there’s nothing wrong with the car, except that it’s on fire
Back in the great days of motor racing, before it became a procession of ugly electric slot cars, the iconic commentator and pundit on the BBC was a chap called Murray Walker ~ famous for getting it all wrong at the best time. The music for the opening credits for the Grand Prix show on TV was The Chain by Fleetwood Mac.
This is the short version.
Murray Walker passed away about a year ago. He loved this lotus 72 as driven by Emerson Fittipaldi
I want a car, chicks dig the car
Le Mans with Steve Mcqueen
Shocking, Cool, Hot, Surprising, Sexy, Lotus.
This car was a leap into the unknown and only a dynamic English small-volume sports and racing car company could have come up with this unique little package. (Well, maybe Honda or Suzuki could have come up with something similar.)
The first thing you need to know about the M100 series Lotus Elan is that it’s front-wheel drive. Front wheel drive is an anathema to sports car enthusiasts. The engine in this Elan came out an Isuzu van, and the whole project was financed by General Motors. Front wheel drive isn’t ideal in a very fast car ~ torque steer, bump steer, lift-off oversteer, steering kickback, lack of traction…. to name a few problems.
The quickest point to point car available. ~ Autocar Magazine
Real drivers will tell you that the M100 Lotus Elan remains the best driving front-wheel drive car ever made, bar none.
Almost all the 1,588 cc dohc 16 valve engines were turobcharged. Power from the turbocharged engine comes in at a very healthy 165 bhp, and 148 ft/lbs of torque, driving through a 5 speed gearbox, and this little car weighs just about a tonne, (1,020 kilos). Flat out this Elan should almost touch 140 mph.
Like almost all Lotus, it’s a pretty fibreglass body over a steel backbone chassis, but this time there’s a clever ‘floating’ subframe to carry the engine, gearbox, and front suspension.
It’s rare. less than 5,000 built in all, (including about 800 which were built and sold by Kia).
It’s cool, and it’s cute, and it’s fairly practical, which makes it a great girl’s car. It’s also quirky, clever in engineering terms, and it’s bloody fast, which means that a real man would look good owning one of these things. Even though it’s a bit metrosexual the M100 Elan qualifies as a very cool car. Also, unlike many Lotus products, you don’t have to be a contortionist to get in and out of this Elan.
If you can find one, you can buy a decent M100 Elan for £ 5,000. But beware, it’s a Lotus, so it will go wrong and bits will fall off. And, if the backbone chassis is rusted or damanged, expect a lot of heartache and expense.
Any car which holds together for more than a race is too heavy. ~ Colin Chapman
But, and here’s the thing, the M100 was supposed to be a high-volume product, and GM / Lotus spent about $100 million developing this little Elan. This is a strong, tough, well thought out, sexy little car. Would I own one? Would I use this Elan for a transcontinental road trip? In a New York Second I would.
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?