The genius of Colin Chapman is evident throughout his cars and the victories these cars achieved in competition. While each one is unique and innovative for the times, the Elite holds a special place in the history of Lotus. Released in 1957, the fiberglass monocoque chassis and body, rack and pinion steering, disc brakes all round (rear inboard), and sophisticated suspension design, combined to make an innovative and dynamic sports car. Despite its 1,300-pound weight, the Elite offered exceptional torsional rigidity in harmony with the attractive and novel body design. The aerodynamic bodywork resulted in a coefficient of drag of just .29, a remarkable figure, even by modern standards. The Elite also proved to be a highly successful race car, with six class wins in six years at Le Mans. A handsome moderately priced alternative to higher priced exotics with far more complex and often cumbersome mechanicals, the Elite went on to achieve notable international sales with total production just over 1,000 units before the model concluded in 1963
Restoration and Ownership History
This car left the Lotus factory May 26, 1960 and was shipped to Jay Chamberlain's dealership in California. Lotus factory ledger sheets indicate this car (#1237) and its allocation to Chamberlain. According to copies of documents supplied with this car, the first owner was Walter Heronimus, Palo Alto, CA, where it was licensed with California license plate LUN 063, which is included with this car. The car was sold to the next owner, a resident of Oraville, CA in 1991, then purchased by the (believed to be third) owner in 1996.
Copious handwritten notes and references for part numbers, specifications, specialized mechanical work, and mileage notations document this Lotus from the late 1990s to 2007. In 2006, the odometer indicated 68,460 miles when it was zeroed out after repair and calibration. Approximately 1000 miles have lapsed since that time.
Handwritten notations on the car span more than a decade of detailed evaluations including valve lash check, rebuild for distributor advance, repair notes, mileage record, oil consumption, lengthy trip records with miles accrued, oil changes, valve clearance, and notation of engine rebuild in 2003 with 64,817 miles indicated.
In addition to these detailed notations, the owner retained several records of service work performed on the car totaling exhaustive hours and significant dollars spent since his purchase. More recently, the current caretaker refinished the exterior of the car including new paint and chrome finishes as well as the interior which has been beautifully trimmed in tan leather. The most recent oil and filter change was performed in April 2023.
Today this beautifully finished numbers-matching Lotus has been properly refurbished to a very satisfying level. The exterior finishes are very nice throughout including smooth, glossy red paint with excellent coverage, surpassing factory quality when delivered new. The glass, trim, and lighting are all in excellent condition including the beautifully finished chrome features. The doors, hood, and trunk open and close confidently and the uncluttered Elite body lines exhibit excellent reflection lines, something not often found on early fiberglass bodied cars. The painted silver wire wheels are correct, though exhibit mild patina on the rim edges and spokes, finished with dual-ear chrome plated knockoffs. All four wheels are shod with Dunlop 165SR14 radial tires of appropriate size, showing ample tread and 2022 and 2023 date codes.
The interior is in excellent condition having been comprehensively reupholstered with supple tan leather. Correct finishes and trim, tight contours for the seats and door panels, correct foam padding, excellent quality low pile oatmeal colored square weave carpeting, and a correct wood rimmed steering wheel with Lotus emblem completes the interior to a very high standard. Instruments and switches are properly detailed with clarity on the faces and glass and crisp numeric indication. The spare tire storage area, accessible from behind the seats, is finished with factory correct grey material, concealing a full-sized matching Dunlop spare tire and painted wire wheel. The trunk has been nicely finished in keeping with the quality of the interior covered with dark gray carpeting piped with lighter gray edge beading. A modern spiral cell Optima battery is installed in the trunk, concealed under the protective cover. Materials are consistent with original application including the headliner, interior side panels, seat pleating, and door cards.
The engine compartment has been restored to factory appearance with excellent detail applied to all components, hardware, hoses, and lines which show only modest signs of use since the restoration was completed. The matching numbers single overhead cam Coventry Climax FWE 1,216cc four-cylinder engine is correctly finished, topped with a bright yellow cam cover, and flanked by twin SU carburetors. Here too, the marvel of simplicity and lightweight engineering is captured with all systems easily accessed and practically laid out. The undercarriage features the fiberglass body which rolls under, forming smooth rocker panels that blend into a full belly pan – a feature which significantly contributed to the low drag these cars achieved. Front and rear suspension components appear at all four corners displaying patina typically found in original cars. The cast aluminum engine oil pan peeks out from the belly pan revealing welding bead lines consistent with acceptable service methods often found on these cars. The undercarriage appears consistent with factory specifications showing once again the hallmarks of Lotus design including inboard rear disc brakes, race-bred suspension, and the sophisticated fiberglass monocoque design.
The car starts easily and idles smoothly with a nice warm tone to the dual exit exhaust. Unlike other coupe designs, the interior feels comfortable and surprisingly roomy given the overall size of these cars. The shifter matches naturally with your driving posture, steering wheel position is comfortable, and visibility is quite good even with the advanced aerodynamic curvature of the rear canopy and larger C post. Clutch and shifter engage readily as a touch of the throttle sets you on your way. The car tracks nicely, exhibiting composure and confidence as speeds increase. Disc brakes, with inboard rears combined with race-bred suspension are delightful, largely attributed to the lightweight but rigid monocoque design. Driving pleasure is immediate and captivating with distinct vintage charm and performance from a celebrated engine, well known for its substantial competition victories.
Included with the car
This Lotus is accompanied by notebooks featuring previous owner service and parts notations as well as miscellaneous records, photographs of the car, reference literature and specifications, several club newsletters, various magazines, and period articles.