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Super Saloon: 1974 Lotus Elite


We have featured a few Eclats in the past, but never the car on which it was based. So when Robert J. sent in this Elite, we couldn’t resist. It may not be as beautiful or desirable as earlier cars, but it has seating for four and is still extremely lightweight. It does look rough, but the seller claims that the engine runs fine. Extensive cosmetic work will be needed, but with a $1,500 asking price, you can’t be too picky. Find it here on craigslist in Sacramento, California. Thanks goes to Robert for the submission!


  1. paul

    Oh I think Rancho has a new one coming

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Yep, this one is for him!

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    • rancho bella

      oh you guys…….you know me to well.
      Although these are on the odd side of design, I understand they handle very well.
      But they are out of my knowledge base and frankly I don’t believe they are worth the trouble. Perhaps someone in the know can chime in and educate me.

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      • paul

        Does this car share any parts with what you already have, if so 1500 could be cheap?

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      • rancho bella

        I don’t believe there are parts to share……but heck, I’m wrong all the time…….just ask my wife.

        Just to clarify, I am an Elan Plus 2 nut with a side order of Europa’s.
        I would like an Early Elan to add to the mix but I’ve run out of room for now but a new 2 and a half car is being added.
        I am strangely drawn to just about anything Chapman…….

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      • paul

        When I was a kid delivering newspapers back in 62 a neighbor had the 1st. Elan delivered here in the states it was BRG. He had to wait awhile for it , it was on a ship during the Cuban missile crises & their was an ambargo .

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  2. 88R107

    As goofy looking as these are to my eyes I love ’em, Which I had the resources for this one. Be the hit of the next Cars & Coffee.

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  3. James

    I have wanted an Elite, since I was 14. Since I always had a strange wagon fetish (way before the craze caught on), this was a perfect car for it. Wish I was still on the west coast, as I would have this in the garage being brought back to snuff. Whoever buys or is interested, the nemesis on these is definately the backbone chassis (check it for rust), other than that you are good.

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  4. jim s

    the z car in the background is more interesting to me. still a great find

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  5. Dolphin Member

    It handles, and it’s cheap, but I can’t get Peter Egan’s story in R&T about driving his Elan from Wisconsin down South to a Lotus meet. After working for a long time to restore it and to get it ready for the trip, stuff kept failing to work and falling off it as he drove. That may have been a simple case of bad luck, but I’ll defer to him when it comes to experience in these things.

    No offense to happy Lotus owners—-I like Lotus handling as much as the next guy—-but with the cost of vintage car parts prices, interior work, paint jobs, etc, this looks too much like a $1,500 car that will be worth its Hagerty value of $6,846 only after you sink another $10K to $25K into it, depending on what the interior, drivetrain, and chassis are like once you can examine them.

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    • rancho bella

      ……….sounds like Mr. Egan should have let someone else do the work :)

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  6. Randysspit

    I have a 1976 Barn Find Elite that I bought last Christmas. It took a bit to change the timing belt and fuel pump. Otherwise original and now working and even been to a show. Light and fast.
    This one is looking rough and on original wheels and maybe tires. Will take about 5-6K to get on the road- ask me how I know ! Could be a fun autocross car but has a fragile transmission so be aware.
    Parts are mostly available from Dave Bean in California.

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  7. Don Andreina

    The Eclat vs Elite conundrum is like the Jarama vs Espada one; why did the manufacturers make different models so close in packaging to each other? Being a big fan of origami design, these appeal, but I would wait for an Éclat which for me wins the aesthetic race.

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  8. Robert J

    I would swap in a Rover V8 stroker motor mated to a T 5 myself…

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  9. Dave @ OldSchool

    I never heard anyone before say these were light ( 2550 lbs ) or fast ( 16.5 qtr )

    Eclats and Elite 2+ are the same, except the rear body shape, and a lot of the Eclats are base ( stripped) with smaller wheels, tires, etc. The Sprint would be the preferred Éclat ( I have one for sale)

    I have had four 4seaters… GREAT handling and easy to drive WELL. Low drag coef, but only a shade over 120 max.with twin Dellorto 40’s (Euro spec)

    Overpriced and underpowered, they have virtually NO respect by Lotus owners. Never did..maybe someday.
    Good candidate for an Aluminum Buick/Rover V* swap, which has been popular here and Europe.

    4 speed trans is stronger than the 5 speed, but the 5 speed is adequate since the car is really underpowered. ( 240 ft pound)

    Front and rear bumpers look horrible…we have molds for EuroSpec covers that look first class.

    Current project here at the shop involves shortening the backbone and setting a light f’glass body on it.. Maybe get it down around 1600 pounds


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    • rancho bella

      Thanks Dave, I was hoping someone in the know would throw in experience on these.

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  10. Bryan Cohn

    I always thought these were a “squished” Gremlin, funky but in a good way. For $1500 how wrong can you go for some Lotus fun?

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  11. Dave @ OldSchool

    as to re-painting…these bodies are prone to a LOT of hairline cracking, so choose a color that the cracks will ‘blend” in with,……. and be sure the primer will not contrast and make them stand out even more …………………..

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  12. Jim-Bob

    I saw one of these at a local U Pull It yard about a year ago and was amazed at the details of the chassis. The rear inboard brakes are a great idea (until you have to service them!) but why did Chapman not spring a little extra for discs? It’s not like owners would not have paid a little extra for the technology. Still, for this money I would probably be tempted to do an oddball drivetrain swap, like maybe from a Honda S2000 or an even odder switch to electric power (just to learn from the effort). Then again, if it runs as-is, I’d leave it be and keep it serviced until something expensive failed.

    Cosmetically, I’d try to find a serviceable set of bumper covers but leave the body as-is since it’s not like it’s going to rust. However, I would sand blast and paint the frame to preserve it. I sort of see it as an ugly car with a great chassis to play with. There’s no real need to waste money on too many cosmetics when I would buy it or build it for the driving experience.

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  13. Michael

    I own a fully restored 1974 Elite, US spec with A/C. And by fully, I mean nuts and bolts, not just the usual paint job, which then perpetuates the myth of them being unreliable.
    Wins (at least) the Lotus or British class on a regular basis, cause it’s so unique and people are sick of just another Elan or MG B. They made 42 US spec Elites in 1974…
    No respect in the Lotus community? Maybe from the “Me too” people, but I have experienced the extreme opposite.
    It’s a real 4 seater, very comfortable, huge AC (a must in the south). A GT, not a sports car. I drive it anywhere in the country without ever thinking twice.
    Anyone who tells you otherwise has no clue how to make them work. Which I see a lot.

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    • paul

      Yes when people take the time to do it right, drive them instead of looking at them, they are really all good cars my own experience with Alfa’s, Triumph’s, Fiats etc.was all this despite being driven very hard.
      But one point you make about Elans, no I can never get tired of Elans & Europas, never owned one, but have driven them.

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  14. Doug M. Member


    Thanks for chiming in with a positive word! I have always admired these since I was just a kid (which is a whole-long-time-ago!). I would like to think that someone could put this back on the road and appreciate it’s unique styling, and features. As for the z-car in the background? Shoot!, even my Mom had one of those back in the day…pass.

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  15. Dave @ OldSchool

    @ Michael

    Please don’t get defensive..I have seen some nice 4seaters, and yours sounds right up there.

    When I say “no respect” it is because of three things that apply to these cars…

    ONE………The car was far too expensive for the lack of performance that it delivered. It was a ‘tourer’ and entered into a market in competition with cars that were either a lot less expensive like the Pontiac Firebird (almost half the price), or 20 or 30 miles an hour FASTER for a couple grand more, like the Jag XJ-S..

    A Corvette ,was even cheaper

    I wouldn’t say any of those cars were better… just better placed in either the price or performance market

    It had terrible build-quality reports… …and that didn’t help.

    I didn’t say the cars were bad.. I said they have haven’t had any respect… kind of like the AMC PACER …. just never fit into the US Market they were designed for…..the Lotus lovers didn’t care for them, nor did most of the American buyers

    TWO …There is hardly any demand for them now… … few buyers. equals little value.
    It is next to impossible to restore one anywhere near it’s finished market value … so todays market really doesn’t show any respect for them either.
    of the people who grew up with them, Gremlin is the most often associated car….
    that surely is not a positive for a LOTUS.in the USA

    and THREE…….The current condition of MOST of the 4seaters is an inarguable statement that even most owners don’t have any respect for them.
    In comparison, the Mercedes 450SLC that it competed with .are commonly available, and mostly in well cared for condition…so also are most BMW633CSI’s that the Lotus was designed to compete with

    Since I have money in this game too, I wish it wasn’t so.. .but it is …

    Your Lotus will continue to increase in value, because even tho’ there is little demand, there is also hardly any good ones available ……
    But I think it’s fair that any one considering restoring one knows what the whole story is…….before they buy one of mine

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    • Dolphin Member

      Thanks Dave. Exactly the kind of experienced, thoughtful comments needed, especially when talking about rare cars that only a few people ever owned but that
      end up being sparking points for disagreement, like these ’70s Elites.

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  16. Joe Howell

    Must have sold, listing is gone. Kind of hard to get by the looks of that thing no matter who designed it. But then again to each his own…..

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