's Great British Cars – Lotus Elan Mk2

Fri 15th Feb 2019

Great Britain, great cars. The UK motor industry is respected the world over, and though many of the vehicles are actually owned by foreign manufacturers, there can be no doubting of the fantastic heritage of the British motor.

To celebrate Britain’s famous history is launching a series looking back on some of the most famous vehicles the UK has ever seen.

Lotus Elan Mk2
The Elan is revered by motor-racing enthusiasts for two key features, its ultra-lightweight design which came courtesy of a revolutionary backbone chassis and fibreglass body and almost perfect steering which was the envy of many designers for decades to come.

Designed by South African, Ron Hickman, the man who perhaps more famously devised the Black and Decker Workmate, it included elements of design which were still being used decades after the Elan had finished production.

Hickman had already helped inspire the Ford Anglia when he met Lotus chief Colin Chapman at a motor show in Earls Court in the early 1960s. At Chapman’s newly formed company, Lotus, Hickman firstly engineered the Elite before working with John Frayling on the Elan.

The Elan was deemed to be Lotus’ first commercial success, it may not have had the looks of the Elite, but it was certainly more reliable and helped pull the company through what could have been some difficult opening years.

Admired by customers, critics and reviewers at the with Car and Driver magazine saying: ‘The Elan very simply represents the sports car developed in tune with the state of the art. It comes closer than anything else on the market to providing a Formula car for ordinary street use. And it fits like a Sprite, goes like a Corvette, and handles like a Formula Junior. Driving it is very simply another sort of automotive experience altogether. Most people tend to come back from their first ride a little bit glassy-eyed…’

More modern enthusiasts recognised the car’s influence with Sports Car International naming the car one of the Top Sports Cars of the 1960s.

Various estimates suggest that in its 11 year run the Elan was sold between 10,000 and 13,000 models, though Lotus’  own record-keeping at the time was a little haphazard.

Like many classic cars from the 1960s, the Elan made a lasting mark on popular culture, driven by Emma Peel in the Avengers and also said to be the car mentioned in the famous Beatles song ‘A Day In The Life’.

Years of manufacture: 1962-1973 
Price when new: £1,596
Price now: £15,000-£50,000
Engine: 1,557cc 4cyl petrol, 100bhp
Top speed: 108mph