Colin Chapman’s enthusiasm for ‘adding lightness’ is well known, and if there was one car that proved his theory as well as the famous Seven (if not better) it was surely the svelte and slippery Elite launched in 1957.
Despite being powered by a lowly 1216cc Coventry Climax FWE motor derived from a fire engine pump, the Elite’s gossamer 500kg weight combined with that famous Lotus handling enabled it to show a clean pair of heels to many more powerful cars, while its frugal fuel consumption also made it a handy endurance racer – with the result that Elites achieved class wins in every Le Mans 24 Hour race from 1959 to 1964.
For the preparation of works cars the factory relied on an outfit called Team Elite that was the racing division of Derby Lotus dealership David Buxton Limited – and it was to Buxton himself that the Elite you see here was originally supplied in September 1960.
After many years as a road car, the Elite was acquired by the respected Leicestershire-based historic race preparation specialist Simon Hadfield, who modified it into a highly competitive machine that achieved numerous podium finishes, including a class win at the Spa Six Hours.
Since 2015, the car has been owned by enthusiastic driver, Equipe Classic Racing organiser and former Virgin Radio CEO John Pearson, who has lavished £50,000 on it to create what must be one of the most attractive and best-fettled racing Elites available today.
The pristine body benefits from Perspex side windows and lightweight bonnet and boot lid, while the numerous other racing modifications include a T45 roll cage, Tillett Racing seat, Willans harness, race battery and foam-filled fuel tank.
The correct Coventry Climax engine has seen just five races since a full specialist rebuild that included the fitting of a Boss Racing cylinder head with Twin 40 DCOE Weber carburettors, lightweight alloy radiator and Maniflow stainless exhaust system. The list also extends to the suspension and steering (all rebuilt and re-aligned), the transmission (rebuilt BMC gearbox with straight-cut gears driving a limited-slip differential, and the braking system (upgraded to late-model specification).
A well-sorted Elite such as this one is possibly even more competitive today than the original cars were when new – and the model’s 1957 launch year makes it eligible for FIA Period E events, with this particular car being invited to compete at last year’s Goodwood Moss Trophy where it lined up against considerably more valuable cars, such as Ferrari 250s and Aston Martin DB4s.
After three years of great racing with the car, Pearson is now selling in order to focus his attention on a somewhat hairier 3-litre Healey. He’ll undoubtedly enjoy the larger car’s extra grunt – but he’s bound to miss the Elite’s finesse which results from all that ‘added lightness.’
1960 Lotus Elite. £92,500
On offer privately from John Pearson, Surrey by email: [email protected]
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