4) SIMPLE SUSPENSION
Lotus is one of the acknowledged masters of suspension design – its sports cars are famous for combining superb roadholding, handling and feedback with a supple and compliant ride. In fact the firm’s real breadwinner has never been its cars but other manufacturers beating a path to Hethel to employ Lotus to fine-tune their own work. And the seminal Lotus Elan of the 1960s shows Lotus’ skills at their very best. This was a sports car built on the same principles as a Lotus Formula One car, overseen by Colin Chapman himself, who made such a contribution to suspension design that he has an entire mode of springing named after him, the Chapman Strut. So what does the Elan use as the basis for its suspension? The humble Triumph Herald, beloved of driving schools and maiden aunts.
That is, of course, being a little unfair on the Triumph, which boasted front suspension featuring compact coil springs and double wishbones that were very advanced for their time. In the event the Lotus only directly used the Triumph’s uprights between modified wishbones, as well as the steering rack and many of the steering parts such as ball joints. Early Elans with bolt-on wheels use Herald uprights and later ones (and Elan+2s) with knock-off wheels use the ones from the Vitesse and GT6. It’s possible to source several Triumph uprights for the price of one genuine Lotus one. The Triumph Herald’s ball joints were still doing service on the last of the Lotus Esprit V8s in 2004!