Lotus Elan

To buy,or not ? new member advice

PostPost by: Gasbag » Mon Jul 26, 2021 10:51 pm

Hi , new member here.
I'm considering on an Elan +2 as my next classic [ currently have a MGC gt ] but am undecided because am not that mechanically inclined and don't want to spend all my time sorting problems !
I will have a budget of 25 k ish to hopefully get a well sorted/ excellent Elan +2, but need advice.
1] Can I get a sorted car for that money and just drive it, or is it not the car for someone who doesn't want to tinker ?
[Id rather find a decent garage who can look after it for me, if there's one in my area ?]
2] My MGC is reliable and fairly cheap to run, can a good Elan be the same possibly or am I just being too hopeful..

Its a big decision for me, and one I've put off for years [ I keep playing safe with MG s] but I think its now or never.
Will have to sell my immaculate MG to fund the Elan which I like owning, but its not such a real drivers car as a Lotus.
If possible Id like to meet any local Elan owners to view their cars and get some good honest advice and info that may guide me. I've only been a passenger when viewing an Elan years ago,[ which had blistered paint and I got cold feet !] Never driven one.
I live in Epsom ,Surrey.
Any help / advice appreciated.
Alan.
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PostPost by: miked » Tue Jul 27, 2021 6:30 am

Hi Alan,
Sorry to put you off but they are a bit of a tinkerers delight. Rather fragile and having twin carbs can be a bit painful. Not to mention some of the other odd ball items. With that kind of money you should get a decent one and if prepared to spend money on snags and maintenance you could live with one. Do be aware that not all mechanics are equal. To look after a Lotus to do mechanical repairs requires a thinker and not someone who dives in. Even Fuzz damaged a rear upright case. I am not in that area so do not know a garage. I would think an hourly rate for a decent Lotus familiar mechanic would not be cheap.
Others on here will be better fixed to tell you.
The cars don't like to sit.

Mike :D
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PostPost by: baileyman » Tue Jul 27, 2021 3:29 pm

Oh man, get a ride in a Plus 2. Not only is it great handling, but breaking your teeth on the bumps in an MG will be a thing of the past. You'll drop everything to make the trade. John
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PostPost by: UAB807F » Tue Jul 27, 2021 3:58 pm

Gasbag wrote:1] Can I get a sorted car for that money and just drive it, or is it not the car for someone who doesn't want to tinker ?
2] My MGC is reliable and fairly cheap to run, can a good Elan be the same possibly or am I just being too hopeful..


Hi Alan,

I think virtually everyone here would say that any Lotus from the 60s is going to need constant care, or as I'd put it, preventative maintenance. Back in the 60s the service interval in the manual was 3,000 miles, a bit sobering compared with modern cars going for 12/24 months at a time.

I've never had an MGC or even the B, but my impression is that they are fairly solid cars and aimed at Joe Public's idea of a sports car. I think most on here would like to think that 60s' Lotus are different, a bit more sporty, a bit more fragile and a lot more fun to drive.
And it's mostly true, an Elan or +2 will seem like a different ball game.

But..... the block is a Ford with common period ancillaries, most of the running parts, ignition, carbs, bearings, etc, are standard issue to one car or another of the period. Just like your MG.

And as one guy said to me back in the 70s, "if that engine was in a Cortina, you'd drive it without ever worrying it was about to break or needing daily checks under the bonnet".

So why shouldn't the car work for you ? I've had my Elan since the mid 70s and it was used daily for many years, winter, summer, it's got all the T shirts.

Controversially I'd say a 60s Lotus is not significantly different from a 60s MG, they both have contact breaker ignitions, Lucas/Smiths electrics and both run from simple fuel systems. Buying an unknown MG or Lotus are equally likely to land you with garage bills if you don't want to look after the car yourself.

The big difference is that a rough Lotus of any description will cost significantly more than a rough MG to put it right and be reliable again. And although a 60s Lotus has a much better support network these days than they did in the 70s/80s (some might even include the 60s :wink: ) the MGs have always been easier to find replacement parts and someone "who knows".

But Lotus can be reliable despite the jokes we all make. A correctly adjusted engine just plods on, Weber carbs don't self destruct the minute they get fitted to a Lotus and valve clearances (tappets) stay fixed for years. Personally I did away with CB ignition, fitted CV joints & alternator, modern dampers and the car starts on the key and I don't expect it to fall in a heap by the roadside.

Gasbag wrote:Its a big decision for me, and one I've put off for years [ I keep playing safe with MG s] but I think its now or never.


And there's the crux of the question that only you can answer. Imagine you're walking towards two cars parked up on a sunny day, one is an MG, the other a Lotus.

Which one gets the smile ? That's the one you need to buy......

Brian
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PostPost by: Spyder fan » Tue Jul 27, 2021 5:33 pm

Lotus Elans and +2’s have very short service intervals, but I don’t want to put you off owning one :D

£25k is a healthy budget for a +2, you should get a good one for that amount, there are various publications that point you towards the right questions to ask such as has it had a replacement chassis and sill members and has the engine, box and drivetrain been overhauled/restored and is there evidence of continuous maintenance and care especially for electrical stuff.

Unless you have a knowledgeable friend with experience of +2’s and Elans who you can take with you to look at cars then I would advise that you look towards the specialist sellers such as Paul Matty who has a good reputation and you will get a warranty that won’t be available from private sellers.

Don’t expect concours for £25k, you will need to compromise on paint finish or interior quality or other appearance stuff. Just don’t compromise on engine/gearbox/Electricals/and other mechanicals.

PS: +2 is far better than an MGC, you get loads of positive attention on the road and they are great to drive.
Kindest regards

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PostPost by: TBG » Tue Jul 27, 2021 5:43 pm

Quote "Lotus Elans and +2’s have very short service intervals" - well not really. I find that with modern oils and greases about 5k to 8k miles is fine for oil changes, and if one is going for a long trip say 6k miles no problem at all. As most polishers rather than drivers don't do 5k miles in 10 years (!) it is not a problem..................D

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PostPost by: Spyder fan » Tue Jul 27, 2021 6:06 pm

David, your car is used on a regular basis and is maintained accordingly, I know that you have owned it for a long time and have ironed out any disappointing aspects such as fitting an upgraded radiator with twin electric fans as well as other “adjustments” to factory specification.

Apart from synthetic oil, what else have you learned over the years that you can pass on as advice to prospective owners?
Kindest regards

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PostPost by: TBG » Tue Jul 27, 2021 8:42 pm

Alan - well the only practical advice that I can give is to take it out and drive it. Used regularly they are amazingly reliable - no worse than any 1960s motor car - in fact a whole lot better than many. Having passed well over 200k miles so far and climbing I can only relay my experience. Yes I have solid drive shafts, electronic ignition, big radiator and so on, but mainly I use it all year round and it seems to love it. Never repainted it in 35/6 years or so and it it still seems to draw the crowds. Stone chips, micro bubbles and so on do not detract at all from the pure joy of giving it the welly over the Alps and elsewhere.. Just love it and drive it is my advice. The grand children are already looking closely at my will..................!! D

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PostPost by: Slowtus » Tue Jul 27, 2021 10:48 pm

Buy now - worry later. :D
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PostPost by: sabbot » Wed Jul 28, 2021 2:35 am

A good well sorted +2 will be great but a bad one will be a nightmare. See if a local knowledgeable owner in the UK will let you survey his or hers and point out all the things to look out for. Bodywork issues are obvious and electrics are relatively cheap to fix as a DIYer but can be time consuming and therefore costly if paying someone else by the hour. Mechanicals are not all that expensive or complicated but you don’t want to have to pay someone to do a diff, transmission or engine rebuild if you buy a £25k tarted up lemon.
Until recently you were never going to break even buying a +2 and restoring I.e. performing a good restoration was either a game of love or insanity, hence there aren’t so many truly good restorations. However prices have been creeping up (at least here in the US) to the point where buying something less than a complete basket case at the right price and then having the work done well might almost be cost-effective and represent a good peace of mind option, but you’ll still likely end up spending more than £25k
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PostPost by: hysteric » Wed Jul 28, 2021 2:50 pm

Whilst not in your doorstep Lakeside Engineering in Addlestone may be where you would be servicing. I’m in Woking and plan to either use lakeside or Max500 in Guildford.

I’ve just purchased a +2 last month from UK Sports Cars who were great and whilst 25k won’t buy you concours I would expect to be on the road driving happily the next day for that wedge.

From my first month of owning (after selling my old BMWs and Golfs) I bloody love this car.. hasn’t blown up yet… major smiles/mile … although my next project is repairing the drivers seat, then suspension and then probably the ignition…you get the picture :D
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PostPost by: mikealdren » Wed Jul 28, 2021 4:57 pm

Another option with your budget is to look at a Zetec car. Many here will throw up their hands in horror and I can understand why but you could end up with a +2 with more modern engine, gearbox, brakes, starter, alternator etc that will only require servicing like any 1980s car.
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PostPost by: stuart » Wed Jul 28, 2021 4:59 pm

Hi Alan
I live in Croydon and have 2 x +2s 130/5
Pop over and have a look / ride in one
Not for sale though!! Have had them 20 years and 5 years

Regards
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PostPost by: Baggy2 » Wed Jul 28, 2021 10:46 pm

Hi
I've owned a +2 for 40+ years and for the last couple of years I've owned an MGB GT as well. I know a C will be different to a B but I can tell you as far as handling and driving pleasure is concerned there is just no comparison.
I don't think the Lotus requires any more maintenance than the MG and whilst some parts may be less robust than the MG a small amount of care will avoid damage. There are two things on the Lotus that are potential problems that dont exist on the MG - Donuts in the drive shafts and Pop-up headlights. The donuts are an expensive pain in the backside to replace but I'd say a high proportion of cars have had them replaced with CV joints - if you're after trouble free motoring make sure the car you buy has been converted. You probably know the pop up headlights operate by vacuum. The pipes / joints / switches can leak and the pods rust out. There are electric conversions and I'd suggest you check this out when making your purchase. A major point in favour of the Lotus is lack of rust. Every time my B gets wet I worry about which nook and cranny the water is getting into to eat it away - probably invisibly until its too late. Most Elans today will have replacement chassis and most of these will be galvanised . In this respect the Lotus is far more robust than the MG.
If you do need any parts / spares Lotus parts are more expensive than the astonishingly low prices for MG parts.
I don't think you said if your MGC is a GT - if it is you might miss the practicality of the hatch back - if it isn't you might miss the 'wind in the hair' with the roof down ( soft top +2s are few and far between)
In conclusion I'd say dont be put off by stories of high maintenance and fragility, just buy the car you like to own and drive best.
Hope that helps
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PostPost by: Gasbag » Wed Jul 28, 2021 11:15 pm

Thanks for all the advice chaps, you've all given me lots to take on board !
I'm glad to hear that generally the Elan can be reliable, but obviously I need to buy with caution. Yes it would make sense to buy from a reputable Lotus garage as I'm new to the make, and It may be safer [ but more pricey ?]
Thanks for the local garage flag ups, Lakeside and Max 500. Useful to know.

Brian - your very well scribed advice got me thinking, what would I chose on a sunny day for a drive, a MGC or Elan......? Well an Elan because your correct it would give the biggest grin factor per mile. That's why I am going to start looking once the MG is sold. So I shall put a for sale note in windscreen at the next car show[ Worthing classic on 15th - if anyone is going?]

Stuart- thanks very much for your offer to view both your Elans, that would be great. Once I figure out the message system I will send you my contact details !!

Alan.
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