Lotus Elan

Best way to get educated and find an Elan?

PostPost by: monkeyodeath » Sun Jun 24, 2018 5:39 am

I've been lusting after an Elan for years and am finally at a point where I can shop seriously.

My main priority is the driving experience -- I'm not looking for a concours-level vehicle. I'm fine with modifications, especially if they improve reliability and drivability. Not a stickler about a perfect appearance, and I'd even consider a car with a swapped engine. Also not picky about any specific model beyond LHD and DHC.

I am, however, worried about overlooking something and ending up with a car that's missing some kind of ridiculously expensive or hard-to-find trim piece or interior part. Or a car that's many hours and thousands of dollars away from being drivable due to something I overlooked.

Any advice about things I should look for beyond the obvious (i.e. chassis cracking, fiberglass work, donuts, electrical issues)?

Any advice on places to look besides the obvious too? Are Hemmings/eBay/BaT the best places to find these? Should I avoid dealerships? I've bought and sold old Porsches and BMWs before, but Lotus -- especially the Elan -- seems like a much different ball of wax.

For example, I was looking at this the other day (https://www.ebay.com/itm/Elan-S4/162892 ... SwjSJae6Cr)...
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PostPost by: rgh0 » Tue Jun 26, 2018 12:53 pm

Condition is everything.

You need to assess the owner as much as the car as that will tell you what condition the car is really in.

Talk to lots of owners and look at lots cars they own and you will soon start to see the sort of car you want and what you don't want. Once you understand that, then you can confidently go and chase a particular car because you know its right for you.

Set yourself a goal of looking at 20 cars and talking to their 20 drivers in detail about their experience with the car. It does not have to be a for sale car. Just build your understanding of the cars and their drivers. Try to drive a few if they will let you to understand the range of how they can feel. Once you have done that then you will know with confidence what to buy.

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PostPost by: gjz30075 » Tue Jun 26, 2018 1:37 pm

As Rohan suggested, assessing the owner is a good indication of condition. You won't have
that option at a dealership. Just being a member of this forum is a great start. Welcome!
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PostPost by: Craven » Tue Jun 26, 2018 2:12 pm

If you have the ability to assess an old Porsche 911 then an Elan will be a walk in the park.
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PostPost by: knockoffnut » Wed Jun 27, 2018 2:52 pm

monkeyodeath wrote:I've bought and sold old Porsches and BMWs before, but Lotus -- especially the Elan -- seems like a much different ball of wax.

You are right, Monkey, in my experience, Lotus owners are more friendly, informed, open, and less driven by dollars... ;-)

The cars are not complex, just very light and therefore slightly delicate (especially when raced ), but normally most of the areas which were originally problematic have been addressed by previous owners. I would say beware of a lot of smoke, indicating a thrashed engine in need of rebuild, and look for swelling, mashed up suspension bushings, which will require a full suspension rebuild. Interior bits are difficult to find, but beyond that most parts are available at reasonable prices, unlike magnesium Porsche engine cases.
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PostPost by: monkeyodeath » Fri Jun 29, 2018 6:50 am

This is all great advice, thank you!

The simplicity of the car is a good thing, definitely. Seems like there are fewer gotchas, and I like that the community is more accepting of mods that make the car more reliable. Also seems like Lotus folks are more into actually driving their cars!

Anything in the interior I should definitely be aware of? In my previous projects, I've found that those parts are sometimes the most annoying to hunt down.

Sounds also like RHD might not need to be as much of a deal-breaker as I had thought -- looks like a lot of folks get along fine with it on US roads, and the conversion doesn't look that difficult either (relatively). Might be a way for me to get a little more car for my $.

I've noticed here and there folks have done engine/trans swaps...is there a particular swap that's known to work pretty well without totally changing the character of the car? (The twink seems like a great engine but it seems like the real magic of the Elan is in the chassis)
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PostPost by: JonB » Fri Jun 29, 2018 11:59 am

The typical conversion is to a Zetec engine with fuel injection. Not cheap, but then neither is a full engine rebuild on a Twink.

Purists will point out that the combination of engine and chassis is what makes the car special, not just the chassis.
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PostPost by: prezoom » Fri Jun 29, 2018 4:37 pm

Having one of each, an S2 and a Plus2, I would never change from the twink style engine in the S2, but would consider a tall block/ displacement increase mod. My Plus2 is another story. I bought it with a completely trashed engine, and the 2L Zetec conversion made a lot of sense to me, being much cheaper that trying to create/build a new TC. It also offered a displacement increase, which translated to increased torque to handle the 400 plus pound weight increase of the car over the S2.
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PostPost by: Frogelan » Fri Jun 29, 2018 6:21 pm

I would agree with the above comments.

I would very strongly recommend that you buy 3 books:

Robinshaw & Ross The Authentic Lotus Elan
Lotus Elan Workshop Manual
Brian Buckland Rebuilding a Lotus Elan

All of these are required reading !
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