Classified spotlight: Lotus Elan Sprint

Historic Racing News


The Lotus Elan broke cover in 1962. It measured 3.68m long, 1.42m wide and 1.15m high. Even by ’60s standards it was a small car. The modern Lotus Elise, itself a compact machine, is almost 30cm wider. The Elan’s narrow waistline helped fulfil the Lotus MO – reducing weight wherever possible. It tipped the scales at just 688kg.

Though light, the car was also technically advanced. It utilised a spine-like steel chassis and fibreglass bodywork. While many in-period rivals were fitted with live rear axles the Lotus featured independent suspension all round. The Elan also offered a full complement of disc brakes and a 1558cc Lotus-Ford twin-cam. Squeezing the engine behind the front wheels enabled a 47.5/52.5 weight distribution and contributed to the cars renowned handling.

The Elan went through various iterations, all produced in Hethel, until production ceased in 1973. The last version of the car, the Lotus Elan Sprint, was also the most potent. The preceding Series 4 generated 115bhp at 6000rpm but the Sprint upped those figures to 126bhp at 6500rpm. The additional performance was unlocked through enlarged inlet valves, modified camshafts and a higher compression ratio. Other upgrades included black steel wheels, F1-inspired colour schemes, interior tweaks and strengthened differential mountings.

For good reason, the Sprint has become a highly sought after Elan variant. Easily distinguished by their gold bumpers and decals, a reference to Team Lotus, good Sprints now command in excess of £35,000. The car pictured here, due for auction in The Salon Privé Sale later this week, is expected to fetch at least that figure.

‘LWR 40K’ has been particularly well cared for. Its paperwork reveals it was fitted with a genuine replacement chassis in 1983. More recently, it has benefitted from a complete restoration. The chassis has been surfaced, cleaned and coated with a high performance rust prevention treatment while all suspension components have been disassembled, checked and lovingly pieced back together. During this process all bearings and bushes were replaced and adjustable dampers fitted.

The oily parts received just as much attention. The gearbox and differential were rebuilt by Lotus specialists Paul Matty Sportscars while the engine was stripped, cleaned and fine-tuned by JS Motorsport. JSM are vastly experienced with the 1558cc unit and recorded this particular engine at 134bhp on its in-house dyno.

The car also received an electrical overhaul and a professional respray. It is now, in many ways, better prepared than the day it first left the factory in ’71. When launched, the Sprint could out-accelerate a Series 2 Jaguar E-type. When you consider the Series 2 was powered by a 4.2-litre straight-6 the Lotus’s giant slaying performance becomes clear.

Fortunately for Jaguar, the Sprint did not benefit from a large production run. Although accurate records were destroyed during a flood in the late ‘70s, sensible production estimates indicate a figure approaching 1400 Sprints were built (both drop head and fixed head versions). As such, though not wildly rare, you are unlikely to meet another example on a b-road blast, never mind one in this state of fettle.

LWR 40K looks just-so in its predominantly red livery, set off perfectly by its black wheels and chrome knock-off nuts. The brand’s heritage is displayed proudly on the car’s flanks with two plaques marking F1 successes in ‘63, ‘65, ‘68 and ‘70. Of course, Team Lotus won constructors’ titles on three further occasions, but those glories occurred after this car’s manufacture. Peer under the bonnet and the words ‘LOTUS, BIG VALVE’ jump from the cam cover assuring you this is no standard Elan – it is a Sprint and bidding is likely to be similarly rapid.

This car is due to be sold through Silverstone Auctions this Friday – click here to visit its page

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