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Back Seat Driver: 1970 Lotus Elan +2 S

While a Miata may be the logical choice as a daily driver, the idea of owning its spiritual predecessor with two additional seats in the back is far more appealing to us. The Lotus Elan is the car many believe was the inspiration for Mazda’s popular two-seater, but this 1970 +2 S model for sale in Oregon offers the added appeal of rear seats for the kids and classic Lotus styling. Although this one has some structural issues, the no-reserve auction could mean a low cost of entry. Find it here on eBay with four days left and bidding just over $5,000.

The fact that the Miata is so closely linked to the Lotus is no accident: Mazda’s engineers actually studied two Elans to create the final product that would become one of the most successful roadsters of all time. Though seemingly a simple formula, cars like the Elan and the Miata have proven difficult to duplicate, as they capture the essence of the driving experience: low weight, a balanced chassis, and rev-happy engines. The Elan featured here has had some alterations in the engine bay, as the classic twin-cam motor has been upgraded to dual Webers. The seller says it does turn over freely but doesn’t currently run.

As this car was stored for several years, you should be concerned about dampness, mice, and other issues associated with long-term storage. However, the car’s interior looks clean, with front and rear seats appearing almost as-new. The wood dashboard is in nice shape and all the glass is present. The seller says the paint could use some work and isn’t sure whether the finish is original. Much of the chrome is still intact, but the upright headlights could have some vacuum line issues. The Webasto sunroof is a nice period touch, but we’d want to be sure it is watertight.

In addition to the cosmetic scars and non-original engine, this Elan has a significant crack at the right front shock tower. Structural issues can be a bear to correct, and we’d venture that this is a bit more than the “fracture” the seller describes. If you want to use the Elan as it was intended, either on the track or some twisty backroads, structural integrity is a must. We can see rust bubbling around the crack, so getting a specialist’s opinion before buying seems like a prudent move.

Prices for a quality Elan are not going down anytime soon, as their desirability remains high. The added rarity of this +2 model with reportedly less than 1,200 on the road will likely ensure it finds a new home, but the buyer will hopefully have some money left over to address the ugly crack in the frame. The question of restoring a cheap car versus paying the high price for one that is just right is a constant debate; which would you choose? Let us know in the comments below.


  1. Horse Radish

    This would look like a nice driver, or at least it does in the photos.
    The frames seem to be a weak point on these, and so on this car.
    @ $5100 it certainly seems high, if that frame needs or even can be repaired…..
    How much more for a nice one ? This seems high enough.
    These cars, for some reason, have poor resale value.
    So you have to plan your investment, not to be upside down in a hurry !

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  2. Richard

    If I had the money I’d snap this one up in a cold second, just for the experience of taking it apart, building it back up again, and making it my own. Might even get one of those new Ford Racing Lotus 4-cylinder blocks and build a whole new gutsier engine for it! This would be an awesome long distance touring car. (sigh) One can dream…..

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  3. Dolphin Member

    There’s some info on the how the Miata was designed that says that Mazda actually bought an Elan and had it in the Mazda engineering studio with the body off to get ideas for their new sports car. Whether that’s actually true I’m not sure, and I don’t know that Mazda has ever admitted it, but it makes sense when you compare at the two cars that Mazda might have taken some inspiration and ideas from the Lotus.

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  4. J. Pickett

    If there’s a real problem with the chassis, replacement frames for Loti, can be found on the internet. Better ones are galvanized. I think they may even be available from Lotus.

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  5. Chuck

    new galvanized chassis is about the cost of the car by the time you ship it to the U.S. No doubt a salvageable candidate being mostly complete, but not for the faint of heart. Lucas wiring experience is a must…Be prepared to chase down every connector and ground on this for years even if it had not sat for so long.

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  6. mikey

    Lotus Plus 2 is my cup o’ tea. The leg room is wonderful, the steering is like no hobby car I have owned. The frame looks to be an easy fix….but I was a welder for thirty years. A little gusset here, a little there. These cars never came from the factory with a pull back roof. Meaning, some idiot cut out the center of the car…………..not too worry. Get a mold from another Plus 2 and make up a section and glass it in and make the car right.
    At 1900 lbs these are top notch drivers.
    Ford block and transmission………what’s not too like?

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