It’s what wasn’t included that made the original Elan special. Colin Chapman simply left out much of the weight and size that other makers deemed necessary to a sports car. And power too: why bother with costly big sixes or bulky V8s when a compact Ford-based four offering you a modest 105bhp could propel a lightweight vehicle at pulse-raising speeds, as long as it also handled with the poise of a tightrope walker? That was the Chapman recipe, served up on a bed of structural ingenuity and task-sharing forethought that made components do double duty wherever possible.
True, that trademark cruciform chassis was only meant to be a testing expedient under the intended glassfibre monocoque, but having made its way to production it contributed to one of the world’s great cars. Reliability and endurance scares simply melted away for a driver on a snaking road, sensing the grip though a slender wheel that practically whispered back to you, enjoying balance and agility that little else could match at the time. Few cars have done so since…
A good Elan still delivers that mix, and this example promises all you could want. Restored at great expense by its last owner and then stored for many years, this 1967 car boasts all the refinements of the Series 3 including the legendary Lotus twin-cam engine. Recently rebuilt by a Lotus-trained mechanic in the School Garage workshop, it has only 100 miles on it. Underneath that simple, sleek shape, says seller Martin Daly, the chassis and suspension components are all new, and couplings replace the notorious Rotoflex driveshaft joints.
“It’s barely been used since the rebuild,” says Daly, “and everything about it is exactly as it should be.” He’s been a fan of Elans since they were fresh on the scene and reckons this one is well up to snuff. “I have a Ferrari 458 Italia of my own,” he says, “which is the finest thing I’ve ever driven – but old as it is, this Elan still gives you the same sort of thrill. It’s a fantastic drive.”
In its bright red with black trim and new hood to match, this remains one of the prettiest convertibles around. It was the Elan that Mazda looked to when visualising the MX-5, as being the distillation of the British sports car. The essence of enjoyment, in fact.
For sale @ The School Garage Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. www.classiccarshop.co.uk
Engine: 1558cc twin-cam four
Transmission: five-speed manual
Suspension: front: double wishbones, rear: Chapman strut, wide lower wishbone
Top speed: 118mph
Number built: 9800 approx