Making its debut at the Earls Court Motor Show in 1957 where it was Star of the show, the Elite had spent a year in development, aided by carefully selected racing customers before going on sale. With the Lotus Elite, Colin Chapman demonstrated that his skills as a racing car designer and constructor could just as easily be applied to production road cars.
In all, some 1015 cars were built (including kits which were offered from 1961 onwards). Some 385 cars were exported all over the world with 316 going to the USA alone, 13 to Japan, 11 to Australia and the rest to Europe..
Just as innovative as Lotus’s outright competition cars, the Elite featured a fibreglass monocoque body tub, independent suspension all round (based on that of Lotus’ racing monopostos’) and four-wheel disc brakes, the rears mounted inboard.
The car was powered by the 1216 cc four-cylinder Coventry-Climax “FEW” all Aluminium engine, a single overhead cam unit. With the Elite weighing in at only 1,110 pounds, the high power output of 75 BHP translated to over 140 BHP per tonne which was impressive by any standards for such a small unit in the late 1950’s.
The gearbox, an MGA unit fitted with an alloy casing and modified bellhousing, was sourced from BMC.
The classically styled body was the work of stylists Peter Kirwan-Taylor, John Frayling and aerodynamicist Frank Costin. The result possessed an admirably low coefficient of drag, though it made few concessions for comfort or noise suppression. It is unlikely that these tolerable characteristics troubled the Elite’s customers, for whom its 112mph top speed and superlative handling were of far greater importance than creature comforts. So successful was the Elite on the racetrack that the car dominated its class well into the 1960s.
Noteworthy achievements include five class victories at Le Mans and two wins in the prestigious ‘Index of Thermal Performance’. Best average speed at Le Mans for 24hrs was 99.6mph (Hobbs Gardner 1962) not bad for only 1216 cc! Indeed we at J D Classics had a Class win at the 2016 Le Mans Classic with our Race prepared Lotus Elite in the hands of John Young.
The car offered here was delivered as a Right Hand Drive car and invoiced in January 1960 to U S distributor and renowned Lotus racing driver Jay Chamberlain, of Burbank, California. This Elite was road registered in California in May 1962.
Originally Primrose Yellow, this car was restored and repainted in the US in recent years when the colour was changed to Dark Blue.
Extensive history files accompany the car with numerous invoices, photographs, original Lotus manuals and technical data.
This Elite spent almost all of its entire life in America until 2012 when J D Classics purchased the car for a long standing and discerning customer and the car was imported into the UK with European taxes paid. At this time J D Classics performed a major re-commissioning to present the car to the highest standards. Our works included a full engine overhaul, a total repaint, overhaul of brakes, suspension, carburettor, steering, cooling and ancillaries.
Properly stored and maintained at J D Classics, the car has had minimal use since.
An excellent opportunity to acquire possibly the very finest example in the World today.