Seen at a local car rally, one of my Top 10 cars of all time. A very bright green example of the beautiful, dynamic, elegant, fragile, and inherently flawed Lotus Elan Plus 2. This agile, fast, desirable little sports coupé is capable of breaking a man’s heart almost as badly as would falling hopelessly in love with the wrong woman.
Based on the equally desirable, but even smaller Elan, the plus 2 had a longer wheelbase, was a little wider and heavier, but came with two rear seats big enough for a briefcase / ladies purse, or small children.
The Plus 2 followed the basic Lotus layout of a backbone chassis, Lotus-Ford Twin Cam engine, mated to a Ford gearbox, putting the power down though Lotus’ idiosyncratic independent rear suspension, with brilliant independent front suspension and lightning fast steering, all clothed in a pretty closed coupé fibreglass body shell.
Any Lotus, from any era, should be a dynamically brilliant, blisteringly fast car, (on anything other than the freeway / motorway / autobahn, where its flaws will be most obvious), capable of putting a silly smile on your face every single time you drive it. The secrets are a stiff chassis, compliant suspension, low weight, small size, fast steering, brilliant roadholding, and enough power. Very simple really.
Simplify, then add lightness. ~ Colin Chapman
The philosophy of Lotus follows that set by the genius Colin Chapman, and that philosophy is in every nut and bolt of the Elan +2. This mantra of simplicity and lightness is what results in both the Elan’s brilliance and it’s flaws. Lotus would never make one component do only one job on the car, not if they could make the same component do two or three different jobs. To give you an example; on the Elan, the concealed headlamps are raised and lowered by a vacuum system that uses a front chassis cross member as the reservoir… Clever, but crazy. This philosophy of being as light as possible and then lighter than that, resulted in some spectacular fragility in Lotus Formula 1 cars.
In the Elan +2 this obsession with lightness and simplicity will result in breakages and breakdowns, on a depressingly regular basis. I would caution anyone who is not either mechanically adept, or rich, (or insane), not to buy one of these heartbreakingly wonderful little cars.
Some say that LOTUS stands for;
Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious.
Personally, given the time and money, I could rebuild an Elan +2 from the badge backwards. Come to that, new backbone chassis and body shells are available, so I could build myself a brand new Elan plus 2, from the garage floor upwards. Budget for that? Using some reconditioned components, start at $20,000 and work towards double that, (not counting my time). The benefit of building my own ‘Lotus’ would be I could re-engineer the basic car using more durable modern components ~ such as the Ford Zetec engine.
Would I buy, rebuild, or build an Elan plus 2, this infinitely desirable, dynamically wonderful little car. The short answer is no. The long answer is, no I still wouldn’t, and that’s broken my heart already. If I really wanted a fast classic coupé, I’d look for the far more agricultural, but still pretty, Reliant Scimitar GTE. Whereas a decent Elan +2 would cost me £15,000, I could most likely get a decent Reliant Scimitar for around £5,000. Of the two, which do you think would break first?