Lotus Elan

Contact made with my +2's original keeper

PostPost by: Roy Gillett » Wed Mar 16, 2011 4:39 pm

Can I just commend the elan registry site http://www.elanregistry.org to you all. I posted details of my car there a couple of years ago and then out of the blue I got an email from them passing on a message from the car's original 'owner'. This was particularly interesting as the +2 started life as a Lotus company car and I already knew from research a previous owner had done that it was allocated to a Richard Morley who was Managing Director of Lotus Cars at the time (and for a good few years after). Richard made contact and has proved to be a mine of information about the cars early life, Lotus in the 1970's in general and a very generous correspondent in so many ways.

For example I have always been aware that my VIN number is three after the documented electrical changes that included the change from dynamo to alternator and I always wondered if it was kept for 'staff use' in order to do some long-term reliability testing or evaluation. Richard not only confirms this but told me that he had 'my' car and Tony Rudd (engineering Director at the time) had another of the first three new spec cars for the same reason. Even more interesting Richard tells me that though 'our' car left the production line with a 4-speed 'box during his 12 monthswith the car it was fitted with two different 5-speed 'boxes for evaluation and testing. Indeed he went on a trip to Portugal with a 5-speeder fitted on one occasion. The 5 speed variant of the S130 was released at the Earls Court MNotor show in the autumn of 1972 and my +2 (GAH 734K) was built in May 72 and registered on 12th June, so they were still prototype testing two different designs just weeks before launch. No wonder early Lotus owners thought they were always finishing the product development process. It was also'sold' into the comapny with both steel and alloy wheels but the alloys were only put on on high days and holidays and the cars were always sold on on steel wheels (which mine still has). What is the betting those alloys got sold as new to some other new owner (or with another company car as a charge against the business?!

Even more exciting for me was to hear that while Richard was running the car it was 'borrowed back' by the PR Department for a photoshoot and subsequently appeared on the front of the 1972 Group Lotus company accounts. I was immediatetly on ebay looking for a copy (the Lotus company archive doesn't have a set) but no joy. Imagine my joy when my new friend Richard came up with his copy. Fantastic. Even more exciting, when I saw the image I recognised it as it appears in several of the Elan books. We have arranged to meet up later in the year and I hope Richard will get to drive the car again, 39 years after his last encounter. So there it is I always knew my car was special, now EVERYONE knows and why.

Just to close the circle Andy Graham the Lotus archivist had no details of my car nor of one two numbers away from it. This he now realises is because their data comes from sales delivery records and as the car was retained and later sold second hand no data entered teh system. He now has the details of my car and deduces from Richard's information that the other car with no details (7205755 if anyone has it) was the car Tony Rudd had at the same time.

Roy
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PostPost by: trw99 » Wed Mar 16, 2011 6:18 pm

Great story Roy and thanks for sharing it.

I too have a copy of the 1972 Group Lotus annual report and accounts. If Richard only loaned you his copy, I will happily scan mine and send that to you.

Those photos of the +2 in front of the collonaded house, with light rain falling onto it's paintwork, are very good.

I have given myself permission to copy this on the Sprint/5 from my website! :-

"The five speed gearbox made its press debut in Autocar of 5 October 1972. The British weekly carried the first test of a Plus 2S130/5. ?The new box has been made available as a ?120 option on the Plus 2S 130; when supplies are sufficient the option will be extended to the Elan Sprint.?

The test car was one of the first three fitted with the box. Therefore Lotus must have made the car by mid September at the latest, to allow for the road test. The gearbox must have had to be made up in August/September. The decision to make a 5 speed box must therefore have been made some two to three months before, May or June 1972.

Lotus press news issued 17 October 1972 at the Motor Show announced ?The Elan Sprint/5 is the latest version of one of the world?s most popular and out and out sports cars. Now in its tenth year of production the vehicle appears for the first time with a five speed optional gearbox.?

The Earls Court Motor Show catalogue quotes a price of ?2466.56 for the Sprint/5, against ?2345.73 for the normal box, a ?120.83 cost option. The official Lotus price list, effective 1 October 1972, lists the option of the 5 speed box, but only for the +2S130 and the Europa. "
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PostPost by: Roy Gillett » Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:57 pm

Thanks TRW. Richard Morley has very kindly given me his copy of the 1972 accounts so I won't need to take you up on your kind offer. The chronology your quote spells for the development of the 5 speed transmission seems to gel very well with timeframe Richard spells out. I wonder what the differences were between the prototype boxes tested - just ratios etc or more fundamentally different designs?

I am sure someone on this forum will know!

Roy
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PostPost by: stugilmour » Sat Mar 19, 2011 5:17 am

Fasinating story Roy, thanks for sharing. Interesting to see how quickly Lotus could work in design changes.
Stu
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