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09 Feb 2024

Lotus celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Elite

Lotus Grand Tourers Stand: 5-235
Lotus celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Elite
Colin Chapman with the Lotus Elite outside Ketteringham Hall
This year's Restoration Show will see a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Lotus Elite.

In 1974 Colin Chapman released a remarkable new car to the world - the Lotus Elite (Type 75).  This car was a step change for Lotus, representing the first fruits of Chapman's drive to move the brand more upmarket, away from the kits and racing-derived cars they were known for.  As such it was a usable four-seater (at least, if you were Chapman's height!), with luggage space, power steering, air conditioning, automatic gearbox option, and a much more luxurious interior than the cars that came before.  Despite the comfort, it still drove and handled absolutely as a Lotus should.

It was also a breakthrough in another way, being the first Lotus to used an entirely Lotus-designed and built engine.  The 900 series was the first mass-production 4-valve-per-cylinder engine in the world, having already been fitted to the Jensen Healey that came out a few months before the better-known Triumph Dolomite Sprint.  This race-derived technology gave sparkling performance with initially 155 hp from 2.0 litres, plenty for the lightweight 1,112 kg car.

Oliver Winterbottom's striking design still looks futuristic 50 years after the car was introduced.  It divided opinion, and still does, but it cannot be ignored.  It also had a practical purpose, giving the car a drag coefficient of 0.30, quite remarkable at the time.

A year later a fastback version, the Eclat, was introduced, and in 1982 both were supplanted by the Excel, resulting the the same essential design remaining in production for 18 years.

The Lotus Grand Tourers is the club that covers all three of these cars, along with the Esprit that was produced alongside.  At the 2024 Restoration Show they will be celebrating with an Elite from the first year of production, currently mid restoration and sympathetic upgrading.  The stand will also feature a pre-production prototype Elite Coupe, the car that would become the Eclat, and an Esprit with body separated from chassis.  Join the celebrations on Stand 5-235!


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