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Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Sun Dec 22, 2019 10:43 pm
by sprintsoft
Dear All,

Does anyone know where this car is?

Reg: 'XAM 80K'
First Registered January 1972
Monotone Yellow DHC Sprint

Tim Wilkes kindly gave me some info he had an the car as he had seen it it featured in one of Graham Arnolds' books.

I would like to connect with the current owner out of curiosity, a catch up and reminisce! I owned it between 1979 and 1983, I see it hasn't been MOT'd since 2014 so it's probably off the road somewhere.

We were living in Torquay at the time and sold it in Devon in '83, but of course al these years later cannot find any record of who it went to!


Re: Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:43 pm
by sprintsoft
Has anyone tried using the DVLA V888 form to enquire about a car they had previously owned, or is this only for current ownership?

Re: Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2020 10:01 am
by ericbushby
Hi Iain,
I don`t think you will get much from DVLA nowadays.
Before they finally caught up with the new privacy laws, they sent me details of all previous owners and sale dates. At the time I was delighted, but thought that it could not last.
The rules at the time were that you had to be the owner and give a reason for wanting this information which was acceptable to them.
Eric in Burnley ( thirteenth owner, is this a record ?)
1967 S3SE DHC

Re: Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2020 11:30 am
by elansprint71
XAM80K is photographed in the "Super Profile" series book by Graham Arnold. There are four colour photos on page 53.

Foulis motoring book published by Haynes. 1982

ISBN 0 85429 330 2

One will turn up on ebay sooner or later.

Re: Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Sun Jan 26, 2020 1:00 pm
by elanfan1
I suspect your only chance is to write a letter to the current owner - make it a gentle enquiry from a previous owner. Put a stamp on it and leave it open. Put that in the post to the DVLA to the V888 department with a letter saying you understand V888 are not possible these days but you’d appreciate it if they could forward the enclosed letter to the current keeper (say they’re welcome to read your letter).

Then it’s a matter of luck - I’ve had success and also had it all returned to me.

Good luck

Re: Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:18 pm
by sprintsoft
Thanks Pete,

I have the book already, I was chatting to Graham Arnold at Castle Combe in 1982, he admired the car, and asked if he could take some pics for his latest book.

He was such a great character, never without a story to tell, sadly missed.


Re: Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Mon Jan 27, 2020 9:30 pm
by sprintsoft
elanfan1, thanks for the DVLA idea, I’ll certainly give that a try!

I see you are in Cardiff, I’m over near Llanelli, I bought a Lagoon Blue130/5 last year that had been in Cardiff for the last 10 years or so... small world!


Re: Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2020 4:19 am
by HappyJack
Hi, Iain,

I just did a search on the registration out of curiosity, and this thread came up, so I joined the forum to answer your question.

I bought the car off a dealer in Totnes in April 1983, flush with cash from 5 months away at sea with the Royal Navy, and aged 20. That's the wealthiest I was for the next few years. I had an Allegro at the time and traded it in against the Lotus, a car I'd always wanted after growing up with my Dad's Elan S2, sadly sold when I was 13 and couldn't squeeze in behind the seats any more.

I test drove it down some country lanes, and remember overtaking another car. As I pulled back over following the overtake, I glanced in my mirror and the other car was 100 yards behind. Impressive. I went back to the dealer and agreed the deal. The AA inspection picked up a leaking seal between the engine and gearbox, which was fixed by the garage as part of the deal. The dealer folded about a month later.

I recall taking a friend for a spin on Dartmoor, and planting the accelerator as I exited the Yelverton roundabout on the way to the moors road. It had just started raining, and the back end slid wide and I pirouetted nicely off to the side of the road, ending up, undamaged, between two concrete bollards, with 12" either side and a 6 foot drop behind me. I took it a little more carefully after that.

A few weeks later I drove to Petersfield, breaking down 5 times on the way, due to a faulty HT lead to the coil. A little later, the window raising wires snapped living the window stuck open. It needed a new alternator; the engine burned a fair bit of oil and one day, blew a piston on Haldon Hill. The rebuild cost me 40% of the price of the car. The rear screen turned milky white an opaque, so I drove everywhere with the roof down. And so it went on, as I learned the reason for the Lots of Trouble, Usually Serious (LOTUS) joke. But I remember a great drive from Plymouth to Rosyth with the roof down, and the last 50 miles of superb Scottish roads; some fabulous drives across Dartmoor in sun and in rain. Sheer joy! For pure enjoyment the most fun of any car I've had. especially on a country lane.

But after two years, it all came to an end, near Cadover Bridge on Dartmoor around April 1985. I seized on a short stretch of straight road to squirt past a dawdling tourist; but drove through what I thought was a puddle, but which turned out to be a 10" deep pothole covered in water, following the collapse of a culvert under the road. The car bump steered itself (that rear suspension geometry design problem) off the road, where I ran up an earth bank at the entrance to a farm gate, was launched into the air, did a complete barrel roll, and landed back on all 4 wheels, with a broken foot, a black eye, concussion and a smashed-up car. The cylinder head had parted from the manifold, the front suspension and bodywork were splintered, the windscreen frame was shredded wheat and the windscreen has popped out. Somewhere, there is a photo of me standing in front of the car at the garage a few days later, me on crutches, both of us looking rather sorry for ourselves.

The council admitted to 50% negligence, and paid me some compensation; the insurance company eventually paid me around 70% of what the car was worth, and took away the wreck, presumably to be sold to someone to restore. I bought a Lotus Sunbeam tricked out by Skip Brown. (My mother called out, when I took it home, "at last, a sensible car"!). I just couldn't afford to get the Elan fixed up, and in any case it was never the best car to drive hundreds of miles to a Naval dockyard with a load of personal kit, then leave parked in the open for months. But a year or so later, I could still see bits of yellow fibreglass in the turf of the crash site.

I loved it; it broke my heart. I'd have it back in a heartbeat.

Re: Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Sat Sep 05, 2020 12:06 pm
by sprintsoft
Jack - I just read your message.. Wow.. your handle should be 'LuckyJack'...

who can barrel roll a DHC and come out alive?!

I almost cried when I read what had happened to our Sprint, it going the way of many of these fantastic little cars, so many were lost in the 70's and 80's in the same way, I guess that's why there's so few left - and the values reflect it.

I see there are MOT's done in 2007 and later so somehow it must have got rebuilt, I'm sure that's also a fascinating story we would like to hear from the next owner!

My tenure was a little less dramatic than yours, it never missed a beat or let us down, but it was weekly poured over by myself and mechanic friends looking for interesting things to service, or fix. Cherished in its own garage and under a dust sheet when not used, we drove it all over Europe including down near the Italian border twice, cruising around 75-85mph all day it stopped burning oil, it seemed to be only on the shorter trips it would start to use oil again, maybe sticking rings but I never got around to doing the bottom end, I think it had done around 39,000 or so when i sold it.

I left a load of technical notes with the car including a full workshop manual, one of the notes detailed that the tacho was under-reading by 20% which would lead to it over-revving by a seriously large amount if you used it to the indicated redline. It had nearly new Michelin XAS tyres that were so much grippier than the Dunlop Sports they replaced but could be tricky in the wet - they hung on much longer than the Dunlop but when they let go it was anything but progressive!

I upgraded from an MG Midget when I bought it and the huge difference in performance and that sublime steering feel you get was out of this world - I can't imagine what you experienced going from an Allegro to a Sprint, it must have been mind-blowing :)

I can tell you from experience its time for you buy another one, Right Now! You will never regret it, a well sorted one is a still a delight to drive you will not want to get out of it!

Thank you for taking the time to write up your history it made a very good read!


PS: if you're interested, our car is immortalised in this book - several pics are shown where Graham asked if it was OK to take pics of the car at Castle Combe 1982.
IMG_3745.jpg and

Re: Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Sat Sep 05, 2020 12:52 pm
by Sploder90
Great stories both... Hope the current keeper can be traced to add to its rather colourful history.
Wish I had owned mine at twenty but if I had I doubt I would still be alive to tell the tale.. :lol:

Re: Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 4:50 am
by HappyJack
Interesting to hear your experiences. You’re right about wanting another Elan, now. It’s been a now since 1985. One practical difficulty is that I live in Sydney in an area where apartment dwellers can only get one parking permit and our permit is used for our daily drive Golf R. I need a house with a garage and even at a like for like price, the stamp duty on that trade would pay for half a dozen Elans!
I wish I’d known about the tacho. I do remember once going over the red line when overtaking a truck and seeing someone coming fast the other way. I was probably well over and that would not have helped engine longevity. Even without you’r weekly maintenance schedule it used to cost me about 90% of my meagre sub lieutenants pay to run the car. In any case being parked on the open in a dockyard car park wouldn’t have helped much either.
I have the Arnold book - bought it the week I bought the car and was thrilled to see the pictures of it. I never took the Elan to Castle Combe that the Sunbeam did many a lap there embarrassing much more expensive Astons and Ferraris.

Re: Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:52 am
by vstibbard
I live in Sydney and in the past I've and my cars in various garages around where I lived for a reasonable rent. What's holding you back!!!!

Re: Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 8:02 am
by HappyJack
What's holding me back? Well, currently, big strata levies and an apartment which needs renovating; plus school fees and a lack of work during Covid. Perhaps next year...

What is your current collection? And whereabouts in Sydney are you? I'm in North Sydney.



Re: Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 9:35 pm
by sprintsoft
Hi John,

Sorry to hear of your position, flat dwelling is no fun is it (I lived in London for a while, but got stir crazy after 7 years!). I hope you can find some way back to ownership again, maybe you can hook up with a local Lotus group in Oz. More recently I retired early and decided to buy a property with an over size double garage I had always wanted, wife loves cars too, so it was an easy decision.

By the way you have a standing invitation if you're in the UK anytime to visit and come out in my latest Sprint! I also bought a +2 130/5 that I'm currently renovating as a hobby, the +2 is not quite as sharp as the Elan but they have their own charm, a great looking profile, and the handing is excellent. Values are creeping up as well.

I paid £2,200 for the Elan in 1979, and sold it for cash to that dealer in Totnes for £3,550 in 1983, so I felt like I got a good deal, it was painful to see it go but we had made a decision to have a family and needed more sensible cars :( I would be interested to know how much you paid for it.


Re: Tracing my Elan from the 1980's...

PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 10:45 pm
by HappyJack
Thanks for the invitation. I’ll definitely take you up on it when I’m next in the UK though the current Australian government ban on foreign travel means that’s uncertain.
I think I paid £3950 for the Elan which then had 44,000 miles. They gave me around £500 more for my Allegro than any other dealer had offered and then had to take the engine out to fix the gearbox seal. Which may explain why they folded soon after!
When I had the crash the car was insured for £4500 but values had jumped to about £6000 and I only got £4350 less the excess. It would have been worth restoring but it wasn’t really, even then, an ideal only car particularly given my circumstances.