Friday, May 15, 2015

2k: Front-Engined Funk: 1976 Lotus Elite

In the 1970s, Lotus combined door-wedge styling and hatchback versatility around classic Lotus bones to create the nerd-chic Elite. Unlike a Lotus, it was quite usable, and the glass-reinforced fiberglass body was way ahead of the Europa's. But typical for a Lotus, rust and electrical failure tend to ruin the experience. Besides having wheels that look like Corvette salad shooters with a canine Elizabethan collar around the lug nuts, this particular Elite is said to only need bumpers and paint. And light electrical work. Find this 1976 Lotus Elite here on eBay offered for $2,125 reserve not met, or $7,000 buy it now, located in San Jose, CA.

After 39 years, the foam bumpers have given up. Original paint is said to be another issue, but most of us would love to make "going over the hill" look this good. The rear wiper, defrost, and speedometer are supposedly the only electrical issues in the whole shootin' match. That's not too bad. Topping the list of positives must be the mouth-watering butterscotch interior, replete with cloth Recaros and a wooden shift knob. Any other Lotus (Europa, Elan, Type 14 Elite) sharing this Elite's backbone chassis with an interior in this condition would fetch a much higher price.

At some point, the original iron block Lotus 907 engine has been replaced with an identical Jensen Healey version. The 2.0-liter unit makes 155 horsepower through Weber carbs, and proudly wears a new timing belt. If that isn't enough push for a 2,400-pound triangle, more power is just a V8 swap away.

With power steering and air conditioning, this 503-trim Elite ranks toward the top of the Elite lineup. This was the first year of the automatic transmission, an option this Elite thankfully lacks. Interestingly, it's titled as a 1973, making it smog-exempt in California. As if this black-on-tan beauty needed any other reasons to be a good deal. 

See another cheap and well-kept Lotus? Email us at

PhiLOL actually likes the tuna here, but abhors structural rust. Save the manuals.


  1. I wonder how they got it titled as a 1973, they must have replaced the vin # from a scrapped car.

    1. If it was done with a mail-order, out-of-state title, I'd be pretty careful. Otherwise, these are really cool cars. Clever design, typically great Lotus ride/handling balance, typical Lotus build quality.

  2. Yeah, the "it's titled as a '73" might attract another potential buyer or two but it might also attract the kind of attention you don't want.

    I didn't think the Elite hit the market until '74?

  3. Bumpers, sort of, here $600

  4. Those rear seats look lovely. The front seats fit, but I wish the original Lotus seats were still there.

    I'd really like one. Not because they're at all good looking, but because I'd really like to try owning a Lotus with that engine, and this looks like the most affordable way in. Would prefer the fastback Eclat.

    But even as a genuine potential buyer - at $2500 I'd have it now, at $5000 I'd think reasonably seriously about it, and $7000 is too much for what it is. Am I completely out of touch with values?

  5. I've always thought these were supercool, except maybe for the steering wheel. Life is complicated enough already, however....


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