1961 Lotus Elite Series II Coupe
|Written by Paul Hardiman|
|Wednesday, 30 June 2010 16:00|
The vagaries of the Elite's construction-however brilliantly featherweight and low drag-mean it's expensive to prepare
With the Lotus 14 of 1959-better known as the Elite-Colin Chapman demonstrated that his skills as a racing car designer and constructor could just as easily be applied to production road cars. The Elite was, nevertheless, conceived with competition in mind, as Chapman had his sights set on class wins at Le Mans and the Monte Carlo Rally. Just as innovative as Lotus's outright competition cars, the Elite featured a fiberglass monocoque body tub, independent suspension at each corner, and four-wheel disc brakes, the rears mounted inboard. Its engine was the 4-cylinder Coventry-Climax FWE, a single-overhead-cam unit of 1,216 cc producing 75 hp, while the gearbox, an MG A unit fitted with an alloy casing and modified bellhousing, was sourced from BMC. Some later cars ran a ZF gearbox from Germany, instead of the "cheap and nasty" MG A item. The classically styled body-the work of Peter Kirwan-Taylor and aerodynamicist Frank Costin-although possessing an admirably low coefficient of drag, made few concessions to comfort or noise suppression, not that that is likely to have bothered the Elite's customers, for whom its 112 mph top speed and superlative handling were of far greater importance.
This Elite Series II was raced before being completely rebuilt in the 1990s in Germany by Horst Auer, a well-known Elite specialist. Acquired by the current vendor in 2001, chassis number 1628 has a good racing record driven by Andrew Colley and Chris Snowden, with many class wins in the U.K. and at Spa Francorchamps and Porto. The vendor advises us that the car has proved totally reliable and that the engine has not been run since a recent rebuild by Horst Auer, while the gearbox also has been overhauled and fitted with new synchros.