Competition Classic: 1966 Lotus Elan Fixed-Head Coupe

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This 1966 Lotus Elan Fixed-Head Coupe is an unusual car because it has led a life of competition since new, but its original engine has managed to survive the rigors of racing. It retired from racing in the 1980s and has spent some time in storage. It runs and drives, and the owner says that the Elan needs to be considered as a project by the next owner. The little Lotus is located in Missoula, Montana, and is listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has run up to $12,200, but the reserve hasn’t been met.

Of course, a life of competition is going to come at a cost somewhere, and the Elan displays some of this on its panels. There are going to be some fiberglass repairs required before a fresh coat of paint is required. It would be interesting to see whether the next owner chooses to stick with the original British Racing Green, or if they opt for something different. On the positive side of the ledger, all of the body and trim components are present, and the frame only displays some minor surface corrosion. In other words, this is a structurally sound car that is just waiting for someone to weave their magic on it.

It’s under the hood where things really begin to become interesting with the Lotus. What you get is the normal 1,558cc Lotus twin-cam engine, sending its power to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission. What makes this interesting is the fact that this engine, which is numbers-matching, has survived an extended period in competition. It isn’t like the original owner gave the car an easy life pottering around at the rear of the racing field. He managed to secure championship wins with the car, indicating that it was driven quite hard. The current owner says that he doesn’t know whether the engine has ever been rebuilt, but he does state that the car runs and drives. He has performed some work on the fuel system to get things nice and clean again. He has also replaced the master and slave cylinder for the clutch, along with the brake master cylinder and front brake calipers. He does say that the rear calipers will need some work, and he advises the next owner to have the car checked over by a Lotus specialist to ensure that everything is in good order before hitting the road in the little classic.

There’s no sugar-coating this because while the seats look like they are in good condition, it looks like the majority of the interior trim will require restoration. I would assume that the original carpet was removed when the car saw competition, but the rest of the trim just has a tatty look about it. The one aspect of the interior which may provide some angst is the dash. It is original and is looking quite damaged. It could be restored, but I would be quite inclined to replace it. The reason is that the existing dash has a number of plaques attached to it that trace the car’s competition history. I think that it would be nice to preserve this outside the car as an interesting piece of racing memorabilia. That’s just a personal opinion, and yours might be different on that point. The non-original wheel also shouldn’t be a concern, because the original, along with some of the car’s racing memorabilia, is included in the sale.

The philosophy of Lotus founder Colin Chapman was essentially to simplify and add lightness. Nowhere is this philosophy better displayed than in the Lotus Elan. With 115hp on tap and a total weight of just over 1,500lbs, the Elan is capable of producing acceleration times that are still considered respectable today. This one is a clean and solid example with a great history, and I hope that the next owner is able to restore and enjoy what really is a great classic British sports car.

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  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    Fixed hard top did wonders to firm up the chassis on these cars. There are several of them racing in our area and they are really fast… and fun.

    Like 1
  2. Chinga Trailer

    A former race car, huh? Uh, where’s the rollbar? Race seat and harness? Some numbers on the side would be good. Stock air cleaner too. What kind of race would this have run? No such thing as Showroom Stock 50 some odd years ago . . .

    Like 0
  3. Tempo Matador Ray

    Because of what this car has achieved in its life, I wouldn’t be so quick to do a full nuts and bolt restoration on this unit. Instead preserve the track legacy it has earned with a sympathetic preservation restoration, updating and replacing as required. In addition, and without question, complete a thorough inspection/ build of the powerplant and gear box and enjoy driving the car at its “best vintage performance.” I personally feel very fortunate having performed this with one of my own vintage projects years ago, and it most certainly receives it share of interest and praise. “Continue to innovate not duplicate”…

    Like 1
  4. Dave at OldSchool Restorations

    ” Racing until 1980’s ” ?????

    There is NO evidence of ANY racing modifications or required equipment to pass any Tech inspection for racing. Autocross, and espec Solo II, do not make it a “race car ” in a ” stock class” . After all, there IS NO PASSING and it is clearly NOT a Racing Event. Even the Showroom Stock race Class has requirements that this car does not meet, but that is actually racing.
    Just because the seller makes a false claim that this is a race car does not make it so. BF should consider it’s reputation as to correctness, a little more carefully, and not re-define what a race car is, as (hopefully) the whole World ‘is watching’ this great website.

    On the other hand, these 2 seaters are REALLY great cars, and this one apeears to be well worth more than the current 12k bid

    Like 3
    • RayT

      That claim bugs me a little, too, Dave. To me a “race car” in this country would be one that a) had proper safety equipment and allowable engine/.chassis modifications, plus an SCCA (or CSCC, or IMSA) log book and, as a bonus perhaps some verifiable results.

      On the other hand, this Elan is less liable to have suffered any major racing damage — other fiberglass-bodied cars, notably Corvettes, were notorious for leaving shreds and shreds on the track after their races were done — so it would be easier and less costly to restore to sweet, shiny street originality. Which is what I’d love to do with this.

      REAL Old Race Cars can be pretty mangy and worn.

      Like 1
      • Dave at OldSchool Restorations

        @RayT I did not intend to detract from this cars potential,
        …………… it is worth more as a street car anyway.

        My point had to do with properly describing the car on this site that is followed everywhere, and should have a reputation for a certain amount of accuracy.
        Racing and Survivor are two that have been commonly mis-used.

        An autocross car, or Solo II car is prepared to an entirely different , very limited set of requirements … and it’s use is not considered racing … Anyone can clearly learn from the SCCA site that these are NOT racing events……. they are never ‘door to door’ with another car, because passing is not done. And, for the most part, are never done on a race course.
        Most insurance companies do not consider the events ” racing “.. nor does the rest of the world.
        Most, but not all, Hillclimb cars often ARE considered racing, and they are suitably prepared for the crash risk and driver deaths that accompanies them… even tho’ they are not ‘door to door’ racing, because the risk is so high.

        Like 0
  5. ccrvtt

    One look at the new Corvette C8 framework and you can see a striking similarity to the Elan backbone, despite the different engine locations.

    This is a cool car regardless of the ‘story’. The cam covers alone are worth the price of admission.

    Like 0
  6. lc

    There have been many race cars that have been returned to street duty – Is this one of them? Only an eye’s on close inspection would prove it out. So, not knowing what the reserve is and only seeing the photos presenting its claimed history is a mute point….and if it is truly a former race car, I’d leave the dash as is. Hope the reserve isn’t to high :)

    Like 0
  7. bobhess bobhessMember

    In the ’60s you drove it to the track, having installed a minimal roll bar, take off the hub caps, get the junk out of the trunk, and go. SCCA hadn’t realized you could possibly get killed doing this stuff.

    Like 1
  8. Tempo Matador Ray

    Hey Bob Hess,
    Well said 👏🛠🔩⚙

    Like 0
  9. Doug

    One thing to check on any Elan is the backbone frame – a real pain to repair, and prone to rust – from the inside out.

    Like 0

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