Rare 2+2: 1972 Lotus Elan 130 +2

This 1972 Lotus Elan is a rare +2 example that has rear seats, a longer wheelbase, and in this instance, the “Big Valve” engine which was another optional upgrade. Though many enthusiasts tend to throw shade at cars with backseats that were originally conceived as two-seaters, I don’t think you can deny that even with a backseat, the Elan is still a very pretty car, and just as sporting as Colin Chapman intended. The example shown here on craigslist for $31,000 is in very nice condition with one of the better interiors I’ve seen in an Elan of this vintage and lots of other nice details that speak to a high degree of ongoing preservation.

One of the biggest reasons the 1999 BMW M3 convertible I bought last summer hasn’t been shipped out as originally intended for a modest profit is because, for the first time, I have a “hobby” car that my wife and daughter enjoy as much as I do. The presence of a backseat in a sports-minded two-door is a rare thing when you think about it, and it never dawned on me that a four-seater sports car might be nice to have around. The 1970s saw an explosion of grand touring cars from the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini that incorporated rear seats, and it makes you wonder what consumer trends those companies were monitoring to determine that four-seater cars with V12s and manual transmissions were needed in the lineup.

The interior of this Lotus stands out to me in a big way, namely because so many of them look absolutely rotten by now. Lotuses always have a slightly crude veneer, in my opinion, reflecting the small-scale operations the company has clung to since its inception. As the first owner, you got to see the wood trim still in gleaming condition and the leather-wrapped surfaces before the stitching all busted loose. Neglected Lotus cars look genuinely rough inside, especially after years of sun exposure. Despite being located in Florida, this Elan doesn’t appear to be suffering from extended periods of baking outside, but it doesn’t look restored, either – the dash looks like it could be original, but the seats are a toss-up as to whether they were previously restored.

The Elan presents quite well, with period fog lights wrapped in Lucas light covers and chrome bumpers in excellent condition. The wheels are period-correct for the Lotus and look to be in great shape as well. The so-called “Big Valve” engine was an option at the time, and earned its nickname for having larger inlet valves over the standard mill. It didn’t result in huge gains power-wise, but for a light-weight car like a Lotus, I’m guessing you’d feel it in the seat of your pants. This +2 model is a fine example of a rare car, and far cheaper than some of those other four-seater sports cars I referenced earlier. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Matt R. for the find.

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  1. chipsbee

    Howdy, Again, Jeff ! I happen to have one like this, one of my favorites as it is so wonderful to drive. For such a light vehicle @2000lbs, it consumes bumps as would a much heavier car. The ride is “svelty”, I tell people, silky, wonderfully absorbing yet handles very well. The controls are placed just at the correct spot, gauges and switches logical and easily found. Colin Chapman, designer, was frustrated by the shortness and narrowness of the Elan, designed all of the components to be stretched out a bit until the suspension moved as he wished for. Then a body was designed (by Costin ?) to fit this lengthier, wider stance and the jump-seats were perfect to incorporate into the lengthier body. It looks from almost every angle, best from the 3/4 rear angle in my eye. This version was Colin’s daily driver for many years into newer models introduced. It was unfortunate to have chosen the Ford Consul wind screen, a negative choice in my view as it didn’t allow the freedom a designer needs to carry through a complete design by having to use some shape to begin with. This was a problem at FiberFab, always starting with certain known components to start a shape. This ad doesn’t let us know which cylinder head it has, a ‘Weber’ or ‘Stromberg’, the Weber being more desirable.

  2. chip

    Howdy, again, Jeff ! I have one just like this. Love it ! It’s not clear wether this car has the desirable ‘Weber’ head or less desirable ‘Stromberg’.

  3. chipsbee

    As I was sayin, I enjoy this stretched out version of the smaller Elan. Colin Chapman wished for a more compliant and absorbing ride, re-designed all chassis, axle, pick-up points to be wider and longer within the same ratios. The body required a lengthier and wider body and I believe Costin came to offer his talents to leave us a wonderful looking car. The ride is wonderful, it handles well, feels somehow heavier than its 2000lbs over bumps yet lighter around corners.

    • tompdx

      Agree. This body has more attractive proportions than the two seater. I love the way the rear of the B-pillar ends over the rear wheel arch, like an old Ferrari coupe or a BMW 3.0cs. It’s a beautiful design element whenever it appears.

  4. Fletch

    Looking at in profile, it’s hard to imagine carrying more than a couple of pints in those rear “seats.”

  5. chipsbee

    It would be good to learn which of the two cylinder head/carburetors this car has. The more desirable Webers would be more attractive for power and value. My Plus two is a Weber-head, and works well. It’s unfortunate the choice of the windscreen from a Ford Consul was selected, and like designs at FiberFab, having to use existing glass restricted the freedom of shape, often resulting in compromise.

  6. John Corey Member

    I own one of these beauties. First of all the Big Valve was not an option, but just the later version of the standard engine. Early Plus2’s were sold as kits, but later ones were only factory-built. As to that dash, likely a replacement. They are available in any wood and finish you like.And as to a back seat, well… like all 2+2’s that thing behind the real seats is there for insurance purposes only and no one older than 2 with actual legs will ever fit into it without permanent damage.
    The slight increase in mass of a Plus 2 vs a plain Elan is less than a passenger on board, but the extra width adds a flatness to their already spectacular cornering that is VERY enjoyable.
    BTW, they weigh only 1800# (I measured), though various references will say anywhere up to a ton – not so. The basic Elans were about 1500#.
    It’s a happy buyer who goes for this car, even without the radio option (and no a modern radio will not fit in there – it must be less than 100 mm deep).

  7. Europa Greg

    This is a great looking car. The price is reasonable if 1) the backbone chassis is solid with little-to-no rust and 2) the engine has good compression. These twin cam engines are not like modern motors and need refreshing on occasion. (I have a ’74 Europa and just had a top end rebuild done on mine). The other thing to look for are stress cracks in the fiberglass as it’s much thinner than what you find on other fiberglass cars (like Corvettes). This helps keep the car light, but it means most of them have at least some crazing and chipping of the finish.

    Looks really nice, though. And as you say, the interior looks really very good for a Lotus of this vintage.

  8. Philip

    Only 14 photos, no engine or chassis photos and no information/history on a rare car. Seems like a winning strategy to sell a car.
    I like the car’s profile, a lot like the OSI 20M TS design.

  9. bog

    Well Jeff – It seems the 31K you quoted as the price didn’t sit well with the seller, so he “upped the ante” to 35K. I’ve written before about my lovely (and looking back, far too short) tour of duty in Europe during the late 60’s. One group of single officer friends were the Elan guys & they would good-naturedly pick on the Alfisti etc. Friendly back-and-forth between all of us no matter the make we preferred/drove. In fair weather we’d all be together in our big parking lot early Saturday mornings working on our cars. Precious metric and American standard tools were shared (and damn sure returned) for the common goal of fun competing or touring later that day. Fun times & great cars !

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