503 Specification: 1978 Lotus Elite

This is the third interesting Lotus I’ve written up over the last few weeks, preceded by an Eclat and an Excel. Although the Excel was my favorite, I am finding these kammback-style four-seaters increasingly endearing. This project-grade 1978 Lotus Elite here on eBay is a desirable 503-spec example, which offered better gearing and creature comforts over earlier models. The seller is asking $5,500 via the Buy-It-Now button with two days left.

Styling-wise, I’ve always dug the squat proportions of kammback-style cars, from the AMC Pacer to the Chevy Vega. The added versatility is a welcome feature in a classic project car, along with the ability to haul some (small) friends. This particular car has been relegated to project status for many years, and the seller acquired it in mid-restoration from an owner in New York. The Lotus retains a title from Arizona, and the condition of the body suggests years of dry storage conditions.

The seller mentions how, as a 503 car with a later production date, it has better options (like leather) and other interior fittings. As you can see, the driver’s seat will need repair, but other areas look acceptable. The bigger question is whether it has the preferred optional 4.1:1 final drive ratio, which made the Elite a much more pleasant driver than when it was first introduced with the standard 3.7:1. Motor Sport magazine provides a great write-up about the ins and outs of the Excel, which you can read here.

The seller doesn’t provide much detail on the drivetrain or other replacement parts needed, other than noting the car comes with a host of NOS/OEM spare parts in boxes. He offers, “…I know little about the engine, but there are duplicate water pumps along with other duplicate pieces, which I believe are from the gentleman who started the restoration in NY.” So there are likely to be some missing components and detective-work required, but the purportedly rust-free chassis makes this one worth a look.


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  1. Derek

    I bought a Lotus with the intention of transplanting the engine and ‘box into my FD Victor (with a side stripe, of course). Lotus took a couple of days to expire terminally. Sold the ‘box and scrapped the rest.

    Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious!

    I should’ve known…

  2. Maestro1 Member

    These cars are esoteric, to say the least, and parts are not easily forthcoming.
    But there is strong upside in a narrow market (Lotus Enthusiasts) so it could be an interesting effort. Your insurance broker will not love you (try Hagerty) and parts are available using ads from the motoring press. Shop around; some of the parts prices are irrational. Once it’s fixed, it’s a blast to drive.

  3. PeterK

    Another seller that has the decimal point in the wrong place. These cars are great and fun when they run. When they break, you better have a bottomless wallet. The major part on the failure rate on these cars is that Lotus used the cheapest electrical parts from Lucas. The Prince of Darkness.

  4. curt

    I love lotus an the best thing to do is replace the wiring system with a painless setup…


    How much for the Gremlin?

  6. Coventrycat

    Every Elite I’ve ever seen is perfect, or a complete shed like this one. Never driver or restore as you go, and it seems to only afflict this model.

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