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The Lotus Elite name was used for two vehicles from Lotus Cars.

Contents

1957

Lotus Elite
1960 Lotus Elite
Manufacturer Lotus Cars
Production 1958-1963
Successor Lotus Elan
Class Sports car
Body style(s) 2-door coupé
Engine(s) 1.2 L Coventry Climax Straight-4
Transmission(s) 4-speed manual
Wheelbase 2,242 mm (88.3 in)[1]
Length 3,759 mm (148.0 in)[1]
Width 1,506 mm (59.3 in) [1]
Height 1,181 mm (46.5 in)[1]
Curb weight 503.5 kg (1,110 lb)

The first Elite or Lotus Type 14 was an ultra-light two-seater coupé, produced from 1958 to 1963.

Making its debut at the 1957 London Motor Car Show, Earls Court, the 14 spent a year in development, aided by "carefully selected racing customers",[2] before going on sale.

The Elite's most distinctive feature was its highly innovative fiberglass monocoque construction, in which a stressed-skin unibody replaced the previously separate chassis and body components. Unlike the contemporary Chevrolet Corvette, which used fiberglass for only exterior bodywork, the Elite also used this glass-reinforced plastic material for the entire load-bearing structure of the car, though the front of the monocoque incorporated a steel subframe supporting the engine and front suspension, and there was a hoop at the windscreen for mounting door hinges and jacking the car up.[3] The first 250 body units were made by Maximar. The body construction caused numerous early problems, until manufacture was handed over to Bristol Aeroplane Company.[4]

The resultant body was both lighter, stiffer, and provided better driver protection in the event of a crash. The weight savings allowed the Elite to achieve sports car performance from a 75 hp (55 kW) 1216 cc Coventry Climax FWE all-aluminium Straight-4 engine. Most Lotus Elites were powered by the FWE engine.

Like its siblings, the Elite was run in numerous formulae, with particular success at Le Mans and the Nürburgring. Elites won their class six times at the 24 hour Le Mans race as well as two Index of Thermal Efficiency wins. Les Leston, driving DAD10, and Graham Warner, driving LOV1, were noted UK Elite racers. In 1961, David Hobbs fitted a Hobbs Mecha-Matic 4 speed automatic transmission to an Elite, and became almost unbeatable in two years' racing - he won 15 times from 18 starts. New South Wales driver Leo Geoghegan won the 1960 Australian GT Championship at the wheel of a Lotus Elite.[5]

The car had independent suspension all round with transverse wishbones at the front and Chapman struts at the rear. (The latter is essentially the same as a MacPherson strut, though Chapman pioneered the use of this form to suspend driven wheels). The Series 2 cars, with Bristol-built bodies, had triangulated trailing radius arms for improved toe-in control. Girling disc brakes, usually without servo assistance, of 9.5 in (241 mm) diameter were used, inboard at the rear.

Advanced aerodynamics also made a contribution, giving the car a very low drag coefficient of 0.29 — quite low even for modern cars. This accomplishment is all the more remarkable considering the engineers did not enjoy the benefits of computer-aided design and wind tunnel testing. The original Elite drawings were by Peter Kirwan-Taylor. Frank Costin (brother of Mike, one of the co-founders of Cosworth), at that time Chief Aerodynamic Engineer for the de Havilland Aircraft Company, contributed to the final design.

The SE was introduced in 1960 as a higher performance variant, featuring twin SU carburettors and fabricated exhaust manifold resulting in 85 bhp, ZF gearboxes in place of the "cheap and nasty MG" standard ones,[4] Lucas PL700 headlamps, and a silver coloured roof. The Super 95 spec, with more power.[4] from a higher-tuned engine with raised compression and a fiercer camshaft with 5 bearings. A very few Super 100 and Super 105 cars were made with Weber carburettors, for racing use.

Among its few faults was a resonant vibration at 4000 rpm (where few drivers remained, on either street or track)[6] and poor quality control, handicapped by overly low price (thus losing money on every copy) and, "[p]erhaps the greatest mistake of all", offering it as a kit, exactly the opposite of the ideal for a quality manufacturer.[4]. Many drivetrain parts were highly stressed and required regreasing at frequent intervals.

When production ended in 1963, 1030 had been built.[7]

A road car tested by The Motor magazine in 1960 had a top speed of 111.8 mph (179.9 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 11.4 seconds. A fuel consumption of 40.5 miles per imperial gallon (6.97 L/100 km; 33.7 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £1966 including taxes.[1]

1974

Lotus Elite Types 75 and 83
1976 Lotus Elite
Manufacturer Lotus Cars
Production 1974-1982
2535 made
Class Sports car
Body style(s) 2-door station wagon
Engine(s) 2.0 Litre I4
2.2 litre I4 (from 1980)
Transmission(s) 5-speed manual
4 speed automatic
Wheelbase 2,490 mm (98 in)
Length 4,470 mm (176 in)
Width 1,820 mm (72 in)
Height 1,210 mm (48 in)
Curb weight 975 kg (2,150 lb)[8 ] (approx)
Fuel capacity 67 L (17.7 US gal; 14.7 imp gal)[8 ]
Related Lotus Eclat

From 1974 to 1982, Lotus produced the considerably larger Type 75 and later the Type 83 4-seat Elite II.

Lotus' first saloon car was front engined with rear wheel drive. Like all production Lotuses since the Elan, the Elite II used fiberglass for the hatchback bodyshell, mounted on a steel backbone chassis evolved from the Elan and Europa. It had 4-wheel independent suspension using coil springs. Power steering and air conditioning were optional from 1974. The Elite II was the basis for the Eclat, and the later Excel four-seaters.

The Elite II was Lotus' first car to use the "907" aluminium-block 4-valve, DOHC, four cylinder, 2.0 L engine. (The 907 engine had previously been used in Jensen-Healeys.) The 907 engine ultimately became the foundation for the Lotus Esprit powerplants, both naturally-aspirated and turbocharged. Elite IIs were available with a 5-speed gearbox standard; from January 1976 an automatic transmission was optional.

Regarding performance, the Elite and Elite II (and the related Éclat) are notable in that the stock curb weight is not much over 2,000 lb (907 kg). Once the motors reach their power band, both acceleration and handling are impressive for cars of the era.

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d e "The Lotus Elite". The Motor. May 11, 1960.  
  2. ^ Setright, L. J. K., "Lotus: The Golden Mean", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 11, p.1227.
  3. ^ Setright, p.1226.
  4. ^ a b c d Setright, p.1227.
  5. ^ Australian Titles Retrieved from www.camsmanual.com.au on 16 April 2009
  6. ^ It was cured by substituting a diaphragm clutch spring. Setright, p.1227.
  7. ^ Ortenburger, Dennis "The Original Lotus Elite, Racing Car for the Road" Newport Press, 1977 p.135.
  8. ^ a b Daily Express Motor Show Review 1975 Cars: Page 28 (Lotus Elit4e 501). October 1974.  

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