Ladies’ Night Commuter: 1980 Lotus Elite

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With just under 23,000 original miles, this 1980 Lotus Elite 504 is an unusually well-preserved example of a car we typically see in project form. The reason for that? It was used by its one, solitary female owner as a vehicle to drive back and forth to bridge games with the girls, according to this listing here on The preserved “Model 504” is listed with a negotiable price of $29,800. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Rocco B. for the find. 

The 504 was the swan song for the Type 75 Elite, and it was equipped with air conditioning and an automatic transmission. The seller says this example has been used sparingly over the last 25 years, primarily just making runs for its smog test each year. The seller is the original owner, who claims the car was primarily used by his wife when new and that the body and interior remain in excellent condition.

The interior includes leather upholstery and wood veneer trim on the center stack. Normally, when we see these breadvan-style Lotuses, the interior is completely trashed, with rough bucket seats, drooping headliner, and heavily worn wood trim. The headliner has been replaced and the other items show no major signs of wear, clearly helped by the Elite’s impressively low mileage.

The engine bay is spotless, and the 2.0L four-cylinder mill was good for about 155 b.h.p. when new. Considering the low use and seemingly detail-oriented ownership on display here, I’m sure power loss has been minimal – aside from whatever that fun-sapping automatic takes away. The slushbox really kills a lot of the interest for me, but I’m sure a Lotus enthusiast would love to own this as a time capsule example that sees limited use.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Paul

    It’s beautiful. Pity about the transmission, though.

    Like 9
  2. Bradshaw from Primer

    Stirling Moss had his Elite in 1960 outfitted with an automatic.

    Like 4
    • RayT

      I seem to recall Moss’s Elite received a Hobbs “Mechamatic” transmission created by the father of race driver David Hobbs, an efficient four-speed gearbox that never made it into full production. Never heard much about it after prototypes were built, but it was said to be superior to other automatics then available.

      And of course the Moss Elite was the original Coventry Climax-powered version, not the later wedgy Elite.

      Like 5
  3. Ralph

    I always thought these looked a like a bad “future car” prop from a 70’s sci-fi movie…… what someone from 1974 though a 1999 Mercury Cougar was going to look like……..

    Like 10
  4. Big Len

    Asking price is Fantasyland.

    Like 6
  5. Victor Anderson

    “negotiable price of $29,800″……

    Are you kidding me? Better ‘negotiate’ quite a bit because you can buy these things all day long for 5000 bucks – it’s the least expensive Lotus you can get.

    Like 9
  6. Randy Slade

    Price is way out of line. The condition is nice but this is a car that requires a lot of maintenance and will kick you when down.
    My 76 went up in smoke.
    The automatic is probably ok as the manual transmission was problematic at best.
    They are fun cars to drive when everything was right but that is rare.
    My feeling is this is a sub $10k car so they are not going to be happy with the offers.

    Like 6
  7. CanuckCarGuy

    Being a big fan of the shooting-brake, this beauty fits the bill for me…the automatic isn’t ideal, but for a fair weather run about I could live with it…but that price, yikes.

    Like 2
  8. Wrong Way

    Great price! Beautiful car! Unfortunately I just don’t have enough room for it, or I would jump! I can’t figure out why I built a 40′ × 100′ garage! It’s full already this was 2 years ago, and already full of classics and 1 on going project! Does this happen to anyone else?

    Like 2
  9. RITON

    A Lotus with an automatic??? Yikes…

    Like 2
  10. Bruce

    Changing the trans is not as difficult as one might think. These are really strange cars. Amazing handling and brakes, truly comfortable, for what they are quiet to drive, in todays traffic almost scary small compared to modern SUV’s.

    That is until you know about the structure. It is filled with structural foam that bonds both the exterior panels with the interior ones. Making in some cases the net effect a 4″ thick plastic beam. Same for the pillars and other locations. These are truly safety cars for the kinds of hits they can take and keep the driver alive. You have to get into one to really understand how amazing they truly are.

    If the engine has the pollution controls and carbs fall off by accident of course the transformation is stunning. Not quite M-3 Levels but not bad either. This is due to the very light weight of the car. Given the Kit car pars sourcing of Lotus all the small bits are available for the interior and much of the rest of the car.

    IF you buy it I would suggest you will never see yourself going the opposite direction unless at a club event. There is some value to that these days. And for those that wish to repeat the Lotus line that it means Lots of Trouble Usually Serious enjoy yourselves and let that foolish slogan blind you to a truly amazing car. They can be extremely reliable especially after the Europa’s and Elan’s of the 60’s and early 70’s. After that things got better fast. They do not take abuse but treated properly they can put up amazing miles.

    Like 5
    • Dave at OldSchool Restorations

      @ Bruce …. ” Changing the trans is not as difficult as one might think ” …???
      . I suspect you have never done this before…. . most any engine/transmission rebuild on these cars is difficult…. the motor/trans removal is almost impossible, and getting it back in, is not easier.

      We have done a half dozen Elites ands Eclats, both 4 and 5 speeds, and the BW automatic. To do and engine rebuild, it’s easier for us to remove the body than the motor/trans.

      Like 0
      • Bruce

        I have done them and also removed engines in Elan’s, Esprits and Europa’s. I would like to revise my statement however. While the removal of the transmission is not difficult there is a great deal of things to get out of the way first. Simply put almost everything. These are really small cars and almost everything is in the way for the removal of anything else. That make the job time consuming and very very detail oriented. It does not however in my view point make it difficult.

        I find the Esprit to be a harder job because of all the suspension and other things you need to remove before you even start to remove the engine/transmission. Forgive my lack of clarity please.

        Like 0
  11. Fiete T.

    SRT-4 motor, bellhousing from a Jeep, trans from a Saturn Sky/Pontiac Solstice, re-wired with a Painless kit…then he might get in the $29k range.

    Like 0
  12. Paul oberman

    I will say this. I have had manual sports cars in Los Angeles. There have been many times in traffic that I have wished they were automatics

    Like 3
  13. RITON

    Is a sports car intended for commuting in LA traffic jams?
    Need 2 (or more ;) ) cars : one for the fun and another one for “everyday”…

    Like 2
    • Paul Oberman

      Unlike a lot of people who like old cars, we are actually drive them. Not the most practical but it is our own personal dysfunction.

      Like 1
  14. GLK

    I’m 62 years old and have been into sports cars since I was 14. In that time I’ve witnessed dozens upon dozens of vehicles that were unceremoniously considered by know-it-all’s as finicky used cars that aren’t worth squat magically transform into coveted six and seven figure classics. It always makes me laugh when armchair “market experts” ridicule prices based on what something sold for yesterday. Maybe this Lotus’s condition and fastidious maintenance will entice a buyer to spend in the $20K range. For most people looking to buy an interesting no stories European car from an F1 brand his ask is not a whole lot of money these days. It’ll be interesting to see what happens, but there’s nothing here to criticize. I wish him best of luck.

    Like 5
  15. Will Owen

    I am with you, Mr. Oberman. While my Alfa Milano is the best crawling-traffic stick shift car I’ve ever had – 2nd gear is usable from any speed over a dead stop, and the clutch is sweet too – I’d still rather do it in the automatic Subaru. A/C and a good radio helps too, of course …

    This is the first example of what I will always regard as the Fake Elites that actually appeals to me, though certainly not at that price. All the ones I’ve seen have been that nasty mustard color so popular then, and all but a few have looked like the previous owner dropped it off and ran like heck before anyone could say, “Hey, YOU!” As the writer noted, they tend to look like they’ve just sat in a shed until someone decided to try selling it. Props to this one for liking it well enough to keep it clean and smogged. Just please get real with the price, okay?

    Like 0
  16. Todd

    What state requires a smog inspection for a 38 year old car?

    Like 0
    • paul oberman


      Like 1

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