This concerns those Domestic and Federal Elans and +2s from the years 1970/1971 which have VINs the first six digits of which are 710000
There is nothing wrong with this VIN or car! However, we have it seems just got to the bottom of their meaning. Currently I have a list of 41 such cars, covering the E, G, J, K & L Elan types. Unfortunately many of the Elan types are in the batch of records that were destroyed during the flood in the old fire station hut at Hethel in the late 1970s. We therefore request any owners with 710000 VINs to contact Andy (if they have not already done so) or me, so that we can get a better understanding of these refreshed cars.
We do know that it went on. Graham Arnold attributed the refresh plan to Fred Bushell, even stating that he became known as "Retrofred" by Colin Chapman as he was always retro fitting parts to cars or updating them to a later model. It is also mentioned in Tony Rudd's autobiography.
What happened is that an unsold S4 Elan or +2S (they tended to be 1970 spec cars) was taken from the New Car park at Hethel at various times in 1971 and put back onto a part of the production line to be freshened up to the next model. Thus S4 Elans became Sprints and +2Ss became Plus 2S130s. When they reached the end of the line they were allocated a VIN without the month digits or batch digits, hence the 710000.
Now in some cases the cars kept their original Unit No. We already know about the 79 S4/Sprints for example, though they are a separate issue to the one we are discussing here. In other cases cars were given a new Unit No to fit the then current relevant sequence. In 16 out of the above mentioned 41 cars we know about, we also have the first Unit No, as well as their current Unit No. The earlier number is often revealed during restoration, when the crayon marks usually on the transmission tunnel reveal a different number to the known VIN Unit No. In some instances we have factory records that confirm the refreshed cars dual identity.
I know this is all very anorak for a lot of you, but it forms part of the historical context of our cars and does, in my view, deserve to be recorded for posterity and future generations of enthusiasts.
As part of my investigations I hope to hear from factory workers at Hethel at the time who would remember refreshing some cars. For example, Richard (Team Lotus on here) has in the past posted "I remember the winter of either 69 or 70 we were asked to work in the hanger to the left of the factory. Our job was to bring in +2 Federal cars that had stood on the test track unsold and convert them from l/h drive to r/h kit cars. Some of the cars had sat out there for 6 months, so you can imagine the state some of them were in." We knew that these cars were converted but again, they are a separate issue to the 710000 VIN cars: in other words, yet another Lotus conundrum for us to get to the bottom of!
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