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Light And Cheap: $2,950 1980 Lotus Elite

This 1980 Lotus Elite is a project car that’s been substantially broken down into a rolling parts bin, with most of its drivetrain in pieces and parts of the body flat-out missing. Still, this isn’t exactly unusual for basketcase Lotus projects, and this one at least has the benefit of having a decent interior and being a 503 package car, which offered a few additional creature comforts when new. Find the Lotus here on eBay with a Buy-It-Now of $2,950 and the option to submit a best offer.

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Patrick S. for the find. Anything less than $3K starts to make even the most challenging projects look doable, and I suspect there’s room to go lower with the best offer option. The Elite looks best from this driver’s side rear corner view, as you can’t see the primered nose as well and the paint almost looks consistent around the back half of the car. Plus, the driver’s side of the rear bumper is still attached, which cannot be said for the passenger side which is somehow missing exactly half of the ugly safety beam.

This is a Texas car, which doesn’t matter as much on a Lotus with its fiberglass body; unfortunately, it usually just means the interior is shredded to pieces by the unforgiving sun. In this case, I suppose the Lotus has fared better than most, as the cabin is tattered but certainly not obliterated; in saying that, however, I realize it’s akin to proffering that your jaw is just dislocated but not broken. I’m not sure what’s going on with the carpets, but whatever it is, it’s not good. Fortunately, the console is better than I expected.

This mess of parts is what you’ll have to sort through to determine how best to attack the engine rebuild. Frankly, nothing here is going to be of much use without significant cleaning and reassembly, and your best bet is to send it off to a machine shop for inspection and rebuilding. Or, just buy a known good engine and put this hodge-podge on the shelf until you need a spare. The 503 cars did come with A/C, power steering, and tinted glass, so if that makes a difference for you, it might be worth making an offer on this project-grade Elite.


  1. AF

    Don’t ask questions. RRRRUUUUUNNNNN!!!!!!!!

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  2. Joe Padavano

    It will only take $15K to make that into a $10,000 car…

    Like 1
  3. PairsNPaint

    Forget the motor – swap in a 215 ci aluminum Buick. Only thing that scares me is that Brenham, Texas is awfully near Houston – think Hurricane Harvey and the floods. CHECK THE CHASSIS!!!

    Like 0
  4. jake

    Run away – fast!!!!

    Like 0
  5. Chinga Trailer

    Every bad thing the Jensen GT was and worse. Oh, it’s ugly too. FWIW I worked for a California Lotus dealer when these were first foisted upon the unsuspecting public and drove the very first one in America.

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  6. Dick Jones Member

    Just put it in the back of your garage and tell everyone you own a Lotus!

    Like 0
  7. david

    Great road car. ATOH, I admit to having participated in a friend buying a “good” running one for less than this. I have experience with 2 Jenson-Healeys. Great engine but pain in the ass to tune the contenser/points dizzy and adjust valves every 10K miles. Swapped a later 2,2 l engine w/electronic ignition. Only way to go. Be the only one on your block.

    Like 0

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