Classic Sports Cars - The British Lotus Elite 1950's Type

During the 1950’s the British car company “Lotus” was known initially as the “Lotus Engineering Company”, then being reorganized as an auto maker in 1959 as the “Lotus Group of Companies”. During this pivotal period in this automobile manufacturer’s history what was produced, sold and marketed by the firm, with great worldwide merit, was what in the sports classic car field became known as the “Lotus Elite” 1950’s Type. This “1950’s Type Lotus Elite” was built between the years 1957 to 1963 in the British Isles.

Colin Chapman had established Lotus’s reputation on the race track by 1956, but the Elite Coupe conceived in 1956 and revealed in 1957, was his first true “road car”. Nearly 1,000 were produced between 1959, when full production began, and in 1963 when it ceased.

 Yet though the car was both attractive and very functional the car was never a money and profit maker for the firm. In particular the costs of making the bodies out of glass-fiber monocoque with steel tube reinforcements become ultimately very probative. This can be said is the one main and dominant reason that the Elan sports car had a steel chassis.

The Elite’s concept was of fiberglass monocoque – made in three major sections, floor, structural center section and one-piece outer skin- on to which all mechanical and suspension parts would be ultimately mounted. All in all this worked remarkably well, even if there were refinement problems in bolting the axle and engine units to the “shell”.

As well it should be emphasized when it came time to engine choice and acceleration habits of the vehicle , that such a light weight glass fiber body made the car both very light and extremely fast off the mark. The shape was sleek and with sleek air flow and light weight fuel economy could be counted on being very good overall.

Series II cars were produced in the 1960’s incorporated revised rear suspension and other “improvements” and late in the life span of the line “Coventry-Climax” engines of to 100 bhp were offered.
In the end when assessing the merits as well as deterrents of the 1950’s type Lotus Elite vehicles it can be said , stated and best summarized that perhaps the Elite’s biggest disadvantage was that the roof was stressed and an open convertible version was therefore not possible – indeed physically and structurally impossible. As well, and in addition ventilation was also substandard and inadequate because door shape and construction did not allow for functional opening side windows.

Yet in many classic sports cars collections as well as vintage auto museums the Lotus Elite 1950’s type is a highly desirable and desired piece in any respectable vintage & classic sports car automobile collections.

This is a Guest Post:

Maxwell B. Labby

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