Disclosure: This site may receive compensation when you click on some links and make purchases.

Corvette-Powered: 1978 Lotus Elite

I would wager better than 50 percent of the time, when we feature a Lotus Elite project, it’s the kind of car that’ stored in boxes rather than garage spaces. Rarely do they show up as survivors, or complete cars that just need some minor sorting. This example checks none of those boxes, as it’s neither restored nor a basketcase, but it’s definitely something as it features right-hand drive steering, a Chevy LT1 swap, and a 4L60E transmission with all new wiring throughout the chassis. The Elite looks quite sharp, too, with a good body and paint and refreshed interior. It’s also said to be, perhaps unsurprisingly, “….very fast.” Find it here on craigslist for $6,500.

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Pat L. for the find. What’s most interesting to me about this Lotus (besides the engine swap) is the RHD configuration. It likely means this was a gray market import that stuck around after its original owner brought it stateside, and it likely was spared some of the federalization alterations required of cars meant to be sold in the U.S. Regardless of its previous configuration, the owner decided to go forward with a fairly significant powertrain conversion, certainly one I can’t recall seeing done previously. Of course, the answer for all engine swaps these days seems to be the LS1, so it’s not a surprise to see a Chevy powerplant under the hood if the original was deemed fatally flawed.

It looks surprisingly well executed, almost like it was meant to be there. I love the idea of big power in small cars, and while Lotus always prioritized low weight, they weren’t quite as maniacal as the boys over at TVR who would never stop you from strapping a V8 into one of its cars. This conversion, if not a huge pain in the neck, would likely breathe new life into any number of Elite projects languishing under tarps in driveways and backyards across the U.S. The seller notes that the conversion included having the Lotus completely rewired; adding new gauges; installing a new tilt column; retrofitting new fuel lines; and installing a stainless steel fuel tank, among numerous other improvements.

Now, what gets me is the RHD setup. I sold my RHD 1980 BMW 320 earlier this year, and despite being surprisingly easy to drive, I never wanted to bury the throttle too deeply as I knew my muscle reflexes were a few degrees off from where they should be. That said, I can’t imagine what it must be like to hustle a car like this if you’re even the least bit unsettled by the RHD setup. Regardless, you can always take it slow, as you’ll be sitting in one of the few Elites with a refreshed interior that features a new headliner, recovered door panels, new carpet, and retrofitted power windows. This Lotus looks like a hoot and a half, and I hope more forlorn Elites are reborn in such a manner.


  1. djjerme

    …and posting deleted.

    Like 1
  2. Skorzeny

    What sick bastard puts an automatic in a Lotus?

    Like 3
  3. Doyler

    They upgraded the brakes. Right? RIGHT?

    Like 3
  4. Tom Wasney

    Loved this unique quirky body style when they were new. See them come to the market occasionally and lust after them still.. This iteration would be so cool to own and drive… Sounds like a decent build. Awsome ride…

    Like 1
  5. curt wichman

    not an LS1, that is an LT-1, based on the original small block, that is a Corvette engine from 91-96

    Like 3
    • Blyndgesser

      And unlike an LS1, it’s a cast iron lump that probably destroys the delicate handling balance of the Lotus.

      Like 0
      • Elanguy

        I have to agree, though I really don’t know the weights of various engines.

        The aluminum V-8 from GM then Rover has been the standard swap.

        These days maybe something like the Nissan VQ and it’s 6-speed would make a nice package.

        Like 0
  6. Howie Mueler

    I had a red 77, it was one problem after another. This sounds like a great deal for the price. Being deleted does not mean it sold.

    Like 0
  7. Mark

    The Elite is a really nice car to drive. Had a few over the years as daily drivers, still have a 1977 Esprit S1 and a 1978 Eclat S1. Can’t beat an old Lotus if it is in good order. Not sure about a heavy V8 in the front though.

    Like 0
  8. Victor Anderson

    Stupid waste of a Lotus.

    Like 0

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.