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  •   Johann Venter reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    Fancy a classic Lotus wedge? Chris Randall helps you choose the best. / #Lotus-Elite / #Lotus /

    Lotus founder Colin Chapman could never be accused of lacking ambition. In 1970, he outlined plans for a new range of cars, which would ultimately evolve into the production in 1974 of the Lotus Elite Type 75 (to distinguish it from the earlier Elite Type 14) and the fastback Eclat a year later. Both models suffered from high prices compared with their opposition, so final production numbers were somewhat below Chapman’s expectations, but today these stylish cars are available for very tempting prices.

    Owning a Lotus has always been about the driving experience and with the marque a byword for superb handling, these front-engine models don’t disappoint. As long as the suspension is in good fettle, an Elite or Eclat offers tenacious grip allied to a well-controlled ride, making them a fi ne choice for covering long distances in comfort. Accurate and responsive steering and feelsome brakes add to the enjoyment, and allow you to make the most of the performance on offer.

    The 2.0-litre engine boasted a useful 155bhp and 135lb ft of torque, resulting in a car capable of cracking the 0-60mph sprint in just eight seconds before topping out at 125mph. The engine needs revving to get the best out of it, though, with maximum power not arriving until you’re past 6000rpm, so the extra torque of the later 2.2-litre unit makes for less frenetic progress.

    As well as looking great – thanks to the pen of talented designer, Oliver Winterbottom – the Elite is also practical with its 2+2 seating layout and glass hatchback; the Eclat made do with a smaller and less useful boot opening. Space in the back is a bit tight and adults probably wouldn’t have wanted to spend much time there despite what period adverts would have had you believe, but things are much better up front. Sitting close to the floor in comfortably reclined and bolstered seats, and faced by an imposing dashboard, the view out through the steeply raked windscreen to the low, low nose is pure sports car. It’s just how a Lotus should be.

    OUR VERDICT

    The combination of sharp looks and impressive dynamics are very tempting, but care is needed when buying one as the Elite/ Eclat can hide the sort of problems that risk laying waste to both your bank account and sanity. A good one, on the other hand, will be a very special experience indeed, so get specialist advice before taking the plunge.

    WHAT TO LOOK FOR

    Vacuum packed The Elite was the first model to use VARI (Vacuum Assisted Resin Injection) for the GRP bodywork – the quality was high, so it lasts well. Even so, check the condition carefully, looking for cracks, accident damage and signs of star crazing, because repairs will likely need professional attention. A top-notch respray won’t be cheap due to the preparation required.

    Rot-spots The chassis needs close examination as rot is common and can cost a fortune to put right. These cars weren’t galvanised until May 1980, so check them carefully, focusing on the areas around the engine and steering rack mounts, the front crossmember and the differential. The rear crossmember is another rot-spot, not helped by the soundproofing material above it, which absorbs moisture and allows it to corrode unseen. You’re looking at body removal if it’s bad, and while a new chassis can be had for around £2000, labour costs are substantial. Also check the windscreen; leaks are common when the bonding fails; the anodised exterior trim is easily damaged during removal. Replacement is the only cure.

    The long run Both 2.0 and 2.2-litre (from 1980) engines are reliable, but proper care is the key to longevity. The former can suffer from cracked exhaust manifolds, while both need checking for oil leaks as perished seals and gaskets are common. Radiators and water pumps can be a weak spot and ignoring coolant loss risks head gasket failure. Regular cambelt changes are crucial, especially on early engines that used a square-toothed belt that can jump on start-up. You’ll fi nd Dellorto carbs on most engines, and fuel can leak from split diaphragms. A full engine rebuild isn’t cheap either, so be wary of mechanical basket cases.

    Changing gear The Austin Maxi-derived gearbox was a bit weak and parts are getting rare, although the later Getrag unit was better. Check for the usual signs of weak synchromesh and obstructive shifts. More troublesome is the cableoperated clutch; the cable runs round a pulley which can seize, causing the cable to snap. A hydraulic set-up can be retro-fi tted, at a cost. Otherwise, it’s a case of checking for clunking universal joints, whines and oil leaks from the differential that can contaminate the inboard rear brakes. Noisy rear wheel bearings – they are Maxi items – are a common issue.

    Rock and roll Worn wishbone and antiroll bar bushes are the usual extent of suspension problems, although a complete overhaul can be pricey. However, a support pin for the rear wishbones, located at the differential, can shear and worn front trunnions are common. Check for corrosion of suspension parts and around the mountings. Steering-wise, look for PAS fluid leaks from the pump and rack while stiffness can be a sign that the steering column UJ is seizing. The inboard rear drums are a pain to service and often get overlooked, so ensure they are operating properly.

    Inside out Trim wasn’t especially robust and the pale fabrics are easily soiled, so don’t be surprised if the cabin is tatty. While most parts are available, refurbishment is pricey. It’s not unusual to find water damage, and condensation will damage the roof lining, causing it to sag, as well as playing havoc with the electrics. The wiper mechanism can be troublesome and check that the pop-up headlamps are working properly.

    Trim can be tatty but replacements are available. Engines were at the heart of the driving experience.

    Rear legroom is not as generous as the ads would have you believe.

    Take your time to find a good example and you’ll be well rewarded.

    OWNER’S VIEW

    PAUL JOHNSTONE

    ‘I have been a Lotus fan for a very long time and have owned my 1974 Elite for more than 32 years. I owned Elans and a Europa before that, which taught me a lot about the marque and how to repair them myself.

    ‘I was really impressed by a friend’s Elite. I was worried about engine reliability, though. Having read articles about converting them to a Rover V8, I managed to do a deal with the selling garage to buy the car minus the Lotus engine. A company in Northampton then fitted the V8, mating it to the Lotus gearbox that I had kept, although I later swapped it for a more suitable Rover transmission. The V8 actually came from a terminally rusty Rover P6 but it needed a few mods to fit beneath the Elite’s low bonnet.

    ‘It’s a great performer, with lots of torque. I’ve restored the car myself over time, including a respray from the original metallic blue to black, and it’s been back on the road for just over three years. It doesn’t get used much unfortunately, but it passes the MoT every year without problem.’
    Paul’s Elite is fitted with a Rover V8 and gearbox.


    WHAT TO PAY
    Concours £8000
    Excellent £5000-6000
    Usable £3000
    Project £500
    Prices for the Elite and Eclat are pretty similar, with the former edging ahead slightly, but it mainly comes down to personal preference. That and condition, which is the most important thing when considering either model. Interest and values were low at one time, but that’s beginning to change as the Lotus wedge models become more sought after. While cheap examples are out there, a full restoration will never make financial sense, so you should think very carefully before you take on a project.

    PARTS PRICES
    Windscreen £240
    Carb rebuild kit (Dellorto) £72
    Cambelt £40
    Gearbox (reconditioned) £1000
    Ignition switch £20
    (Prices are from Lotus Bits and exclude VAT)

    SPECIFICATIONS
    ENGINE 1973cc/4-cyl/DOHC
    POWER [email protected]
    TORQUE 135lb [email protected]
    TOP SPEED 125mph
    0-60MPH 8.1sec
    ECONOMY 20-22mpg
    GEARBOX 5-speed manual


    USEFUL CONTACTS
    Clubs & Specialists
    Club Lotus www.clublotus.co.uk
    Lotus Owners Club www.lotusownersclub.com
    SJ Sportscars www.sjsportscars.co.uk
    Paul Matty Sports Cars
    www.paulmattysportscars.co.uk
    Spydercars, www.spydercars.co.uk
    Lotus Bits www.lotusbits.com
    Kelvedon Motors www.kelsport.net
    PNM Engineering www.pnmengineering.com
    DLF Classic Cars www.dlfclassiccars.com

    LOTUS ECLATS FOR SALE
    classiccarsforsale.co.uk / #1981 #Lotus-Eclat £3750. In JPS colours, with a new MoT and in super condition. / #1976 Lotus Eclat £POA. Just 58,600 miles from new, and all-round condition is good.

    INSURANCE QUOTE
    1975 LOTUS ELITE S1, VALUE £6000 40-yearold accountant, living in PE9, car garaged, 5000mpa, clean risk and club member, second car so no NCD – £77.54 or £94.54 inc AV
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  •   Johann Venter reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    COOL CHARM OF THE RIVIERA / #Lotus-Eclat / #Lotus-Elite / #Lotus / #1982 / #Lotus-Elite-Riviera / #Lotus-Elite-2.2-Riviera

    Lotus Cars Ltd has announced the world wide launch of the #Lotus-Eclat-2.2-Riviera — launched on the U.K. market last October at London’s Motor Fair. The mechanical specification of the new car is identical to the Eclat S2.2 which continues in production.

    The major feature of the new Lotus 2.2 Riviera, is a detachable roof section over the driver and passenger compartment which is designed to be stowed in a protective cover in the luggage compartment. The roof can be removed very easily by one person, by the simple release of a single central catch. Other distinctive features of the Eclat 2.2 Riviera are redesigned engine cover louvres and an aerodynamic spoiler.

    The specification includes the Lotus all aluminium 2.2-litre 16 valve OHC engine with twin #Dellorto DHLA 45E carburettors and electronic ignition. An all synchromesh manual five speed gear box with a 4.1 to 1 differential final drive is offered. Alternatively the car can be supplied with an automatic gearbox.

    The attractive 2 plus 2 seat coachwork is constructed of #GFRP non corrosive material mounted on a special steel/backbone chassis protected against corrosion by hot dipped zinc plating. Electric windows and electrically operated remote control mirrors are fitted together with a heated rear window and front screen wash and wipe facility with intermittent control.

    Door opening warning lights, digital clock, and a comprehensive instrumentation with fibre optic illumination warning lights are included.

    A note on performance, acceleration from rest, 0-60 mph is 7.1 seconds, with a top speed of 132 mph for the manual model and 123 mph for the automatic version. Fuel consumption in urban driving areas is 20 mpg increasing to 36 mpg plus at a constant 56 mph. The car fitted with the automatic gear box returns slightly lesser figures.

    Riviera — prices start at £15,300 including car tax and VAT (Basic Eclat £14,896 inc. Tax/VAT).

    The appeal of the Riviera is such that we are extending this feature of the detachable roof to our Elite models.
    This adds a further £404 to the basic cost of the Elite making the price for the new Riviera Elite £16,179. These prices are confirmed as at April 1, 1982.

    Right, the Riviera Elite. The new Lotus Eclat 2.2 Riviera with detachable roof section that stows in the luggage compartment.
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  •   Johann Venter reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    Colin Chapmans #Lotus-Elite-S2 JPS en route to #1982 Hockenheim at Zeebrugge / #Lotus / #Lotus-Elite ‏ — at Zeebrugge, Bruges, Belgium
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  •   Johann Venter reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    Lotus Elite NOT NOW, CATO!

    Largely unloved in its day, this Lotus has been totally transformed into a jawdropping, belly-scraping, air-bagged masterpiece.

    Taking an old-school Lotus and slamming it to the ground is so hot right now. Luke Gilbert is leading the charge with this low-down miscreant, The Red Panther… Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Chris Frosin.

    The element of surprise was vital to the storytelling mystique of the Pink Panther movies. Arguably the greatest narrative ingredient was the relentlessly startling character of Cato, expertly portrayed by Burt Kwouk, who’d always be waiting to leap out of a cupboard and pounce on Clouseau, his orders being to attack at random in order to keep the Inspector alert. It’s fair to say, then, that the low-slung Lotus Elite we’re basking in the glory of today owes rather a debt to Cato; indeed, it carries on the manservant’s work, pouncing on unsuspecting classic car enthusiasts and wrestling them to the ground with its belligerently non-conformist attitude. It’s one of a series of bagged Lotuses that have appeared on the scene recently, although this is no bandwagon-jumping exercise – it’s something its owner has been hankering after for some time, and the roots of the tale stem back to his childhood.


    It’s often said that we, as a species, exist merely as the sum of our influences; everything we see, hear, taste, enjoy, disagree with, and hanker after shapes the rounded humans we each become. This is thrown into sharp focus by the example of Luke Gilbert, the man behind this Elite, as it acts as a flawless mirror of the televisual preferences of his formative years. “I grew up in a golden age of children’s TV, watching The Banana Splits, The Monkees, The Red Hand Gang, Sesame Street, and The Hair Bear Bunch,” he reminisces, a whimsical smile playing about the lips. A theme that tied many shows of the era together was the unusual cars that appeared on screen – the Pontiac GTO-based Monkeemobile, the weird little six-wheeled buggies that the Banana Splits drove, the Barris Batmobile, American TV was drip-feeding custom car culture into young minds with sneaky insistence. “As I grew up I always had these niggling questions buzzing around my head - who built these cars? Where did they come from? And after some research I became familiar with such names as George Barris, Ed Roth, Dean Jeffries; later on with the advent of Sky TV I learnt about Boyd Coddington and Chip Foose, and even recently the Fast ‘n’ Loud crew have all inspired me in my quest to create a car that recalls such legendary customisers.”

    With a head full of dreams and a few quid in his pocket, Luke found himself in a position to do that which we all aspire to: make his dreams solid, by creating something unique and unusual. “A style and vision soon developed in my mind,” he explains. “Low and moody, big rims, quality detailing – that was my passion early on, and although my skillset is far greater now than those early days, it’s a rhetoric I hold dear. I never build a car to follow a scene or chase kudos, and I’m certainly not in it for the glory - my aim is to create a car that I like, and build on the classic hot rod principles: ‘Make it look better, go faster!’” With so many retro touchpoints on his palette and individuality for a brush, it was inevitable that he’d end up painting something pretty special. So how did this eager creativity come to manifest itself in the form of The Red Panther…?


    At the time that this Lotus found its way into Luke’s life, he’d been without a classic car for a couple of years. The pressure to get back on the horse was proving too much to bear, and some inevitable Googling led him to the notion of rekindling an old flame; having previously owned and restored a 1978 Esprit S2, the idea of stepping back into oldschool Lotus ownership started to seem very appealing. Some fairly extensive searching unearthed a sorry-looking candidate; “a red #1977 Lotus Elite sitting at the back of a house, paint faded, bumpers cracked, flat tyres, and the most horrific botched interior you will ever see,” Luke recalls. “You get the picture. But unfortunately it was miles away!

    So I called the guy - very nice bloke - and started chatting away… I could tell from his description that the car was potentially a good one, despite being rather tired.” And so a viewing was arranged – at, er, 1am, by torchlight. How Hollywood is that? “I was going on holiday, flying out from Stansted, and the car was near the airport, so it made sense to sneak in a viewing while I was in the area,” he laughs. “It was pitch black and freezing cold, but I could tell that the body was as straight as an arrow and the engine ran well; throw in the bonus of a recent chassis change, and the deal was done!”

    Luke could see that he had a diamond in the rough, but ‘rough’ was very much the operative word – a faded and shabby exterior, a frankly hideous interior, oxidised wheels, and a flaky clutch that didn’t want to play ball. The latter was job one on the list; a job that involved taking the engine out, and as such ended up incorporating a thorough servicing and replacement of all seals and belts. It’s an interesting engine, in fact, the 2.0-litre slantfour effectively being one bank of a V8 with a couple of sodding great carbs strapped to it, and it imbues the Lotus with a real sense of character, not to mention a little mischief.

    So if that was job one, what would job two have to be? Why, lowering the thing, of course! “Sounds easy, right?” Luke grimaces. “Nah, it was three solid months of headscratching and grazed knuckles, and I lost count of the times I clattered my head on the wheelarches. I mulled over various options – lowering springs, coilovers and so on – but concluded that the only way to realise my childhood vision would be to install airbags, so that’s what I did.” Now, the idea of airbags may conjure up images of VAG-themed show-and-shines for some of you, with young fellas in Golfs adjusting their suspension via mobile apps and whatnot. But you’ll be pleased to learn that Luke’s approach is gratifyingly vintage; he’s fitted universal bags over Spax shocks at the front and Monroe airrams at the rear, and it’s all manually pumped! None of this e-level trickery here, it works on the same principle as an airbed or a beach ball.

    We can’t help but admire that enormously. “Once it had been dropped and was mechanically sound, I turned my attention to the cosmetics, which were seriously flagging,” he continues. “The interior was awful - someone’s failed attempt to reupholster it had gone badly wrong, with very poor fit and a hideous colour combination. So I spent the next eight months trawling the internet before I hit the jackpot – an original, unrestored Giugiaro interior – needless to say it was on my drive the next day!” A new dash and centre console quickly followed, requiring a six-hour round trip to retrieve, and Luke found himself obsessively and fastidiously carrying out a list of fixes as long as your arm: a custom headliner that took two months to craft, custom carpets that took another month, and all manner of piquant detail embellishments. “The effort’s paid off though, it’s a glorious place to be,” he enthuses. “A 1970s timewarp!”

    It’s worth pointing out here that Luke was keen to tackle every job on the car himself. Every solution, every mistake, every skinned knuckle or blackened thumb was a milestone in the journey to completing his dream, and you can imagine how much more satisfying that makes the finished product for him. But the garage can be a lonely place and, as much as he’d always been shy of online car forums with their trolls and haters and potential for mischief, he decided to chronicle the build of the Lotus on Retro Rides. “To my relief, the response was amazing!” he says. “So much positivity, encouragement and advice just poured in. That sort of encouragement does a lot for morale - at times when it’s all going pear-shaped, when you’re up to your eyeballs in garage crap, when your tools disappear into the fifth dimension, but you know you have a supportive audience that wants you to succeed, it really helps.” It was around this time that the project came to be known as The Red Panther, in homage to Jay Ohrberg’s original Pink Panther custom – you can see clear parallels between the two, in the wedge profile, the swage lines, the pencil-thin whitewalls, the general air of bubblegum caricature. It really is movie-star cool.

    That Tarmac-scraping stance is neatly augmented by a set of Rota BM8s, sourced from the USA as the particular combination of 7x15in up front and an extra inch of girth at the tail isn’t available in the UK. The back end is beautifully finished by a pair of Cherry Bombs along with a smidge of smoothing to the tailgate, accentuating the custom vibe that Lotus baked right into their angular conceptcar aesthetic back in the 1970s, and the brushed aluminium brightwork gives the car a gorgeously premium feel. Luke’s efforts to perfect the details have infused the Lotus with a hand-finished appeal that’s far more Rolls- Royce in approach than anything the Norfolk spanner-jockeys ever achieved in period.

    “It is, let’s face it, a boulevard cruiser – low and slow,” he grins. “It’s all about catching a glimpse in a shop window, seeing the wheels glint in the sunlight. I get people shouting ‘nice car!’ in the street; a lot of people have never even seen one before, let alone one on air! I even had some teenagers run over to get a better look recently, and they started an impromptu round of applause as I drove by…”

    The accolades are coming thick and fast, but Luke’s childhood vision isn’t entirely realised just yet. He’s thinking of upgrading to a managed system for the air-ride, and there’s even talk of a 4.2-litre Maserati V8. Pick your jaw up from the floor, he’s dead serious. “OK, there’s a logistical issue in that it might just be too damn big to fit,” he ponders, although we can’t see that being any sort of barrier. Luke’s the sort of guy who just rolls up his sleeves and gets things done. He didn’t build this car to impress you, he built it for one person alone: the child of the nineteenseventies that lives inside his head. And he’s probably bouncing off the inside of that skull with the excitement of it all – The Red Panther genuinely is a dream come true, and it’s still got plenty of Cato-esque surprises in store.


    Specification #Lotus / #Lotus-Elite

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION: 2.0-litre slant-four, twin #Dellorto DHLA 45s, Cherry Bomb exhausts, 5-speed O/D gearbox, 160bhp

    CHASSIS: 7x15in (front) and 8x15in (rear) #Rota-BM8 with custom whitewall tyres, universal airbags over adjustable Spax shocks (front) and #Monroe air-rams (rear), OEM brakes.

    EXTERIOR: Smoothed rear hatch, semi-debadged, brushed aluminium brightwork, Mazda MX-5 electric headlight lift motor conversion.

    INTERIOR: OEM Giugiaro interior, custom carpets and headlining, hidden modern audio.

    THANKS: “The Lotus Forums and Retro Rides (both amazing encouragement and support), Rob, Dean, In Motion Media, SlamMedia, TRAX, Ultimate Stance, Kelsey Media, my sanity, friends, Romans, countrymen, Kamp Freddie, Big William and the crew, and anyone else that has contributed along the way either with encouragement, parts supply, or just support - you know who you are, so thank you very much”

    Interior is a shrine to all things wood and leather, and was a huge amount of work for Luke. Is it an estate? It is a hatchback? Who cares when it looks this good!

    “It is, let’s face it, a boulevard cruiser – low and slow. It’s all about catching a glimpse in a shop window, seeing the wheels glint in the sunlight”


    The Elite wasn’t as well received as its contemporaries back in the day - but maybe if it looked more like this, then it would have been. Practical? Maybe not, but it is desperately cool! Left: Luke’s considering swapping this for a full-fat Maserati V8. The guy’s either a genius, or insane… or maybe a bit of both. “A style and vision soon developed in my mind.

    “Low and moody, big rims, quality detailing”

    Air-pump air ride is a genius touch’

    Do profiles get any more 70s than this?
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  •   Daniel 1982 reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    Antonio Ghini updated the picture of the group
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  • Antonio Ghini created this group

    Lotus Elite Types 75 and 83

    Lotus Elite Types 75 and 83
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