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Formerly Elite: 1974 Lotus Elite 502

042016 Barn Finds - 1974 Lotus Elite - 1

If you’re like me, and there must be others like me out there, somewhere; maybe.. (Hello? Is anyone there?) But, if you’re like me in liking unusual cars, this one would have to be on your wish list. This formerly elite 1974 Lotus Elite is in Preston, United Kingdom on the beautiful River Ribble and it will need some work after being in storage. It’s listed on eBay with an asking price of £3,000 ($4,319).

042016 Barn Finds - 1974 Lotus Elite - 3

The Elite was made from 1974 through 1982 and according to the seller this car was registered on 26/06/74. They don’t list a year for the car but I’m assuming that means that it’s a 1974 model. A “502” is one of four trim levels; it’s a base 501 model with air-conditioning. A 503 would have AC and power steering, and a 504 would also add an automatic transmission on top of the other options, which would have been available after 1976.

042016 Barn Finds - 1974 Lotus Elite - 4

Yes, I’m wondering about the red splotch of paint and the red passenger door, too. The seller mentions that they have a brown door and they’re in the process of putting it on now. I don’t know why it was changed out since they also mention that it “does not appear to have been repaired on the body or suffered any damage to the glass fibre body.panels all lign (sic) up and seem straight.” Were they going to change it over to being a red car? The profile on the Elite is unique, to say the least!

042016 Barn Finds - 1974 Lotus Elite - 2

The rear view is either great or horrible, depending on your viewpoint on this car and on car design, in general. I like it, but you knew that. There were only 2,535 of these cars made so they are pretty rare, like them or not.

042016 Barn Finds - 1974 Lotus Elite - 5

There are some missing bits on the interior, but parts are available so you should be able to tidy it up in there in a few weekends. This is what it should look like after you’ve worked your magic on the interior. The seller mentions that “the seats apart from one small part of the rear off side is not ripped.”

042016 Barn Finds - 1974 Lotus Elite - 6

The seller says that this car has 69,000 miles on this 2.0L (1,973cc) inline-four with around 155 hp. And, as “of March 2016 we are changing the cambelt and tensioner and changing the fuel. We have now got the car running and starting on the key. We are now going to put the car on the lift and go through the car ready to submit for an mot.” There are quite a few photos included so check out the eBay link, you may find yourself liking this car even more than I do, if that’s possible. Is this Lotus Elite something that you would restore or do you prefer their more conventionally-shaped cars?


  1. Frank

    Explain “number plate might make it free” please

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    • SimonG

      The car has a private plate or a pre age related plate, 3 numbers and 3 letters would prob be worth £3000, ( it could be fitted to any s class Merc for example and you wouldn’t know if it was 1 or 5 years old ) and when you have an mot inspection your free to sell the plate, you end up with an age related normal number plate on the classic…

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      • Tim

        I’ve asked the seller for the VIN number. If he delivers, that will clear up the model year question. The format wasn’t 100% consistent, but the first four numbers after the alpha prefix, were the year and month of manufacture (YYMM). Sometimes the 4th & 5th digits were the batch number, which didn’t necessarily match the day of manufacture, but it gave you a clue of when in the month the car was built (YYMMBB). Finally, the last four number digits and an alpha suffix were the unit serial number. Eight number digits is the short VIN, and ten digits adds the batch number in the middle.

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      • Tim

        74/0602034 VIN number. 74/06 indicates it was built in June or 1974.
        7 7406 7559 Engine Number, 7406 agrees with the build date, above.

        The number plate is in bad shape, and barely legible.

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  2. DJS

    Very cool Sportwagen/Shooting Brake. I like.

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  3. gotboost6

    Not my cup of tea. Looks like a Lotus and a Gremlin crashed into each other and this was the result.

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    • edh

      It does have sort of a Gremlin profile in the back

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    • Tim

      Yeah, I’ve also had that ‘Gremlin’ thought. The 1970s wasn’t a good era for car design, IMHO, and that whole planes and angles approach was best left in that decade. Having said that, the Elite, and it’s companion the fastback Eclat, just never photographed well. Whether you like the basic design or not, it does look better in person than in photos.

      I have two Eclats. After they are lowered to the design-correct Euro ride height, the car is lower than a Corvette of the period, lighter than my Esprit S2, seats 4, has a large boot/ trunk, and handles better than the Esprit. Nope, that’s not a mis-print. With just the driver and a passenger aboard, the car was a delight to drive. Of course, it was a little less nimble with four people aboard, and a full boot, but at least it offered the option of going either way. For a young adult with a budding family, it was a great way to have a fun car and the utility to take everyone along for the ride.

      If you want a car like the Elite, then the Excel SE that followed would be the car to have.

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  4. Roger Owen

    Not the prettiest offering from the Lotus stable, but slant engine breathing through twin Weber 45 DCOE’s – yikes!

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    • Tim

      The carbs are Dellorto DHLA 45Es, and they’re far better than the older Weber DCOEs. They’re easier to tune, and once set, they hold that state of tune much longer. Set ’em and forget ’em, with none of the fiddling that goes with DCOEs.

      And they make a glorious sound.

      The engine does have the cam carriers and covers from a later 2.2 liter 910 or 912 engine. The original 907 parts were problematic oil leak sources, and the later parts, as shown, solved the majority of the problem. Other than the good carbs and cam carriers, that engine bay needs a lot of TLC. Well, so does the rest of the car. There isn’t one bit of it that’s going to ‘buff out’.

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  5. 67coopers

    When I got my mini I had the opportunity to get a “just assemble” version of one of these. The body was pristine, the frame was completely restored, the interior was fully recovered in leather and the engine was in the other barn ready to install. The entire car had been restored, but not assembled. It was offered for $3,000 but just wasn’t worth it. It was SOOOOOOO ugly. What a horrible body design for such a great car. Keep in mind the car was nestled between Lotus Elans, a Ferrari Dino, multiple Minis, a Tiger and so on and so on. I just couldn’t do it.

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  6. Ian

    Some moral support for you Scotty. I am like you and this car is on my wish list. So that makes 2 of us.

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  7. Dave Wright

    I bought one like this from a yard in Oakland California about 10 years ago, one of the worst cars I ever owned. The rear window leaked so bad there was a foot of water in the boot. The engine and electrical system were terrible. Even the lotus people thought they were bad. Sold it for 750.00 after doing an extensive cleanup. These were the worst years and models for Lotus and I have owned them for over 4 decades.

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  8. Grr

    Love these precisely because they are weird…

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  9. brakeservo

    The American cars had a rear windshield wiper – I don’t see evidence of one on this crapper. I like to note that as a 19 year old kid working for the Lotus dealer in Van Nuys, California I designed the fix to the problem of the wiper blade hanging up on the window trim as they were originally designed. My fix was adopted by the factory, just as my fix for an interior trim problem common to every Jensen Interceptor was also adopted by the factory after the service rep saw my solution with a piece of plastic I bought at the local Pep Boys about 1973 or 1974.

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    • Badhuis

      Always nice to hear from some who actually dealt with the cars when new.
      Was it your idea to put the rear wiper to the top of the window instead of have it lying on the body under the window?
      And what was the trim problem of the Jensen? Would be nice to know what you did to it.
      (owner of an Interceptor Mk1)

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  10. Bobsmyuncle

    I thought the third photo was a joke. I truly didn’t expect that rear end.

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  11. brakeservo

    I’ve never seen one with a rear wiper on the top of the window – they were put on the bottom but needed a small “ramp” to make it over the molding onto the glass. I took and make the first one with a block of aluminum and a file. On the Interceptor, it was so stinkin’ simple!! In the boot, under the rear “package shelft” the vinyl would always pull away and not stay glued. I simply went down to the nearest Pep Boys and bought a length of chrome colored plastic edge trim, cut to fit and slid it on over the edge to positively hold the vinyl in place! The Jensen factory rep was amazed – I was amazed that no one else did it before.

    Like 0

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