8,700 Mile Time Capsule: 1991 Lotus Elan

This 1991 Lotus Elan was apparently someone’s weekend-only driver, as it has a mere 8,739 miles on the clock. That’s obscenely low, and speaks to a car that was kept under wraps aside from quick jaunts in only the best weather conditions. Of course, the condition speaks to those parameters as well, as the Lotus shines from end to end with no visible signs of damage, corrosion, or misuse. Powered by a reliable turbocharged Isuzu-built powerplant, these are quickly moving higher on my list of cars to own someday. Find it here on eBay with bids to $10K and no reserve price listed.

This is a car I always forget existed, and I’m not entirely sure why. They were certainly talked up plenty in the motoring press at the time, as is often the case when Lotus comes out with a new product. It followed the familiar recipe (by now) of light weight and a powertrain sourced from another manufacturer; while today it’s Toyota, in 1991 it was a turbocharged Isuzu engine, not exactly the stuff of exotica. Still, Lotus and Isuzu obviously had an ongoing relationship with Lotus tuning the suspension on Isuzu’s most sporting model, the Impulse, so they weren’t the strangest bedfellows.

The engine was obviously further massaged by Lotus, and delivered a respectable 162 b.h.p. once it found its way under the hood. The result was a run to 60 in under seven seconds, but the big story was obviously the impressive handling right out of the box. Lotus has never wavered in its commitment to building cars with exceptional driving qualities, and road test editors at the time were in awe of its prowess. Still, the Elan didn’t exactly achieve legendary status like other Lotus products, and I’ve always wondered if the relationship with GM at this juncture served to tarnish the car’s pedigree. It didn’t help that the Isuzu name was on the engine cover.

But, the flip side of the tea and crumpets crowd banishing the Elan M100 from the Lotus hall of fame is that an exceptional driver’s car with respectable levels of collectibility remains eminently attainable today. This is certainly one of the best ones left and will command all the money, but you can reliably find nice, low mileage cars for under $20,000. It’s giving me pause at the moment that I may need to sell my E36 M3 convertible sooner than originally thought, even if it means sacrificing a four-seater convertible that my kids and wife love. Perhaps I can convince them the new “fun” car is actually an Isuzu Trooper.

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  1. sir_mike

    What were the people in charge at Lotus thinking when they reused the Elan name on a front drive Jap.powered car??? Sorry but should have called it something else

    Like 1
    • ace10

      You can probably blame the overlords at GM for that.

      Are you similarly offended by the Toyota-sourced 2ZZGE powering the Elise/Exige?

      Like 1
      • Ralph

        I think this car was already under development before GM purchased Lotus, GM provided the cash and the connection to Isuzu to get the engine but GM pretty much let Lotus do what it wanted, it really only wanted their engineering work but they were pretty much left alone except for help with components and such, like GM air bags in Lotuses.

        Before this Lotus had the Lotus Excel which had Toyota sourced parts too, it was RWD however. There was also a Lotus-Toyota based Elan that was under development from around 1982-1984.

        Like 1
      • sir mike

        Not at all because they used car names never used by real lotus’s

    • Guido36

      If you have driven one you might understand why it is worthy of the name. Rocket on rails is an apt description. I had no 24 off the production line and it was fabulous to drive.

      Like 4
  2. Frozenbird

    What about the Ford powered Europa’s and Early Elan’s? They all had the Ford 1.6L with the blue oval cast into the side of the block. Or would one prefer the 100% built Lotus 907 boat anchor they stuck into the Jensen Healey’s?

    Like 1
  3. Steve Member

    Those were Ford blocks developed into Lotus twin cams along with twin Weber 40 dcoe carbs. They did not have the Ford oval stamped into them.

    Like 2
    • sir_mike

      Correct and the Super 7 used basically a production Cortina GT 1500cc mtr.with real good mods.

  4. Claudio

    When i fist saw this car at a used car dealership , i fell in love but when i drove it , i was greatly disapointed to find out it was front wheel drive , so much that i left the site and didnt even bother to explain! May as well buy a convertible ford capri !

    • Stan Marks

      I don’t care about the name, or anything else, about this car. This car is mint, with 8700 miles. The lines will never go out of style. Front wheel drive, who cares?
      This stickered at $40,000 brand new. Keep it in this condition & it will never depreciate. IMHO.
      Current bid at 2AM ET, is $13,600.
      Claudio, what kind of condition, was the car you drove, compared to this one??

      • Claudio

        I vaguely remember under 100,000 kilometers wich is under 50k miles
        Yes, the car looked great and still does but for me , front wheel drive is for everyday and snowy conditions and the sports car or spirited drive is done with the rear wheels pushing … the front wheel drive was the biggest letdown for me !

  5. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Funny to me that this comes out at the same time that Mazda comes out with it’s Elan copy and they sell like hotcakes.

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