Fragile. Cramped. Mechanically simple. The Lotus Elan – be it the little drop-top two-seater that so inspired the Mazda MX-5 or the later, bigger + 2 – shouldn’t really be considered such an exotic. Even the models blessed with the glorious Lotus twin-cam engine are unlikely to scare you silly in a straight line.
But – Esprit V8 and sundry rabid Exiges aside – that’s never really been what Norfolk’s finest has ever been about. Founder Colin Chapman wanted his cars to be really light, because he wanted them to have world-class handling. Hence the steel backbone chassis and featherweight GRP body.
The result is a car that feels much faster than the sum of its parts, making even a humble Ford Kent pre-Crossflow engine – which formed the basis for the glorious Lotus twin-cam – sparkle, and flattering the driver’s every input thanks to a chassis that offers astonishing handling and sublime ride in one well-rounded package. Gordon Murray even once famously said that his only regret with the McLaren F1 was that its steering wasn’t as good as an Elan’s.
If you want bonkers power, buy a TVR. If you want sublime handling, buy a Lotus Elan.