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There were two Lotus Elans launched in 1989. One was the quintessential Lotus sports car: a lightweight two-seater with a front-mounted, twin-cam 1.6 driving the rear wheels. It even aped the styling of its iconic ‘60s ancestor with that wide oval mouth, and critics heaped praise on its tactile handling.
The other was a front-wheel drive car, almost as wide as it was long, powered by an Isuzu engine and judged to be fast, but maybe a little remote. The weird thing was, only the second car was made by Lotus. The other Elan was Mazda’s homage, the MX-5.
It’s not hard to see why the real Elan turned out so different to Mazda’s cheaper, simpler version. Lotus was never interested in looking backwards. Everything it did was about pushing forward and using the latest available technology, so front-wheel drive wasn’t such a daft idea. And according to contemporary tests the front-wheel drive Elan had a crazy amount of grip and was devastatingly fast across country.
But it was expensive to build, didn’t sell in huge numbers, and hasn’t caught on in the classic market. Which means this slice of history, the car Lotus boss Mike Kimberley unveiled on its world debut at the Earls Court Motor show (remember them?) in 1989, can be yours for just £15k.
For sale by walking Lotus encyclopaedia, Guy Munday, PP14 (pre-production car 14) is claimed to be the oldest surviving pre-prod second-generation Elan and has covered just 54,000 miles. In fact, it’s such an early car that’s it’s registered as a Zante, because Lotus hadn’t announced the final Elan name at the time.
Physical quirks of early cars like this include a Perspex rear number plate cover and double-flip headlamps. Munday has a stack of documentation detailing its unusual history, and even has Kimberley’s original Earls Court speech notes, stapled to the back of a brochure.
We can’t say that you’ll have more fun in this than in the other Elan, but it’s certainly a fascinating bit of Lotus history, and for the price of a pretty ordinary Elise.
You can view the car for sale here: www.carandclassic.co.uk/car/C831295