Superbly restored, a very well-presented example of one of Chapman’s earliest designs.
The Elite Type 14 was Colin Chapman’s first production sports car that he designed for Lotus Cars, debuting in 1957. Lotus' design philosophy ran contrary to the prevailing norm, making their cars lighter, more aerodynamic and therefore more nimble, rather than increasing horsepower and weight enabling Lotus cars to outmanoeuvre much more powerful vehicles on track. It was very light, weighing just 630kg utilising a monocoque construction which meant there was no separate chassis, the body was load-bearing, and whilst this was becoming accepted practice, the Elite was the first time it had been constructed in glass-fibre. There were only two strips of steel in the car — a strip for the door hinges to attach to and a very small steel frame to which the engine and suspension were attached. When combined with independent sporty suspension, a ZF gearbox, disc brakes, a Coventry Climax all-aluminium engine and a very low drag coefficient of just 0.29, it made for a great drivers car, so much so that by production end in 1963 over 1,000 had been produced. The Elite was very expensive to produce - especially the GRP monocoque which was extremely labour-intensive (the first 280 were built by Maximar then production switched to Bristol Aircraft who built a further 760+ cars). It is estimated that Colin Chapman lost c.£100 on each Elite, so there was a backwards switch to a separate steel backbone chassis for the successor Elan, making it much cheaper to build.
Offered here is very special Elite SE, presented in the wonderful period-correct Primrose Yellow with a silver metallic roof, matching Jim Clark’s road car. It's the higher performance, 85bhp factory variant (SE) which initially came fitted with twin SU carburettors, a fabricated exhaust system, the ZF Gearbox and Lucas PL700 headlamps.
Purchased new in 1962 by Viscount Gough, it was subject to a complete 'last nut and bolt' restoration by the previous owner, who was meticulous in his attention to detail. In 2005, the bodywork was stripped back to the gel coat, all traces of repairs, stress cracks, and damage were removed and repaired using glass fibre only. The entire car was then re-spayed by Proline Paint, GRP specialists, costing in excess of £8,000, and all the lights were replaced with new-old-stock Lucas items. The interior is finished in black with grey carpet, the seats having been re-trimmed by a local ex-Aston Martin trimmer in black leather and the correct Irvin black seat belts were retained as was the original instrumentation, wood-rim steering wheel and its original Snail Brand tool kit and jack.
Mechanically, the engine has been fully re-built up to FWB specification with a capacity of 1,460cc, using new components supplied by the premier Coventry Climax Engines specialist. These include a new-old-stock Coventry Climax crankshaft; Carrillo con-rods; new pistons; alloy five-bearing cam carrier; high-lift camshaft; new water and oil pumps; high-torque starter motor; re-cored radiator; thermostatically controlled Kenlowe electric cooling fan; new cast inlet manifold; and refurbished Weber DCOE 18 carburettors. In addition, the cylinder head has been fully ported, gas-flowed and rebuilt with larger inlet and exhaust valves. Having been fully balanced, it's not subject to the usual vibrations and shudders of an Elite. The engine will now safely rev to 7,000rpm plus, and should develop 120-125bhp.
Standard fitment was a 4-speed MG gearbox with the highly sought after ZF all-synchro box offered, as an option on S2 models, but was part of the SE package. One of the drawbacks of the MG transmission was that it was low geared (standard rear axle ratio of 4.22:1 plus a direct fourth gear) meaning that the engine ran at quite high revs when cruising. This led to the development of a 5-speed Type-9 conversion – greatly improving driveability with its 'overdrive' fifth gear. This is all achieved without any modifications to the monocoque - so is completely reversible and vastly improves the driving experience. '905 FWB' is fitted with a Type 9 5-speed gearbox complete with a new clutch cover and drive plate. New bearings and universal joints were fitted throughout, and the 4.22:1 differential fully rebuilt, while the new 60-spoke wire wheels were fitted with period-correct Pirelli Cinturato tyres.
In 2014, the suspension was replaced in its entirety by Tolman Motorsport. The original rear wishbones utilised a 'rubber ball' type location at the inboard end which can wear prematurely leading to instability caused by unwanted changes in toe angle. This Elite had the rear wishbones converted to rose joints in place of the 'ball & socket' arrangement, along with the Tolman Motorsport adjustable suspension set-up.
Despite being MOT exempt, our vendor put the car through a voluntary MOT which it passed with no advisories, valid until 8th October 2024.
Built in very small numbers (circa 1,040), and presenting in fabulous condition, this very well-sorted Elite is a delightful example. Having seen a full restoration with intelligent upgrades, this is certainly a car that Chapman would be proud to bear his name.