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Lotus Elan is the name of two separate models of automobiles produced by Lotus Cars. Both were produced as convertibles and fixed head coupés. The original Type 26, 26R racing version (of the Elan 1600, Elan S2 and Elan coupe), 36 fixed head coupe, 45 drop head coupe, and the "Type 50" +2 coupe, circa 1962 to 1975, are commonly known as the 1960s Elans. The Type M100 Elan was produced from 1989 to 1995.

This second model was also produced in South Korea by Kia Motors between 1996 and 1999, rebadged as the Kia Elan.

A Elan-inspired model similar to the original called the Evante was produced from mid-1980s by British Lotus specialists Vegantune.


Lotus Elan 1500, 1600, S2, S3, S4, SprintEdit

Lotus Elan 1500, 1600, S2, S3, S4, Sprint
Manufacturer Lotus Cars
Production 1962–1973
Assembly Hethel, England
Designer Ron Hickman
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
2-door roadster
Layout Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Engine 1,498 cc later 1,558 cc Lotus TwinCam I4 (petrol)
Transmission 4 speed manual
Wheelbase 84.0 in (2,134 mm)
Length 145.0 in (3,683 mm)
Width 56.0 in (1,422 mm)
Height 45.5 in (1,156 mm)
Curb weight 1,516.8 lb (688 kg)

The original Elan 1500 was introduced in 1962 as a roadster. After a very short production run of just 22 cars the engine was enlarged and the car was redesignated the Elan 1600.[1] An optional hardtop was offered in 1963 and a coupé version in 1965. The two-seat Lotus Elan replaced the elegant, unreliable and expensive to produce Lotus Elite.

It was the first Lotus road car to use a steel backbone chassis with a fibreglass body. At 1,600 lb (726 kg), the Elan embodied the Colin Chapman minimum weight design philosophy. Initial versions of the Elan were also available as a kit to be assembled by the customer. The Elan was technologically advanced with a DOHC 1,557 cc engine, four-wheel disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, and 4-wheel independent suspension. Gordon Murray, designer of the McLaren F1 supercar, reportedly said that his only disappointment with the McLaren F1 was that he could not give it the perfect steering of the Lotus Elan.[2]

The Elan 1600 of 1963 was replaced by the Elan S2 in 1964.[3] The S2 gave way to the S3 in 1965 with a fixed-head coupe offered alongside the two-seat sports.[3] The S4 followed in 1968 and the Elan Sprint was introduced in 1970.[3] Production of the Sprint ceased in 1973.[3]

Elan - Owners, Drivers and in the MediaEdit

This generation of the two-seater Elan was famously driven by the character Emma Peel on the 1960s British television series The Avengers.
The reference to a car accident in the Beatles song A Day in the Life was based on Tara Browne's fatal accident in his Lotus Elan.

Famous Lotus Elan owners and drivers, past & present, include:
Peter Sellers - English comedian.[4]
Jim Clark - Scottish racing driver.[5]
Paul Newman - American actor.[6]
Jay Leno - American TV personality.[7]


The total production number for the Lotus Elan is not definitively known, however John Bolster, in his book "The Lotus Elan and Europa: A Collector's Guide" provides a number of 12,224 (S1-3: 7,895; S4: 2,976; Sprint: 1,353). See below for +2 production.[8]

As of April 2018, the voluntary, and thus inevitably incomplete, Lotus Elan registry lists approximately 1,100 known remaining vehicles (including approximately 330 +2 models) in over 30 countries.[9]


The "Lotus TwinCam" engine was based on the Ford Kent Pre-Crossflow four-cylinder 1,498 cc engine, with a Harry Mundy-designed two-valve alloy chain-driven twin-cam head. The rights to this design was later purchased by Ford, which renamed it the "Lotus-Ford Twin Cam". It would go on to be used in a number of Ford and Lotus production and racing models.

Elan +2Edit

Lotus Elan +2
Production 1967–1975
Designer Ron Hickman
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
Layout Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Engine 1,557 cc Lotus TwinCam I4 (petrol)
Transmission 4-speed manual (all-synchromesh)
Wheelbase 96.0 in (2,438 mm)
Length 169.0 in (4,293 mm)
Width 66.0 in (1,676 mm)
Height 47.0 in (1,194 mm)

An Elan +2 was introduced in 1967 with a longer wheelbase and two rear seats. Tested maximum power: 108–126 bhp (net) (depending on the model); top speed: 120 mph (190 km/h), 0–60 mph in 7.9 seconds, 0–100 mph 21.8 seconds. 5,200 Elan +2s were made: fewer than 1,200 of these cars remain in the roads today. The Elan ceased production in 1973 and the Elan +2 in 1975, replaced by the Elite II and Lotus Eclat. An estimated total of 17,000 original Elans and Elan +2s were built. Because of its successful design and rigorous attention to cost control on the body, chassis, engine and the transmission, the Elan went on to become Lotus' first commercial success, reviving a company stretched thin by the more exotic and expensive to build Lotus Elite with fiberglass monocoque body/chassis and all-aluminium Coventry Climax engine; and enabled funding of the Lotus success in racing over the next ten years.

In 2004, Sports Car International named the Elan number six on the list of Top Sports Cars of the 1960s. The original version of the car was designed by Ron Hickman,[10] who also designed the first Lotus Europa as part of Lotus' GT40 project bid and made his fortune having designed the Black & Decker Workmate.

The original Elan is usually credited as being the design inspiration for the highly successful 1989 Mazda MX-5 (Mazda Miata in North America).[11] Two Elans were intimately evaluated by Mazda in the process of designing the MX-5.

Elan M100Edit

Lotus Elan M100
Also called Galloper Elan (Argentina)
Kia Elan
Kia Roadster (Germany)
Kia Vigato (Japan)
Production 1989–1995
Assembly Hethel, England
Designer Peter Stevens[12]
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door roadster
Layout Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Engine 1,588 cc Isuzu 4XE1 I4 (petrol)
1,588 cc Isuzu 4XE1-MT turbo I4 (petrol)
Transmission 5-speed manual
Wheelbase 88.6 in (2,250 mm)
Length 149.7 in (3,803 mm)
152.2 in (3,870 mm) (US)
Width 68.3 in (1,734 mm)
Height 48.4–48.8 in (1,230–1,240 mm)
Curb weight 2,198 lb (997 kg) (NA)
2,370–2,447 lb (1,075–1,110 kg) (Turbo)
1991 Lotus Elan – Federal (USA) version

The Lotus M100 Elan was launched in August 1989, reviving the Elan nameplate after 14 years. A two-seater convertible sports car, designed in-house by Lotus, it featured an engine and manual transmission supplied by Isuzu, and was built with the development and testing resources of General Motors. Around £35 million (about $55 million) was invested in its development,[13] more than any other car in Lotus history. Its design, featuring a fibreglass composite body over a rigid steel backbone chassis, was true to Lotus founder Colin Chapman's original philosophy of achieving performance through low weight, and the name "Elan" connected the car with its 1960s ancestor.


In 1986 the purchase of Lotus by General Motors provided the financial backing to develop a new, small, affordable car in the same spirit as the original Elan (last built in December 1972). A development prototype, the M90 (later renamed the X100) had been built a few years earlier, using a fibreglass body designed by Oliver Winterbottom and a Toyota-supplied 1.6-litre engine and transmission. Lotus was hoping to sell the car through Toyota dealerships worldwide, badged as a Lotus Toyota, but the project never came to fruition and the prototype was shelved (although Lotus's collaboration with Toyota had some influence on the design of the Toyota MR2).

The idea of a small roadster powered by an outsourced engine remained, however, and in late 1986 Peter Stevens's design for the Type M100 was approved and work began by Lotus engineers to turn the clay styling buck into a car that could be built. This process was completed in just under three years, a remarkably short time from design to production car.


The M100 Elan was conceived as a mass-market car and in particular one that would appeal to US buyers. Consequently, Lotus put an enormous effort (for such a small firm) into testing the car; over a two-year period 19 crash cars and 42 development vehicles were built, logging nearly a million test miles in locations from Arizona to the Arctic. The Elan was driven at racing speeds for 24 hours around the track at Snetterton. Finally each new car was test-driven for around 30 miles (48 km) at Lotus's Hethel factory to check for any manufacturing defects before being shipped to dealers.


The choice of front-wheel drive is unusual for a sports car, but according to Lotus sales literature, "for a given vehicle weight, power and tyre size, a front wheel drive car was always faster over a given section of road. There were definite advantages in traction and controllability, and drawbacks such as torque steer, bump steer and steering kickback were not insurmountable."[13] This was the only front-wheel-drive vehicle made by Lotus. Every model made since the M100 Elan, such as the Lotus Elise, has been rear-wheel drive.

The M100 Elan's cornering performance was undeniable (on release the Elan was described by Autocar magazine as "the quickest point to point car available"). Press reaction was not uniformly positive, as some reviewers found the handling too secure and predictable compared to a rear-wheel-drive car. However, the Elan's rigid chassis minimised roll through the corners and has led to many critics describing it as 'the finest front wheel drive [car] bar none'.[14] Unlike the naturally aspirated version, the turbocharged SE received power steering as standard, as well as tyres with a higher ZR speed rating.[15]


The M100 Elan used a 1,588 cc double overhead camshaft (DOHC) I4 16-valve engine, sourced from the Isuzu Gemini and extensively modified by Lotus (a third generation of this engine was later used in the Isuzu Impulse), which produced 162 horsepower (121 kW). 0–60 acceleration time was measured by Autocar and Motor magazine at 6.5 seconds, and a top speed of 137 mph (220 km/h) was recorded.

Significant differences in the Isuzu-Lotus engine from the original include a new exhaust system, re-routed intake plumbing for better thermodynamic efficiency, improved engine suspension, and major modifications to the engine control unit to improve torque and boost response. Almost all models featured an IHI turbocharger.


Two variants were available at launch, the 130 bhp (97 kW; 132 PS) Elan 1.6 (retailing at £17,850) and the 162 bhp (121 kW; 164 PS) Turbo SE (£19,850). Initial sales were disappointing, due to the debut of the more affordable "nostalgic" Mazda MX-5 which was arguably similar in concept, in contrast to the M100's deliberately futuristic cant. The Elan was very expensive to make (the cost to design and produce the dashboard alone was more than the total cost of the Excel production line), and sales figures were too low to recoup its huge development costs.

Altogether just 3,855 Elans were built between November 1989 and July 1992, including 129 normally aspirated (non-turbo) cars. 559 of them were sold in the US, featuring a 'stage 2 body' which had a different rear boot spoiler arrangement together with a lengthened nose to accommodate a USA-compliant crash structure and airbag, and 16-inch wheels (optional in most markets, standard in the U.S.) instead of 15-inch as on the UK model.

Series 2Edit

A limited edition of 800 Series 2 (S2) M100 Elans was released during the Romano Artioli era (produced June 1994–September 1995) when it was discovered that enough surplus engines were available to make this possible. It was only for the UK market. According to Autocar magazine, the S2 addressed some of the concerns over handling, but power was reduced to 155 bhp (116 kW; 157 PS) and the 0–60 acceleration time increased to 7.5 seconds, due to the legislative requirement to fit a catalytic converter in all markets. The S2s have very similar performance to the USA vehicles, having an identical engine management system calibration and a slightly lower overall vehicle weight.

Kia ElanEdit

Kia Elan

After the final production run of the Elan in 1995, Lotus sold its production rights to Kia Motors, which produced its own version. Outwardly, the Kia Elan looks almost identical to the original. The most obvious difference are the Kia-designed taillights which replaced the Renault Alpine rear lights of the original.

Kia Motech (Kia Motor-technology) produced the car (in Ansan, South Korea) from 1996 to 1999 as the Kia Elan for the Korean market, using a 151 hp (113 kW) 1.8 L T8D engine instead of the Isuzu 1.6 turbo-charged unit. In the Japanese market, the car was sold as the Vigato.[citation needed]

2013 Elan show carEdit

Lotus Elan (2013)
Production concept, not produced
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
Layout Mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive

A new Lotus Elan was announced at the 2010 Paris Motor Show. It was hoped to be in production by 2013, but the project was cancelled before the car entered production.[16] The car was to have featured a 4.0-litre V6 engine and was to have weighed roughly 1,295 kg (2,855 lb) [17]


  • Arnold, G. 1981. The Lotus Elan and Plus Two Buyers Guide 1962–1975. Club Lotus
  • Clarke, R.M. Lotus Elan Collection No.2 1963–1972. Brooklands Books. ISBN 0-907073-68-9
  • Harvey, C. 1982. Lotus: The Elite, Elan, Europa. Oxford Illustrated Press. ISBN 0-902280-85-6.
  • Hughes, M. 1992. Lotus Elan. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-194-7.
  • Lotus Cars Limited. 1974. Lotus Elan +2 Workshop Manual. Lotus Cars
  • Read, Robin (1989), Colin Chapman's Lotus (The early years, the Elite, and origins of the Elan). Haynes/Foulis, ISBN 0-85429-703-0.
  • Road & Track Staff (2012). "50 Years of the Lotus Elan". Road & Track 64 (4): 66–74.
  • Robinshaw, P. and Ross, C. 1995. Authentic Lotus Elan and Plus 2. Motor Racing Publications LTD. ISBN 0-947981-95-0.
  • Robinshaw, Paul & Ross, Christopher (1989), The Original 1962–1973 Lotus Elan (Essential Data and Guidance for Owners, Restorers and Competitors); additional notes by Ron Hickman. Motor Racing Publications Limited, ISBN 0-947981-32-2.
  • Taylor, M. 1990. Lotus Elan, The complete story. The Crowood Press Ltd. ISBN 1-86126-011-3
  • Taylor, W. 1998. The Lotus Book, a complete History of Lotus Cars, 50th Anniversary Special. Coterie Press Limited. ISBN 1-902351-00-2.
  • Wherret, D. 1993. Lotus Elan. Osprey. ISBN 1-85532-377-X
  • Wilkins, Miles (2003), Lotus Twin-Cam Engine. Motorbooks, ISBN 978-0-7603-1692-4.



  1. ^ "Lotus Elan". 2017-02-10. Retrieved 2017-02-20. 
  2. ^ Road & Track Staff (2012), p. 71
  3. ^ a b c d Michael Sedgwick and Mark Gillies, A–Z of Cars 1945–70, 1986, pages 118–119
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Winning - The Racing Life of Paul Newman" Stone/Lerner. 2009. ISBN-13: 978-0-7603-3706-6. Page 26
  7. ^ and numerous other Youtube videos.
  8. ^ Publisher: Motor Racing Publications (1980) ISBN-10: 0900549483 ISBN-13: 978-0900549489. Page 52.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Smith, Sam (December 2012). "The Lotus Elan 1962–1973". Road & Track. 64 (4): 70–71. 
  11. ^ Sass, Rob (June 2009). "Worth the Weight". Sports Car Market. 21 (6): 28. 
  12. ^ "Designer". Retrieved 2012-02-08. 
  13. ^ a b "M100 Sales Manual". Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  14. ^ Andy Enright (10 October 2008). "Lotus Re-position". Archived from the original on 28 July 2009. Retrieved 6 July 2009.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  15. ^ Quattroruote: Tutte le Auto del Mondo 1992 (in Italian). Milano: Editoriale Domus S.p.A. 1992. p. 447. 
  16. ^ James, Jonathan. "Lotus: Five concept cars canned, brand won't be sold". Retrieved 2017-02-20. 
  17. ^ "Lotus cars website retrieved 2010-09-30". Archived from the original on 3 October 2010. 


  • Holmes, Mark (2007). Ultimate Convertibles: Roofless Beauty. London: Kandour. pp. 94–95. ISBN 978-1-905741-62-5. 

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