Lotus Elite 501
This low-mileage and original Elite drives well – minor blemishes aside it looks to be an excellent example, says Mike Renaut
First impressions are strong with this Series 1 Elite looking very smart in dark blue paint that remains shiny. This is the entry-level 501, so it lacks the air-conditioning and tape player of the 502 but still offers some Seventies luxury. The suede effect interior is particularly nice and virtually unmarked. Seats are supportive with no sags and the door cards are equally blemish-free. The matching brown carpets are also in excellent condition. Elites often suffer from a drooping headliner but this example’s looks perfect. A working period LW/MW radio-cassette player is fitted.
Both electric windows operate smoothly as do the mirrors, but although the front pop-up lights seem mechanically sound the offside one sits slightly proud of the body. It can be gently pushed back into position, so may just require adjustment. The windscreen has a crack across the top which is largely obscured by a sunstrip.
The engine bay is clean and appears in original condition; no obvious leaks were noted. From cold the twin-cam fires immediately and quickly settles to a smooth idle. The manual five-speed gearbox is very positive although the clutch seems a little heavy. The non-powered steering requires some effort at low speeds – as you’d expect – but is noticeably lighter on the move. All-wheel disc brakes deliver excellent stopping power. All gauges perform as they ought to.
Body trim is all in place but there is some scuffing and small scratches, notably the stainless trim on the rear hatch where the wiper has marked it. On test the rear wiper was not fitted but stowed in the boot.
The glassfibre bodywork is in generally good condition with even panel gaps and no obvious evidence of accident damage. There are a few stonechips on the bumpers and some light crazing in places, consistent with any unrestored four-decade-old glassfibre. The alloy wheels are in decent condition. Tyres are Zeetex 205/60 R14s with sufficient tread all round.
Much of our test was over uneven road surfaces but the Lotus behaved perfectly, with no creaks or groans from the suspension or chassis.
Showing 44,600 miles and originally registered on October 27, 1978 as ‘9 NOK’, the car now wears ‘BRX 90T’. The second owner bought it in 1979 and there have been two more keepers since. There’s decent service history and receipts include brake disc replacement in 2011, new antiroll bar in 2012 and fuel pump in 2013. Although Mot’d annually the car has only covered 300 miles since 2012 and the seller understands it has been garaged most of its life. The last MOT expired in April 2018, but the car will be sold with a fresh ticket.
With just over 2500 Elites built and around a fifth surviving today, there are relatively few decent cars to choose from and this may be one of the most original examples left.
This Elite presents well – apart from that winking pop-up headlamp...
Suede-effect interior is near-immaculate
1973cc twin-cam fires at once and runs smoothly