Lotus Elan

Elan buying advice

PostPost by: Hornseyman65 » Mon Feb 04, 2019 8:33 pm

I'm considering my first classic car purchase and would like a '60s ?lan coupe. I prefer the 2 seater over a +2 and would rather have Webers and not Strombergs, although I assume I could buy and fit my own Webers. Steel wheels with hubcaps would be fine for me. I am not interested in having a performance modified car, as I just want to drive and enjoy it as well as a few shows.
I served a motor apprenticeship at a Vauxhall Dealership in THAT Tottenham Lane from '65-70 and still dabble in car repairs and servicing so would be capable of a certain amount of maintenance.
Which year and model would members suggest and any hints & tips, insuring, security etc?
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PostPost by: Chrispy » Mon Feb 04, 2019 10:43 pm

First off if you want a Weber car then you'll have to buy one fitted with such. The heads are different between Stromberg and Weber/Dellorto.
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PostPost by: elanfan1 » Mon Feb 04, 2019 10:45 pm

How long is your piece of string. DHC or FHC, What is your budget?

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PostPost by: Slowtus » Mon Feb 04, 2019 11:59 pm

Try before you buy.
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PostPost by: reb53 » Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:05 am

Slowtus wrote:Try before you buy.

Yep, pity you're on the wrong side of the World or you could come around and try mine.

As this is such a friendly forum I'm betting there's someone "Near Newmarket, East Anglia"
who'll suggest you pop around !

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PostPost by: Andy8421 » Tue Feb 05, 2019 7:08 am

Apart from a few changes which were mainly cosmetic between the various models, the Elan is the same car throughout its life. Pre 66 cars seem to carry a bit of a premium (historic racing?) and the Sprint also attracts higher prices, although swapping over a few parts and a cylinder head will turn a humble S4 into a Sprint (at least in terms of spec). There is a recent thread about an S4 in drag - or is it a Sprint?

Most of the running gear and mechanicals were raided from Triumph Herald or Ford parts bins and are still available. A number of Lotus specific bits are remanufactured by factors who support the marque. There are some parts - mainly trim - that are unavailable and command very high prices. Rear light clusters, window frames, steering wheels - even the bent tin scissor jack that came with the car originally are highly sought after. In some marques 'matching numbers' is the thing - Lotus just bolted on whatever was in the parts bin as the car came down the line, so (particularly at the model change times) an S3 with an S2 boot lock may well be as it came out the factory. Lotus managed to lose much of their records, so in some cases it is anyone's guess what is truly original.

The sting with the Elan is the body. Fibreglass doesn't rust, but has its own laundry list of problems. Given the highly labour intensive work, a decent respray is a labour of love to do yourself, and many, many ?1000s to have done professionally.

Finally, my own particular issue is that the wiring was not fit for purpose. Based on Lucas wiring found in BMC cars of the same era (its just like a Mini), it took no account of the additional challenges of a fibreglass body. Many owners have to wrestle with electricals that don't work, spending their time chasing poor earths up and down the car. A Mini generally didn't catch fire and burn to the ground if a wire overheated, Elans can and do.

If it were me, I would look at the various models and choose the shape you like the most. A bit of basic mechanical skill (and double jointed fingers) will allow you to fix most mechanical problems, but steer clear of cars that are incomplete, or need bodywork repair. A recent respray should be avoided as there may be problems lurking under the surface that will only appear after a year or so.

Good luck!
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PostPost by: Hornseyman65 » Tue Feb 05, 2019 8:43 am

Thanks for replies so far - please keep them coming. I was budgeting around ?30,000, am I too low?
Glad to hear that my mechanical knowledge may come in handy.
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PostPost by: Elanintheforest » Tue Feb 05, 2019 9:28 am

You should be able to pick up a very good car for ?30k, and a fair bit less if you don?t mind a few defects with the paint, or a car that needs re-commissioning.

A lot of cars that have been restored over the past 20 years are sitting around not doing a lot, and finding one of those, that?s been restored properly, would be very worthwhile if you have a bit of mechanical aptitude. Re-commissioning an Elan is a very straightforward, cheap and satisfying exercise.

There are a lot of cars for sale at ?35k - ?50k (and more) and most of those have been for sale for a long time. A top car, in its original specification with its original engine and full provenance, restored by a recognised Elan expert is worth the money. Most do not have those attributes, and are not worth the money.

You will have to work out whether you want a convertible or a coupe first off. The early cars (S1 and S2) were all convertibles without the door glass frames. The Coupe, which became the S3 Coupe, was introduced in 1965, and ran alongside the convertible from 1966 to 1973 in the S3, S4 and Sprint models. They all had the chrome door glass frames.

We are all biased as to which model is best, so you?ll have to do the research and make your own mind up. Obviously the S3 Coupe is the most beautiful Elan though!

The main questions you have to answer when looking for a car?

If originality is important to you, how does the car measure up with regards colour, engine number, original body type (many coupes were converted to convertibles) and original Lotus chassis / suspension?

Who did the restoration, when, how many miles has the car covered since and how much was spent? If it was restored 10 years ago and has done 500 miles, then it still needs shaking down, and really, it needs re-commissioning properly.

Condition of the bodywork / paint? (?10k to sort out properly)

Condition of the chassis?

Condition of the engine?

Pretty much everything can be sorted out, but there are a few bits that are very hard to find such as door frames and some instruments, early cars interior fittings, so again, having original specification is important.

The bottom line though is provenance. If the car has no history, no photos of the restoration, no invoices, then no matter how cheap it is, walk away.

It?s a buyers market now, and you should be able to pick and choose over the coming months and find a superb car for your budget.

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PostPost by: Rob P » Tue Feb 05, 2019 9:42 am

Hi and good luck with the search.
I bought an Elan S4 coupe some three years ago and haven't regretted it one bit. Mine is a Stromberg model and the performance is fine for what I need it for which is to take it to the odd show and a few decent drives through the British countryside making use of the superb handling that these little sports cars have. We have ventured as far as Jim Clark Museum from Preston so it's good for decent distances if maintained correctly.
?30k is enough to buy a pretty sound example in my opinion, nor concours but a decent looking and good running example. As people say try a few before you buy.
Paintwork is a subjective matter with these cars, they can suffer with microblistering, (mine does) but then I'm wanting more to drive the car not show it, so whilst the purists would tut and roll their eyes, I'm happy my car looks decent from 5 yards and excellent from 10 yards :lol:
Wiring is a challenge on these cars as noted previously, but if you are familiar with old cars and comfortable working on them then I think that is half the pleasure of the car. Buy something that is decent to start with and keep the car on the road and make upgrades as you go, from history I believe there is nothing worse than buying a car then starting a major restoration and missing out on the driving aspect of Elan ownership.
If you are not a club member then I would suggest finding out where your local Lotus owners gather, go meet with them and pick their brains, looks at their cars and you never know one or two might let you have a drive so you get the full experience, even riding in the passenger seat will help you understand what to look and listen out for.
Spares are plentiful in the main although again there are some parts classed as unobtainium, however, that should only affect you if you are looking for a show car, in my experiences to date I've found there are always parts available and alternatives to be had if you are not overly fussy about originality.
Last, and probably most importantly, read as much info as you can from books and here in the forum, the car owners on here are a fantastic group of people with a vast amount of knowledge and expertise which, importantly, they are willing to share.
Have fun seeking out your dream car and once purchased enjoy the living daylights out of it :D
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PostPost by: Certified Lotus » Tue Feb 05, 2019 12:49 pm

All the advice above is spot on. Having owned an S1, S2 and S4 my personal preference is the earlier models without the side window frames. The Elan S1 and S2 has a cleaner look as the lines flow nicely without the chrome window frames (at least in my eyes). The S4 was a totally different car, a bit more upscale and complete.

Too bad your so far away, you could come and drive either of my early Elan?s. And maybe purchase one :D

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PostPost by: a price » Tue Feb 05, 2019 2:32 pm

Don't get a fixation on webbers there is nothing wrong with strombergs. ?30000 will buy you a very nice car. Some people are into originality in a big way, I don't see the point. All low volume manufacturers used what they could get at the time. and whatever came to hand.. The original electric window lift motors on my old Marcos 3litre came out of a maseratti mexico. If you needed to replace one of those it would cost more than the car now!
Best modifications to a car in my opinion is solid driveshafts and a big radiator . In the 7 years I have had my S4 coupe it has never let me down
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PostPost by: ElliottN » Wed Feb 06, 2019 12:16 pm

I used the lotuselan.net buyers guide years ago when searching for my car.

http://www.lotuselan.net/wiki/Lotus_Ela ... _Checklist

Well worth reading and using when you actually start looking at cars.
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PostPost by: elanfan1 » Wed Feb 06, 2019 3:08 pm


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PostPost by: denicholls2 » Thu Feb 07, 2019 6:03 pm

a price wrote:Don't get a fixation on webbers there is nothing wrong with strombergs.

If you're not going racing, the above is absolutely true. And a few points that someone who isn't a Weber expert might appreciate that are often overlooked:

1. Strombergs properly tuned are very likely to be more efficient than Webers properly tuned. I know that's not a priority for most Lotophiles, but driving long distances with tiny gas tanks can be challenging in certain parts. Most Elans seem to return low twenties for fuel economy, which is eye-opening for a 1400 pound car. My much heavier Spitfire back in the day on SU's that are similar to Strombergs was capable of 40 mpg and never dropped below 30 until I removed piston 3 after a losing encounter with a puddle. But that's another story.

2. Properly tuning a pair of Strombergs is less daunting than properly tuning a pair of Weber DCOEs.

3. Weber cars generally go for a premium, so if you're buying you can get into an Elan for less.

4. If your head goes porous, a replacement is likely a lot easier to find and less costly.
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PostPost by: Matt Elan » Fri Feb 08, 2019 10:20 am

I've recently written an Elan and Plus 2 'Essential Buyers Guide' for Veloce Publishing - its cheap and I think pretty good and covers all the issues with the Elan and Plus 2. As the other posters have said don't get hung up on Webers (or Dellortos) - Strombergs give virtually identical performance and are easier to set up and stay in tune for longer.
To be frank your best bet would be to get a second pair of eyes on any car you are thinking of buying - most people on this forum would be happy to take a look at a car for you. If you spot an advert for a car then put it up on here and ask for comments - you'll get lots of constructive advice.
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