Cheap 1967 Lotus Elan Project

We appreciate Robert Thomas bringing this lightweight 1967 Lotus Elan to our attention. The car is located in El Cajon, California and can be seen here on craigslist. Since the car is a roller and will need a complete restoration, the seller is asking $5,950. Being a California car, this Lotus looks like a good candidate for restoration.

The seller states that the interior will need to be restored which is a little bit of an understatement. I am not sure how hard it is to get parts for such a unique car as this but it will need a passenger seat, original steering wheel and a lot of the damaged trim. The car has been off the road since 1986. The car was reportedly owned by the prior owner for quite some time and is now being sold by a dealer.

The original 1,588 cc engine and manual gear box come with the car but they are not installed. This twin cam 4 cylinder engine produced 105 horsepower at 5,500 RPMs. While this doesn’t sound like much, the car only weighed 1,500 pounds because the body was made of fiberglass. The 0-60 times of the 1967 Lotus Elan was just under 8 seconds and the quarter mile could be reached in 16 seconds.

I have always thought the Mazda Miata was extremely similar in its design to the Lotus Elan which was produced from 1962-1973. The steering and road handling of these cars is said to be amazing. So who has owned one of these cars and can tell us more?


  1. Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

    Supposedly the Miata design was based on the Lotus Elan. My understanding about parts for this is that they are extremely hard to locate, particularly for trim pieces. I’d assume that the engine and drivetrain would be easier for which to find parts. However, they may need to be sourced from the UK. Fiberglass body, I believe. Lotus’ are known for frame rot. I believe that Mike and Edd had to replace a frame on one of their Lotus projects.

    Like 5
  2. Jasper

    Drove one years ago. Felt like I was gonna break it, but it had outstanding reflexes. Pretty rough. Negotiate a better price if the frame is ok and kinda outlaw it. Cool wheels already and the flares don’t ruin my day. Maybe even tidy things up, go through the drivetrain and leave the outside the way it is…for a while. Aren’t the cylinder heads on these funky and expensive if they need anything?

    Like 1
  3. Elanguy

    Amazing cars to drive, and parts are pretty easy to get from several US and several more British sources. Listing has been deleted though. Could be a pretty good deal depending on condition and completeness.

    Like 4
  4. John

    I think you can repair steering wheels if it’s just the plastic that’s bad.

    Like 2
  5. racer417

    Parts are easily available for Elans. Lots of suppliers (US and UK). Plus an active enthusiast community in the US. Obviously lots of work needed to get the body back to stock though.

    Like 3
  6. John

    Finding parts is easy if you don’t have to have Genuine Lotus parts (if there ever was such a thing). Many if not most of the parts for this car are shared with other makes. I’m sure that the owner’s clubs have extensive cross references. Bring money. The individual parts were inexpensive, but numerous.

    The car was wonderful to drive and handled like pointing a finger. It was fragile, but much better than its earlier cousin the Elite. I was the second owner of one back in the early 70s. Its first owner had more money than sense and seldom put its top up, even in the rain. Most of the parts I bought were interior trim pieces.

    I had loads of fun with it. It looks very similar to the early Miata till you get them side by side. The Lotus is about 25% smaller. A normal sized man (5′ 11″ 180 lbs, 32 inch inseam – like I USED to be) would stick up out of the car like a giant Teddy Bear in a kiddy car. They were simple to maintain. The only specialized tool needed was a large checkbook. Mine had Webers DCOE38s as I remember. They were bulletproof. The only troublesome part was the water pump. It went out every 25K miles, or whenever you were in the high desert, whichever came first. I loved mine but I quickly outgrew it. I sold it to a guy who loved it more than I did (he still has it). I look back at it fondly, but I really don’t miss it. After I sold it, I bought a 73 Europa S. It was so nice to have the extra room.

    Like 1
  7. steven M Sammut Member

    its no longer on CL so it might very well be sold.

    Like 0
  8. bone

    I always think of Emma Peel when ever one of these cars come up !

    Like 2
  9. James A Wattwood

    One of the major Miata inspirations. Check out the Elan build at Jay Leno garage for the ultimate Elan build. All parts available, very few are expensive. Someone called out the head and that is indeed one of the expensive bits. Very elegant simple cars. Thinly disguised sports racers. Giant killers in the right hands. Have owned one for 40 years while other sports cars came and went. Still my personal favorite….by a lot. BTW the displacement is actually 1558cc, but who is counting.

    Like 0
  10. Ross W. Lovell

    Greetings All,

    Finding original “Lotus” parts….sort of hilarious.

    Lotus couldn’t find them most times as they kept raiding the parts bins of other manufacturers of their “extras”. They certainly did not contract to have many things made.

    Not a lot of special doodads on a Lotus so your lucky. Most likely anything you retrofit likely to last longer than the original.

    Like 1
  11. chrlsful

    & now they use toyota engines, but who cares. They are quite an experience. I think they could be a business model on how to survive…something the USAers need bout now.
    Do they have 4 markees? The idea is to do what U do best, fit that to the longer term market, modify w/major/longer term changes (a la the toy motor & 4 markees). Each is a lill different. Its been awhile since i studied them but lets compare them to GM (but small, light on their feet, so easy to controls, redirect – like the car) They have a chevy, buick and caddy – but each is a lill different in size and canyon carving ability, motor’ pep. Each can B customized to ur specs too…quick synopsis, poor analogy~

    Like 1
  12. Kim Kleiner

    I owned a ’67 elan s3 se. I bought it before i even had a driver’s licence with the proceeds from my first summer job. $1500 doesn’t seem like much today but in 1974 at age 16 it was a big investment. Especially for a vehicle with a blown motor that i couldn’t even take for a test drive. I thought i was going to rebuild the motor myself based on my ability to keep a couple mini bikes running for almost a week and replacing the rings on a briggs and stratton lawn mower. My mom really thought a running vehicle would be a far better choice but knew how stubborn i could be and besides, it was my money and frankly she was surprised that i could even hold a job and save enough money to buy my own car. So on the sly she negotiated with the Lotus dealership to rebuild the motor and make the vehicle roadworthy. In New Jersey you couldn’t get your license till you were 17 but I purchased a $10 ’62 Covair Monza with a rusted out leaky fuel tank. An aquantence had non- running corvair of similar vintage and because it was only a few blocks away and mostly downhill and somehow, with the help of a few friends we got the second corvair up our steep driveway and jacked up on blocks next to the $10 one. It was then that learned the value of a parts car! By the end of day we had replaced the fuel tank and exchanged.a few questionable tires, recharged the dead battery and after stealing my Dad’s lawnmower gas and dumping it in the tank saved a couple of ounces to prime the carbs and voila we had a running vehicle! We spent the rest of the day racing up and down our dead end street. Learning how to shift, then speed shift, trying to peel out by racing the engine and dropping the clutch which usually resulted in us stalling the engine. We then removed the air cleaner and, partly inspired by the spectacular flames with our initial prime, poured rubbing alcohol down the carbs with the engine running at high rpm, in first and clutch in and then dropped the clutch. Of course the alcohol didn’t help much and the poor corvair would either stall or lurch, backfire this time with awsome blue flames and then stall. It’s then we noticed the engine was hanging precariously close to the pavement and the engine mounts were ????? We dug out some bailing wire, secured it to the motor careful to avoid the unusual fan belt that amazingly ran in both vertical and horizontal planes and out the trunk lid and down to the bumper. Ran it that way for months because it worked, kinda, shifting was a little stiff, but good enuf for riding up and down the dead end. Anyways, if you’re still with me, i kinda knew how to drive when they completed the rebuild and i had a license and then a Lotus Elan with a fresh engine. The mechanic whispered to me that he did his signature flow work and balanced and sorta blue printed the motor cuz ” while you’re in there”.
    It was an amazing ride. The corvair had ” bucket seats” but these were, frankly , racing seats, with lateral support so you sat in them , not on them. The gear shift was maybe 4″ long due to the fact that the transmission was essentially between the seats rather than beneith them. The transmission was close ratio because it was the se model and besides the gearing also had the racing cams. 120 degrees of overlap! Hardly any power till 3000 rpm but from there till way past the red line it was amazing. The twin webers had velocity stacks and no air box which was a little weird for a fresh engine. Didn’t realize it was supposed to have one till i saw the little round air cleaner in front of the radiator next to it’s little snout. Guess the air box and hoses were lost and either hard to find or not gonna be compatable with their $1200 estimate for getting it road worthy. When you engaged the girling starter it sounded more like you were starting a spitfire plane( not the Triumph). Don’t know if it was the starter or perhaps the 120° overlap that made it seem so exotic. When it started it was even more spectacular. Between the roar of the intake to the insane caucophony of the hand made header 4 into 2 straight pipes with glass packs that were just a little wider than the header and the double overhead cams that made it love to rev, well the sound was wicked.
    Handling was the best i have ever experienced. Having learned on the corvair i was accustomed to a ” little oversteer” and actually kinda liked it. But, try as i might, never came close to having the tail come out, or front and i imagine on a race track you could entice it into a four wheel drift but i never got close even when surprised by a tight 180° hair pin it just went around it with no drama and i, almost sick to my stomach from adrenaline, would look over at my passenger and try to pretend i took that turn at that speed intentionally. They knew otherwise but never complained. It’s not because they trusted my driving, they trusted the car
    And brakes? They were almost as impressive as the handling and equally entertaining. Four wheel girling discs, mounted imboard on the rear on an incredibly light vehicle allowed very late braking so you could still be on the gas while everyone else was downshifting and trying to lose their momentum.
    So, a double over head cam,dual weber carbs, cams with long overlap connected to a close ratio gear box mounted to a boxed x frame with coil over konis at the tips of the x making it kinda a front engine but behaved like a mid engine cuz all weight in-between the single big nut knock off wheels connected to the frame by independent suspension that looked like it came off a formula car with the afformentioned disc brakes front and rear, racing seats, precise shifting and a roll bar, not that you would ever need it. What’s not to like? Well i didn’t care for the vacumme operated headlights that would slowly retract back into fenders the faster you went ( they corrected that in later models) , the location of the distributor under the webers. Can’t blame Lotus as this was a Ford block but i could have put in an aftermarket electronic ignition so i wouldn’t have been so frustrated at tune up time and the positive ground electrical system which was a bit bazaar though it had an adapter that allowed negative ground radio and you couldn’t really hear a radio unless you were stopped but why the positive ground. I could understand all the other quirks because they all were uncompromising design features that made the vehicle almost a race car for the street. But i never could understand the positive ground. Maybe somebody could enlighten me?

    Like 0

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