy Auto Sales visited out ship when we were in port. Curious about what they had to offer, I asked about buying a Super 7 in kit form. They had never heard of that program, but looked it up in the paperwork they had from Lotus. Seems they could get and deliver one to the port of Long Beach in about any configuration you could think about. Engines from the 1172 flat head to a 1500 Cosworth and every type of BMC or Ford engine in between. Could also get all the racy bits like a CR gearbox with all the aluminum pieces, oil cooler, roll bar, and even Wobblies. My budget would not cover everything I wanted, but the basic CR gearbox, oil cooler and roll bar were doable.

On my second deployment, with cash in hand from selling my bugeye, I awaited the arrival of Navy Auto Sales to visit our ship. When they did, I was first in line to make the purchase. Eventually I got a bill of lading for the car and a promise of delivery one month after my release from active duty. A bit nervous and only a piece of paper saying I owned the car, I awaited delivery. Then nothing. Seems the car was stuck on the docks in England, trapped by a dock workers strike. About four months later, US Customs called to tell me the shipment had arrived and I could pick it up. Picking it up was another story.
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