|Vehicle:||1967 Lotus Elan Sprint S3|
This car sold for $10,145, including buyer’s premium, at Christie’s London auction, held March 24, 2003.
The Elan is a much-loved English 1960s groovy kinda car, much the same way the Chicago Cubs are a much-loved kooky kinda baseball team. Everyone roots for the underdog and prays that someday they will have their moment in the sun. And so the Cubs almost win; the Elan almost makes sense. Underdogs with endearing qualities get people interested . you want to be the one who says, ” See, I told you one day this team would prevail!” or “I told you I could drive the Lotus all the way to the deli and back without calling for a tow truck!”
In theory and on a sunny summer day with the English Classic Car gods looking favorably down on you (your own Emma Peel by your side), the Lotus Elan could be a great joy to own and operate. Unfortunately, the gods Lucas, Glassfibre, Rust and Chapman all have to be well liquored up for those four horsemen to be in agreement on letting you drive peacefully on that sunny day. There’s the rub. English car gods are rarely in benevolent agreement. Let me explain how I know this.
My reticence towards the 1960s Elan comes from being a Lotus dealer. I’ve had the honest-to-goodness pleasure of selling these fine sleds from Hethel since 1991. Since that time, Lotus has sold the “new” M-100 Elan, the Esprit SE, S4, S4S and V8. These modern Loti are built to a high quality and are truly underappreciated by the masses. These cars are all great joys to sell.
Except that every potential customer mentions his Uncle Fiskus who owned an Elan that never ran. They rant about engine fires, parts falling off and lights going out at 70 miles per hour. And the punchline-these beautiful and pointless stories always segue to, “Are these new cars any better?” Frankly, I could guarantee that Uncle Fiskus would be happy in a new Lotus. But old myths die hard.
Ferry Porsche built his cars to run forever; Colin Chapman built his early cars to fall apart the moment the warranty ran out, plain and simple. Read the Lotus history books-anecdotally, it’s always mentioned that Chapman understood that more parts sales lead to higher profits.
The Mazda Miata is truly successful because it does everything the Elan was meant to do, and never breaks. Lotus should be flattered that it inspired such a great success.
The Sprint S3 is a magnificent design that simply sputters from marginal engineering. This car should be heralded in classic circles. Instead, where do you think the saying, “Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious” comes from?
The Elan that was sold at auction here seemed like fair value. Logic dictates that a more completely restored car would be a better overall value, as the spread between a basket case vs. a concours winner is not that extreme. The condition of this car falls in the middle and the price is accurate to the marketplace. If it had been an open car, even though it would not handle as well, it would have brought as much as $5,000 more.
I’m a little surprised this Elan was found to be auction-worthy by Christie’s; nicer cars are easily found. Nonetheless, for not much money, the new owner can go play boy racer, and pretend he is Jimmy Clark or Graham Hill-at least until he needs to call the tow truck. Again. -Steve Serio