As exceptional as the Elan’s chassis is, enthusiastic drivers may well have found the limits, and the composite and glassfibre body is complex to repair. Inspect all areas carefully and pay attention to the rear quarters and door alignment. Also check underneath for damage to the suspension arms, as these are simple fabricated components.
Rationally the Elan is bought for the handling above all else. The chassis is galvanised, but the suspension arms are prone to corrosion. There are also many bushes in the fully independent suspension. Replacement rear wishbones can run to £700 plus, with Lotus parts being galvanised and incorporating new bushes. Ride should be exceptional, so budget for new bushes at the very least if it’s twitchy or soft. Pay attention to the braking, too, which can suffer from seized calipers at the rear and was not as advanced as the rest of the M100.
The window regulators and trim can present challenges, the doors are quite complex to work on and past repair efforts may have added complications with broken clips and bodges, so make sure the windows operate smoothly and lack scratches.
Lotus owners of the 1970s and ’80s generations will find the Isuzu powerplant a shock to the system, as the Lotustuned, GM Japan-designed four-cylinder is fundamentally reliable, capable of 200,000 miles and paired to an equally long-lived clutch and gearbox. Check for oil leaks and smoke indicating poor care of the turbo, and perform the usual inspections for coolant, cambelt changes and regular maintenance.
The roof is straightforward, but Lotus made a few odd choices regarding sealing and drainage around the A-pillars. The battery box is under the hood compartment, so don’t forget to check in there while checking the roof. Stuck-on extra seals and Sikaflex built-up gaps may look crude but are proven fixes, so don’t assume the car has been bodged.
RAIN OR SHINE
There are surprisingly few common electrical issues, but some typical watch points are shared with any glassfibre/ composite bodied car where earthing is dependent on the chassis and wiring. Early cars had a weak and complex headlight mechanism, and over time running modifications generally mean that the later the build, the better it is.