Lotus began the difficult and expensive task of replacing its model range in the early 1970s. The Elan and Europa were beginning to look a little dated and the Ford-Lotus engine had reached the peak of its development.
Colin Chapman decided to move up-market and the result was the smart Type 75 Elite, a shooting brake with a practical hatchback luggage compartment, and the similar fastback Eclat, both arriving in 1974. The glass-fibre reinforced polyester body was produced in two horizontal halves by the Lotus patent ‘Vacuum Assisted Resin Injection Process’, the two halves being bonded at the waistline. Steel door beams and a roll-over bar ensured good crash protection, aided by the superb Chapman-designed steel backbone chassis.
The new, all-alloy 1,973cc Lotus-designed engine had first been seen in the Jensen-Healey. It was on a slant to keep the car’s nose low, had 16-valves and produced 155bhp breathing through its twin Dellorto 45 DHLA carburettors. True to form, the basic car weighed in at a whisker over 1,000kg (contemporary sports car makers take note) which gave it a very respectable turn of speed: 0-60 in 7.2 seconds with a top speed of 131mph. Just as well, as it was the most expensive 4-cylinder car on the market at the time.
Elite production ceased in 1982 after just 2,535 had been made, DVLA records showing that only 440 are still UK registered today. Rare and distinctively of their period with that flamboyant wedge shaped styling, we can't help feeling that they are somewhat undervalued in the current market.
First registered in August 1974, this prime example was purchased by the vendor five years ago in a rather scruffy state and treated to a full body-off restoration. Once stripped, the chassis was professionally repaired and resprayed by a local specialist, George & Reeves of Bridgend. They also stripped and repaired the bodywork, repainting it Lotus red, a change from its original white.
A mass of bills on file show just how many new parts were used in the rebuild, including a brand new wiring loom, radiator, fuel tank, brake pipes, suspension arms, discs and pads, hoses, calipers, hand brake cables, steering rack, fuel pump, four new tyres (£600 alone) …the list goes on and on.
Mechanically the engine was also overhauled, with the 16-valve head removed, refaced and the valves carefully ground. Electronic ignition has also been fitted. The gearbox was also overhauled, with 2nd gear synchromesh being replaced, the car getting a full service and a new timing belt for good measure.
The Lotus was then sent to ‘A Touch of Class’ to be retrimmed in an attractive black and red colour scheme. This included all of the upholstery and carpets as shown by the accompanying bill for £2,000. The end results speak for themselves, this Elite 501 being perhaps one of the best examples in the country.
On offer only because of lack of time in which to enjoy it and imminent loss of storage, it has hardly been used since completion but has a fresh MOT The icing on the cake is the attractive and transferable two letter, four number registration, LS 8943, which comes with the car.