Showing posts with label Lotus Sports Cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lotus Sports Cars. Show all posts

Lotus Elan Sprint

Lotus Elan Sprint 1970s British classic sports car

The Elan was launched in '62. Lotus - based at Hethel, in Norfolk, England - instantly joined the ranks of quality sports car manufacturers. Petite though it was, it packed plenty of muscle. Beneath its lightweight glass-fibre skin, both engine and chassis were rock-solid. Acceleration was searing, handling supple, the ride comfortable. In short, Lotus had hit the automotive jackpot!

The Elan's power was produced by a twin-cam in-line four. The Ford motor made 105bhp. Top speed for the Elan was 115mph. It was fitted with a 4-speed 'box - also sourced from Ford. That all sat within a taut and tidy Lotus chassis. The frame was steel backbone. Suspension featured coils and wishbones up front - with Chapman struts and lower wishbones at the rear. Triumph provided the steering rack. Steel wheels were centre-locking. All four were stopped by Girling disc brakes.

Lotus' Elan Sprint arrived in '71. As its name suggested, it took the standard Elan's performance up a gear. Key to that was the Sprint's big-valve cylinder head. It had been expertly fettled by Tony Rudd. He and his team upped the output by 25% - to 126bhp. The new motor was more oil-tight, too - and quieter. It was attached to a set of Weber carburettors. The Sprint marked a turning-point. From then on, Lotus began to move more up-market. In so doing, it slid ever further from its kit-car roots. The Elan remained in production for ten or so years. During that time, it helped turn Lotus into a serious player in the sports car business!

Lotus Elite

Lotus Elite 1950s British classic sports car

The Lotus Elite is widely regarded as one of the most stylish cars the firm made. Primarily, that was down to Peter Kirwan Taylor. Though not a leading light in the automotive design field at the time, Lotus put their faith in him - and it was rewarded. Launched in '59 - along with the Mini and Jaguar MKII - the Elite was produced for four years. In the course of that time, it became one of the iconic British sports cars. As always - with Colin Chapman at the helm - light weight was key. With that in mind, the Elite was the first car to be built on a glass-fibre monocoque chassis. That helped it reach a top speed of 130mph. Aerodynamic lines assisted. The Elite was agile, too. Few sports cars could hold a candle to it through corners!

Power was provided by an overhead-cam Coventry Climax motor. When kitted out with a single carburettor, it delivered 71bhp. A twin-carb set-up increased that to 83bhp. A 4-speed gearbox came courtesy of BMC. The SE version would be fitted with a close-ratio, 5-speed ZF 'box. Power increased to 105bhp. The Elite was economical, though - as a result of its light weight. As impressive as the Elite's straight-line speed, was its handling. The car was suspended by coil-spring dampers at the front - and Chapman struts (modified MacPherson struts) at the rear. Steering was by rack-and-pinion. The full complement of high-grade disc brakes came as standard. Of more questionable quality were the windows. While pleasing on the eye, their unique profile meant they were difficult to wind down fully. Not what you wanted, on a hot summer's day!

Generally speaking, though, the Elite did its name justice. In styling terms, it was from the top drawer. The Elite's dashboard, for example, echoed its chic low profile. Nevertheless, there were faults - other than the wind-down windows issue. The car's monocoque - cutting edge, though it was - was prone to noisy vibration. Also, interior décor was somewhat sparse. All things considered, however, the Lotus Elite was a fine example of a top-flight British sports car!

Lotus Europa

Lotus Europa 1960s British classic sports car

For all its power, the Lotus Europa was a sports car - not an F1 car! Yet - at least, up to a point - that was its raison d'être. Colin Chapman - head man at Lotus - wanted a roadster that handled like a racer. At any rate, he sought to simulate the mid-engined layout - now de rigueur in F1. Certainly, at just 42″ tall - and with a drag coefficient of only 0.29 - the Europa's aerodynamic credentials were never in doubt.

The new car started out as the Lotus Europe. Trademark problems led to it being re-named the Europa. Handling-wise, the car was everything Chapman had hoped for. Road-test reviews were upbeat - at least as far as cornering was concerned. Steering was light - and the Europa perfectly poised. Key to the stability was rear suspension. It was comprised of lower wishbones and transverse top links. The Europa's laid-back driving position made sweeping through bends a breeze. Brakes were suitably solid.

But, the Europa was not without flaws. Creature comforts were in short supply. And, with a heavy clutch - and jarring ride - the Europa was far from user-friendly. Side-window gremlins did not help. Rear vision - or lack of it - was not exactly a selling-point. To be fair, Lotus did address the issues. The Europa was given a mini-makeover. Built in Hethel, Norfolk, the car stayed in production until '75. Almost 10,000 Europas were built - in a nine-year run. Its goal, then, was to bring F1-style handling to the roads of the UK. And - while that was, for a sports car, an impossible dream - it came as close to living it as any!