1974 Lotus Elite: This One’s A Surprise!

The mid 1970s Lotus Elite has generally been an unloved classic, probably due both to Lotus legendary poor build quality (at the time) and its polarizing styling. Actually, it might not even be polarizing as I’ve never really heard of anyone that loves it (if you’re out there, please state your case in the comments). Usually that means you find them as non-runners and quite dilapidated. This one, however, is the exception to the rule! It’s located in Windham, New Hampshire and is featured in this auction on eBay. Bidding is starting at $5,000 and there’s a buy it now at only $7,000.

With a practical hatchback and four seats–ok, upholstered buckets–I guess considering the fiberglass shell they actually might be plastic buckets–the Elite was supposed to take Lotus upmarket. Even in the distinctly British brown that you saw versions of on Triumph and MGs at the same time, this car looks pretty nice. Not my favorite profile, especially with that huge C-pillar, but certainly distinctive. The seller tells us their father bought the car in the 1980s and it became theirs a couple of years ago. It has obviously been taken care of–I don’t remember ever seeing a nicer Elite.

The dashboard looks great, and while the driver’s seat upholstery probably needs to be replaced, as a whole it’s hard to believe this is a Lotus interior.

Here’s that damaged driver’s seat. I could certainly live with it for a while, but considering how nice the rest of the car is, it does let the general appearance down.

This is the first Lotus application of the 907 engine (it previously was in Jensen-Healey roadsters) that later powered several other cars, including the mid-engined Esprit. The seller has recently replaced the brakes and shock absorbers as well as debugging some electrical issues. The seller also states that the car needs a new speedometer cable and that the radio is not working. Both incredibly minor details compared to the problems you would typically see in an Elite for sale. If you’ve ever wanted one, jump on this brown beauty!

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. Tirefriar

    If the car checks out, id say at $5-$6k it would be a good buy and an economy seat in the Lotus section. The upkeep will cost, but with proper maintence it shouldn’t be too bad. I’d go back through the electricals just to be sure. Although fiberglass bodied, the chassis spine is not and needs to be inspected.

    Just fix the interior, color sand and buff the British Turd Brown and polish the rims and you are ready to participate in the local classic car shows. I’d also look into ditching the federalized bumpers in favor of euro spec ones. Then drive and enjoy.

    • Sam

      Myth Buster’s proved you can polish a turd. Now we have a second confirmation.

      I like the body style. This would go in my funky wagon collection: Volvo 1800; Pacer wagon; Pinto porthole wagon….

      Cool hatchback/estate

  2. Josh

    Look like a British AMC Gremlin to me.

  3. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Jamie, take a wild guess as to if I love the styling or not? I’ll volunteer to be the lone love-it person as far as this design goes!

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      It would fit nicely in the shop, Scotty!

    • waynard

      Nope. I love it too.

  4. nessy

    Oh geez, the yucky color, the bland styling, the weird looking back with that big dumb bumper, the tiny rear lights, that pittyful steering wheel, I like it.

  5. Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    It wasn’t the poor quality……these were very overpriced ( more than a Corvette) and very UNDERPOWERED……….

    and it wasn’t the design, even the Eclat fastback did not do well . I own a Sprint Euro the performance model, and not many of them sold either

    They do get around the track pretty well, are fun to drive, but were not competitive… and are mostly ignored by the Lotus Community .

    For an Elite, this one looks decent… Northern cars have the chassis rust-out problem where the body sits on (wet) padding on the crossmember

    Also, the foam filled bumpers are destined to disintegrate.

    Looks like some kind of homemade air-scoop under the front bumper .. ??
    .

    • BPM

      Not a homemade air scoop – that is the real deal. So low that most of them broke and disappeared. This one is in perfect condition.

      If I keep reading these – I might decide to keep it. Stored in doors in Utah – the chassis is very solid

  6. racer417

    I had a new Europa Special in ’74 that was the same “Sable Brown”, which was a Jaguar color. When I first saw the Elite, I just shook my head in disappointment. The Europa was no beauty queen, especially in brown; but the Elite appealed to almost no one. That’s why they came up with the Eclat in such a hurry. My current Lotus is much prettier, I think.

  7. Cbny

    Lotus? Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious. Toyota? The One You Ought To Avoid. Porsche? Proof Of Rich Spoiled Children Having Everything! Any other acronyms? Keep it clean, or you’re cheating. Dodge? Dead On Day Gurantee Expires . Let’s have some fun with this!

    • David Wilk Member

      Just slightly offensive – Fiat: fix it again Tony

      An old one, I think – Ford: fix or repair daily

      BMW: bust my wallet (that one I made up when I owned a 2002tii)

    • Francisco

      Ford: Found off road dead.

      • grant

        Far Out Race Devices!
        Or, First On Race Day

    • Ikey Heyman

      Oldsmobile: Old Ladies Driving Slowly Mostly Over Bridges Into Lake Erie

  8. That Guy

    Although “love” is much too strong a word, I rather like the funky styling of these. With all the legendary Lotus fragility and none of the lightness, though, it’s not hard to understand why they usually died an early death, and most of the survivors are moldering under tarps in yards, one house-move away from the junkyard.

    I recall reading an article about a Rover V8 conversion back when these cars were new. The verdict was that the car was transformed, and was what Lotus should have built to begin with.

    • racer417

      The dohc “slant four” in these cars was supposed to be a design which could evolve into a V-8 eventually. I agree that it would have made a huge improvement; but in the context of the time, with the oil embargo and fuel shortages, the four was thought to be timely.

  9. Robert Hellios

    Friend had a 74
    And still got the hood so by chance
    Someone needs one

  10. David Skelley

    I owned the spitting image to this car, in the same colors in and out only my car had twin Strombergs. I saw it and had to have it. I’ve always had a soft spot for oddities and Lotus in general…have owned 5. It was a fun car and could transport 4 comfortably. I wouldn’t call it a hatchback even though the rear window opens. There is a second fixed glass just behind the fixed rear seats.

  11. Connbackroads

    Jaguar

    Just Another Greasy Unwanted Auto Repair

  12. Brakeservo

    The car’s “styling” looks like it could have been the first, rough draft of what became the Lamborghini Espada.

  13. Jubjub

    With extreme wedge styling brought to you by Oliver Winterbottom, who later gave us the equally wedgey Tasmin. He recently put out an account of his career. Pretty interesting read.

  14. david

    Friend bought a ’74 several years ago. Dollied it home from near Parma, ID. Good runner for long distance driving. Rallied it out of Boise and in the Glenwood events. He has since added a 2.2 and 5-speed. I have had 2 Jensen Healeys. My only complaint with the pre-75 Elites and JH’s is the barely accessible points/condenser ignition. OK, valve adjusting is a pain, but only every 10K miles LOL

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