Lotus Elan

When our cars were affordable.

PostPost by: persiflage » Wed Feb 03, 2021 3:53 pm

Remember the days when your Elan was an affordable plaything instead of an investment?

Having gone to the loft to make a running repair to a felt overlap i ended up looking through a box of old Elan paperwork. I'm easily distracted.

Does anyone here remember Robin Alabaster? An old style bodywork man working out of premises that todays bodywork chaps would blanch at :lol:

I went to Robin after what can only be described as a pit prop fell off of a lorry to the left and in front of me as I exited a roundabout on a dual carriageway.. Fortunately it fell lengthwise but was still bouncing as i went over the top, resulting in damage under the nose, exhaust and rear scuttle. The lorry driver was oblivious to the incident but was chased down by a work colleague on his motorbike who had witnessed everything.
On the way home from work I recovered the pit prop and for many years used it to chock my cars when working underneath ... the overlap on the Elan track was getting on for 12 inches. Heaven knows what damage would have been caused if it had fallen across the lane or if I had accelerated just a fraction harder and it had hit the car before hitting the road.

Some years later a discovered the dreaded front turret rot. The original Lagoon Blue paint work was very poor by this time, no shine and in places a finish like crocus paper. I could see no point in fitting a new chassis to a tatty car so I went back to Robin for an estimate.
When I look back at the figures quoted I am amazed.
In the end I opted to have the body work done by Mick Miller, my last call on an epic one day 600+ mile tour around 3 other fibre glass specialists. Mick turned out to be a few hundred pounds more than Robin but at the time his paint shop was state of the art by comparison.
Attachments
Robin Alabaster.jpg and
Robin Alabaster2.jpg and
Corrosion.jpg and
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PostPost by: LaikaTheDog » Thu Feb 04, 2021 1:30 pm

That's 5,899.60 in today's money.
So still less than half price.

But in 1981 no-one had to pay for flat panel TVs and loans for SUVs and 200k mortgages for one bedroom flats.
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PostPost by: TomR » Thu Feb 04, 2021 2:05 pm

Isn't capitalism fun. At least inflation is low. Unfortunately interest on savings is even lower.
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PostPost by: MrBonus » Thu Feb 04, 2021 2:21 pm

Hopping on BringaTrailer, there aren't any fun cars that are cheap anymore. Hell, even Miatas have become coveted by collectors.

It's a strange time and I constantly wonder if this enthusiasm for classics is sustainable.
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PostPost by: 661 » Thu Feb 04, 2021 3:09 pm

We could argue about this but to my mind Robin Alabaster was the greatest Elan fibreglass man, with a chapeau to Mick Miller whose work I have only seen on others' cars.
I told him I wanted to prepare and paint a new shell, I'd read both Wilkins' books, did I need to do anything else? He said to come and spend some time with him. I bored him senseless for 3 days and prevented him from doing his paid work at anything like the speed I'm sure he would ordinarily proceed at.
At the end he even gave me his spare orbital sander and said return it when I was done.
I was a student with little money ( I'd spent it all on the Elan before a tree jumped out in front of me).
What a legend
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PostPost by: mark030358 » Thu Feb 04, 2021 4:35 pm

661 wrote:We could argue about this but to my mind Robin Alabaster was the greatest Elan fibreglass man, with a chapeau to Mick Miller whose work I have only seen on others' cars.
I told him I wanted to prepare and paint a new shell, I'd read both Wilkins' books, did I need to do anything else? He said to come and spend some time with him. I bored him senseless for 3 days and prevented him from doing his paid work at anything like the speed I'm sure he would ordinarily proceed at.
At the end he even gave me his spare orbital sander and said return it when I was done.
I was a student with little money ( I'd spent it all on the Elan before a tree jumped out in front of me).
What a legend



Class that :D
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PostPost by: persiflage » Thu Feb 04, 2021 5:53 pm

661 wrote:We could argue about this but to my mind Robin Alabaster was the greatest Elan fibreglass man,


Since spending an inordinate amount of time attempting to repel the corrosion on my first car, 1966 Mini, I have always shied away from bodywork.
I think I was 24 when I first met Robin and found him the most approachable and informative guy with a real enthusiasm for the marque.
Looking back on those quotes I am just astounded at the figures and the fact that he offered a Club Lotus discount. I'll have to dig out my Mick Miller paperwork and see if it shows a similar allowance. Do any of the current bodywork specialist still offer the same?
I'm pleased to say I was 100% satisfied with the work carried out by both. :D
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PostPost by: The Veg » Thu Feb 04, 2021 7:36 pm

In a slightly different take on affordability, a couple of years ago I decided to figure out what my car's original price worked out to in today's money. The first owner bought the car from the factory and I have the receipt, so I knew the starting point. I don't have the receipt or the figures I went through at the time in front of me, but I recall this much:

-The car sold for 1800-something Pounds when new.
-I used an online calculator to translate 1970 GBP into today's GBP, then translate that into USD.
(or did I translate the sale price into 1970 USD then into today's USD? Can't recall but the result should be pretty similar)

And what I wound up with is that my Plus 2 originally sold for the equivalent of $28000 of today's USD. For comparison, $28K won't get you much these days: in US MSRPs, that's a little above where the Toyota Corolla tops out and a little below where the Dodge Challenger begins (and in 2019 my wife paid $28K for a year-old Challenger that was a level above base). It's less than $2K above where the MX-5 begins. It's half what a large US-built 7-passenger V8 SUV costs.

I lack understanding of how different to today the relative purchasing-power in each country's economy was at the time, so I have no idea whether or not British cars were bargains for Yanks at that point in time. They certainly aren't now, but then the market now is very different in many ways.

What I didn't look at was what other cars could be had in the UK for 1800 Pounds in 1970. I may do that soon, should be interesting.
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PostPost by: redcarandco » Thu Feb 04, 2021 8:34 pm

Dear all just to put your spirits down (not sure it is good english) In 1968 I bought 26 R 14 second hand after 7 races for the "pharaonic price of 750 £
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PostPost by: David1953 » Thu Feb 04, 2021 8:50 pm

I visited Robin a bit over a year ago, he still had some parts for sale, and insisted on giving me his old parts book ( he kept a new copy).
But Kay had picked up her Europa at last which he had had since 1980 at least.
One of the real characters that made running Lotus cars a pleasure.
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PostPost by: persiflage » Thu Feb 04, 2021 9:17 pm

David1953 wrote:I visited Robin a bit over a year ago, he still had some parts for sale, and insisted on giving me his old parts book ( he kept a new copy)..


David, what an unexpected and wonderful surprise to hear that Robin was still around. As you say, very much a Lotus character, one who probably knew our cars from the very start and a fount of knowledge.
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PostPost by: Seamus » Fri Feb 05, 2021 12:16 am

The Veg wrote:In a slightly different take on affordability, a couple of years ago I decided to figure out what my car's original price worked out to in today's money. The first owner bought the car from the factory and I have the receipt, so I knew the starting point. I don't have the receipt or the figures I went through at the time in front of me, but I recall this much:

-The car sold for 1800-something Pounds when new.
-I used an online calculator to translate 1970 GBP into today's GBP, then translate that into USD.
(or did I translate the sale price into 1970 USD then into today's USD? Can't recall but the result should be pretty similar)

And what I wound up with is that my Plus 2 originally sold for the equivalent of $28000 of today's USD. For comparison, $28K won't get you much these days: in US MSRPs, that's a little above where the Toyota Corolla tops out and a little below where the Dodge Challenger begins (and in 2019 my wife paid $28K for a year-old Challenger that was a level above base). It's less than $2K above where the MX-5 begins. It's half what a large US-built 7-passenger V8 SUV costs.

I lack understanding of how different to today the relative purchasing-power in each country's economy was at the time, so I have no idea whether or not British cars were bargains for Yanks at that point in time. They certainly aren't now, but then the market now is very different in many ways.

What I didn't look at was what other cars could be had in the UK for 1800 Pounds in 1970. I may do that soon, should be interesting.


I fear that your online calculator may be a little off key. I like to use the price of a pint of beer to work out values.
In 1970 I left school that Easter and started my first job as a trainee sheet metal worker earning £5/week. A pint of bitter was between 1/9 (9p) and 2/- (10p) today it's between £4 to £5. Using the lower ratio of £0.09 to £4.00 £1,800 would equate to £79,200. Today a new Evora is £90k

Similarly looking at my modest income of £5/week (£260pa) at a ratio of 44 would equate to £11,440pa. The minimum wage today for under 18s in the UK is £4.55/hour which is roughly £9,500pa
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PostPost by: Seamus » Fri Feb 05, 2021 4:50 pm

LaikaTheDog wrote:That's 5,899.60 in today's money.
So still less than half price.

But in 1981 no-one had to pay for flat panel TVs and loans for SUVs and 200k mortgages for one bedroom flats.


In 1981 I bought my house in Northwood for £42k, today it is valued on Zoopla at £767k.

Divorce forced me to sell in 1988 at the peak of a price boom for £128k..................
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