Elite Reflections

And Old

Sitting in the background of one of the Lotus Elite road test colour pictures last month as a subtle comparison of line was one of the original Elite's (the Mk 14) which launched the fortunes of Colin Chapman. It was by courtesy of Miles Wilkins, a fanatic for the old Elite, who is now making most of his living by specialising in the repair and renovation of the model.

Miles Wilkins runs his firm, Fibreglass Srvices, in part of an old mill in the little village of Charlston at the base of the downs before Goodwood racecourse. The journey from his home at Little Melbury, Selsey Road, Donnington, near Chichester, Sussex, where customers should contact him (telephone, Chichester 86265) takes him past Goodwood Circuit where his early interest in Elites was cultivated.

A Bachelor of Science, Miles Wilkins was a chemist whose studies happened to include research on corrosion of glass-fibre (not that I knew that glass-fibre did corrode before I met him) . But life as an industrial chemist did not appeal to him and somehow or other he eventually found himself as Service Manager of Len Street, the London Lotus agent. After a spell there he gradually built up a living as a one-man mobile glass-fibre repair specialist, based on his home near Chichester, providing an on-berth service for the thousands of boat owners in the area. Meanwhile he was running an S3 Elan, built by him from kit form, and rebuilding in every detail an Elite which he'd acquired. Somebody asked him if he would do some work on another Elite, word got around and in no time at all he'd found himself living in a world of Elites with boats as a secondary pastime.

Now he undertakes any facet of Elite repairing, rebuilding and servicing, including rebuilds of the Coventry-Climax engines and full re-trimming. His possibly unique speciality is the repair of crashed Elites, however badly mangled the glass-fibre might be. In addition he has managed to purchase most of the remaining Elite spares including some of the rare wishbones, so it would appear that this is a man whom none of the owners of the remaining 355 Elites (998 were built) can do without. He will also undertake the repair of any glass-fibre boats or cars and was completing the repair of shattered GT 40 front and rear sections when I called.

My visit to Miles Wilkins wouldn't have been complete without a drive in his own Elite (the one in the road test photograph was a customer's car) as a comparison with the 1975 Chapman product I'd arrived in. Immaculate, although slightly spoiled by arches flared by a previous owner, the Wilkins car had a newly rebuilt Super 95 engine, four-speed ZF gearbox and Koni shock-absorbers. Even 12 years after the last Lotus Mk 14 was produced, the old magic- and noise, and sparseness of trim- was still there. The balance, the roadholding, the excellent steering has few equals today and few cars have approached the classic beauty of it's lines. In terms of creature comforts there is no comparison with the present Elite, but both have the same Chapman hallmark in their road behaviour.-- C.R.