Lotus Elan

good mechanical state and average bodywork or vice versa ?

PostPost by: Humberty » Mon Jun 10, 2024 10:59 pm

Hi all,

I'm new here but not unfamiliar with the Lotus brand.

I have done some homework and about to buy a Lotus Elan S4 SE (Built and sold in Belgium (LHD) with a certificate from Lotus Archivist.

The car is now with the traditional colour Red gold and white as opposed to the original Cirius White she was first delivered with and a "copy" of a sprint.

The chassis is a Spyder and the engine, diff and all mechanical running gears has been uprated recently by a specialist in France at with no expense spared (~60000 euro bills). Also the gearbox has been changed from a 4speed to a 5 speed from sunbeam (talbot/Lotus) as the previous owner was doing some regularity rallying.

The body and paintwork is not in pristine condition but hold it own. In my view it need a bit of work nevertheless.

My question is :
Would you privileged a car that is mechanically great (from the obvious recent work and amount spent with Lotus mindset) but with a body a bit tatty ?
or
Would you prefer a car with a Lotus chassis quite rusty (state unknown), oil dripping from bell housing but with an excellent body work ?

Both car are the same value (~£30000), I intend to do a bit of classic car track events as well as the Sunday morning drive every other weeks. I also would like to keep the car as long as possible without necessarily seeking for money benefit, I would rather not loose too much money....

What do you think
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PostPost by: skelteanema » Tue Jun 11, 2024 4:02 am

Hi Humberty,

for me personally, I would prefer the mechanically sound/tatty body. The car will be driveable without too many issues.. The alternative will have on-going problems until it is mechanically sound
Last edited by skelteanema on Tue Jun 11, 2024 8:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPost by: SimonH » Tue Jun 11, 2024 6:17 am

Although the body and paint will probably end up costing more to put right I’d take a mechanically good car if I wanted to actually use it over a knackered but pristine body car. Although mechanical work is much easier it does stop you using the thing whereas some scruffy paint and even a little damage to the grp won’t.
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PostPost by: 2cams70 » Tue Jun 11, 2024 6:48 am

Oil dripping from the bell housing does not mean the car is mechanically rubbish. Plenty of cars that have been bodged mechanically by so called experts.

A car is usually worth more if it's original. Unless you travel on highways a lot the 4 speed is a better shifting sportier gearbox than the 5 speed. Bottom line is that you need someone with expertise to help you look at it. An armchair analysis is not going to be enough
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PostPost by: cliveyboy » Tue Jun 11, 2024 7:12 am

I personally would choose the mechanically sound car.
(Although if there are bills for 60K I would have expect good mechanics and bodywork)
A mechanically good car can be driven and if the bodywork gets the odd scuff its not a big issue (like mine).
However as soon as you need to do bodywork, an engine rebuild, chassis change you start running up bills that are 5-10K for each one so be very careful.
As suggested you need some knowledgeable person to go with you and look at it.
Also some S4 Elans were reworked by the factory to become Sprints. So your S4 looking like a Sprint is not the worse crime.
At the moment in the UK £30- 35K should get you an Elan with good mechanics and good bodywork so use this as a guide to what you pay for yours.
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PostPost by: JonB » Tue Jun 11, 2024 7:35 am

This might be of interest (by way of comparison):

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=54438

It is almost exactly as you have described apart from being a UK RHD car.
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PostPost by: elans3 » Tue Jun 11, 2024 7:40 am

As above, the two you are looking at sound expensive at £30k for the condition, compared with the UK.
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PostPost by: Humberty » Tue Jun 11, 2024 8:02 am

I kind of agree with you regarding the prices however, these a french registered car which is maybe why there is a slight premium as opposed to the one we found in UK.

The car will stay there and will be used there.

I have sent a private message for the advert mentioned in the post above.
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PostPost by: nmauduit » Tue Jun 11, 2024 8:05 am

if the goal is to eventually remedy the failling parts for a fully restored vehicle, I would opt for a perfect body, which I consider the most difficult and lengthy/costly goal to achieve of the two (but making sure that the body is actually perfect and as such long lasting rather than just covered up is not easy...)

If the goal is to use it the perfect mechanical condition would be a no brainer to me: a somewhat poor body will also enable you to use it more and without fears of extra scratches from doing so (disclaimer: I believe it would be both easier and more comfortable to source a RHD car for driving purposes in the UK...).

keep it on the road !
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PostPost by: rgh0 » Tue Jun 11, 2024 9:45 am

Lotus are about driving and you cant see the body from the driving seat. I personally would always want a mechnically perfect car with an acceptable but not perfect body. If you seriously use an Elan and its not a garage queen then inevitably the body collects stone chips and cracks overtime

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PostPost by: 2cams70 » Tue Jun 11, 2024 1:02 pm

Personally speaking it is beyond my understanding how anyone could spend 60,000 Euros (AU 120K) on just a mechanical refurbishment. To me that would raise a red flag and make me start to question the legitimacy of the work.
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PostPost by: Humberty » Tue Jun 11, 2024 2:07 pm

2cams70 wrote:Personally speaking it is beyond my understanding how anyone could spend 60,000 Euros (AU 120K) on just a mechanical refurbishment. To me that would raise a red flag and make me start to question the legitimacy of the work.


Agreed it is expensive but with invoice to hand the owner is justifying this expense and the car was rebuilt for racing purpose with QOD head, balanced internals, TTR parts .... The amount spent in part and labour is mind blowing but seems legit.
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PostPost by: JerryBoone » Wed Jun 12, 2024 1:55 am

I echo the recommendation to take sound mechanicals over a pristine body. If you need to do the mechanical work, you are looking at a major undertaking which, depending upon your finances, could take months to years to complete. Meanwhile, you have a very attractive garage queen that you can admire...but not drive.

If the car is in sound mechanical condition, you can drive and enjoy it and tackle the bodywork on your own (don't be intimidated...people make it sound much more difficult than it is) one section at a time right up until you are ready to shoot color on it. I took my S4 through a community college body shop class and in 10 weeks (five classes every other week) I ended up with a 4 out of 5 paint job. It's good enough that the only one who sees the flaws is me. My guess is the paint is probably better than what it had when it left the factory.

I'm not intimidated by engine work (I used to race a Lotus Cortina) but I prefer to drive a rolling-restoration vs looking at something gathering dust in the shop, unable to move.
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PostPost by: pharriso » Wed Jun 12, 2024 7:19 pm

Humberty wrote:My question is :
Would you privileged a car that is mechanically great (from the obvious recent work and amount spent with Lotus mindset) but with a body a bit tatty ?
or
Would you prefer a car with a Lotus chassis quite rusty (state unknown), oil dripping from bell housing but with an excellent body work ?
What do you think


It also depends on what sort of work you can do, or enjoy doing. Personally I hate bodywork & paintwork but do not mind any mechanical or electrical work. So the car I purchased I would rate the body/paint 9.5 (out of 10) but mechanically it was probably a 6 at best (now at 9+).
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PostPost by: Lotus54 » Wed Jun 12, 2024 11:32 pm

Sort of depends on your priorities.
If you want a great driving car that will not give issues? Then go for mechanically as good as possible.

But at least from my experience, it takes a LOT more time to get the body/paint really, really nice. If decent looking paint/body but not perfect is fine? Then mechanical all the way. If you want almost perfect body paint? Well- that costs more.
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