In October 1962, the Lotus Elan sports car, also known as the Type 26, was launched at the Earls Court Motor Show in London as the Elan 1500. Colin Chapman visualised the Elan as being a replacement for the Lotus Seven and the Elite, built as a glass fibre monocoque construction. By the time it reached the prototype stage, it was agreed that it would incorporate a steel backbone chassis construction, which meant that the Elan would be not only light and rigid, but also much easier to manufacture than its predecessor. The innovative folded-steel backbone chassis stiffened the shell while adding a minimum of extra weight. With light and tactile steering as well as soft, long-travel suspension the combination was that the Elan one of the best-handling cars ever, with a compliant ride too. It had all-disc brakes, rack-and-pinion steering, and all-coil independent suspension with rear MacPherson struts. For the engine, it used a new dual-overhead camshaft conversion of its new oversquare small ‘four’ and this Lotus 1558cc engine, developing 105 hp at 5,700 rpm.
The Elan evolved over a dozen years, gaining a bit more power, a companion coupe, and nicer appointments, even siring a stretched “+2” coupe series. The final (of the original) version, the 1971-74 Sprint, was arguably the best, thanks to its 126-hp “Big Valve” engine. As Elan models (Series) advanced, it was hard to tell what components a specific Elan would come with. Sometimes old stock was used up in new models, and sometimes new stock was used to finish out an old model run. And sometimes major component change would occur in the middle of a series.
Note: Lotus made a race car version of the Elan, which you can find here on our Lotus Race Car List.
Lotus Elan Variants