Lotus Elite 501

This low-mileage and orig­i­nal Elite drives well – mi­nor blem­ishes aside it looks to be an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple, says Mike Re­naut

Classic Cars (UK) - - News -

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

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