1969 Lotus Elan SE – Fixed Head Coupe – SOLD!
Simplify, then add Lightness…Colin Chapman
Rare, Very Well Sorted Lotus Elan Fixed Head Coupe SE
Sympathetically Restored by Long Time Owner – Concours “Best in Class”
HISTORY / GENERAL INFORMATIONThis 1969 Lotus Elan Fixed Head Coupe (FHC) SE (Special Equipment) (36/7936) was restored by its long-time owner of 15+ years between 2002 and the present. The Elan was reportedly imported to Lotus Cars East, St. Louis, MO, with very indication being that the car has been in the States for its entire life. The previous owner was located in Huntington Beach and the history of the car prior to that time has not been documented.
The current owner’s sympathetic, cost no object restoration, was completed with the objective of creating one of the finest examples of a usable mid-late 1960’s Lotus Elan. While the emphasis was improving the car’s reliability, performance, handling and safety, it was also important to retain the cars period appearance and configuration. The restoration file is comprehensive, and includes photos and volumes of receipts, technical information, Lotus books, Factory Elan repair manual, the original Lotus Elan S4 owner’s manual, articles/road tests on the Elan, and considerable additional information that has been accumulated over the course of his ownership (refer to the photos). During the past 15 years, fewer than 18,000 miles have been added, with the car being used almost exclusively for Lotus club touring events.
The owner was certainly not concerned with driving the Elan, and it has proven to be totally reliable during his ownership including trips to Lotus conventions in Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley, Yosemite and other locations. During his 15+ years of ownership, virtually every mechanical system has been replaced and / or upgraded. The fastidious owner completed a host of subtle improvements that enhanced the cars reliability and performance while retaining the car’ s original appeal and authenticity. The Lotus remains in exceptional condition today and has been fully sorted.
The car received a number of awards at Lotus gatherings and annual conventions. Specifically, the following ribbons at the Ironstone Concours with over 300 entries:
– 2012 – Best in Class / Ironstone Concours d’Elegance
– 2011 – Award of Merit / Ironstone Concours d’Elegance
– 11th – Annual Ironstone Concours d’Elegance – Award of Merit
– 2005 Ironstone Concours – Award of Merit
Documents received from Stuart Brett, Lotus Company Archivist suggest a production date of 11/6/68 based on the cars #7935 and 7937 (the cars manufactured before and after this Elan SE). However, in keeping with British record keeping for the era, the production data is handwritten and this example lacks details. It is believed that the car was exported to Lotus East and was titled and was put into service as a 1969 (it was common for vehicles produced and in inventory to be titled as the next model year during this era). While it is unclear, the car appears to have been manufactured as a European version with front side marker lights and red/amber rear taillights, and left hand drive.
– As can be seen in the photos on the listing, the engine bay, left fender mounted Lotus factory plate identifies the Elan as Unit # (VIN #) 36/7936 / Engine No. G/16033/B. The plate is stamped as it would have been from the factory and appears to be fastened with proper, factory screws. It is unaltered reflecting the patina of a 48 year old Lotus.
– The firewall mounted plate shows the same numbers, hand etched as was the procedure during this era. The plate, also fastened with proper screws also shows recommended fluids and indicates that the seat belt mounting points are “Approved to British Standards” BS AU 48 1965
– The engine number, located on the carburetor side of the block, cannot be photographed since the numbers are faint. However, it appears as if they read G16083B. The only number that is inconsistent is the 5th digit (8) that is shown as a “3” on the other identifying plates. Considering the consistency of the other plates and the closeness of this number (and a “3” vs. and “8”) it seems apparent that an error was made some time ago. There is no indication, or history, of the engine being changed. Please call us if we can further clarify this issue but it is our opinion that the car has the “numbers matching” engine.
While the file history and receipts are too comprehensive to list item by item, the following categories will provide some idea of the condition and extensive effort to bring the Lotus into its current condition.
• Original Lotus Frame showing no signs of rust
• Gussets added for strength to engine mounting areas
• Front cross member vacuum reservoir solid
• Body has never been removed from the chassis
BODY & INTERIOR
• Green stripe added by previous owner
• The majority of the Lotus was painted in what is believed to be white (2007)
• Lower side valence painted black
• Original stainless lower trim
• Front and rear turn signals plus fender turn lights and license lights replaced with NOS units in 2007 at the time of re-spray
• Window motors serviced
• New window track rubbers
• New window cable pulleys
• Doors handles, latches and door hardware serviced, repainted
• Both doors rehung for better fitment
• Solid wood dash installed by previous owner
• New dash lettering applied
• All original gauges with the exception of a new voltmeter added
• Dave Bean hood latches
• New front windshield & rubber gasket
• Front chrome retaining strip properly installed after considerable effort
• Sound proofing paint and mats applied to roof, foot wells, center console, rear bulkhead, and over muffler
• New headliner and quarter panel material
• Seats re-stuffed and refurbished
• Instruments work except for night panel switch and high beams
• Vacuum operated headlights work correctly
• All Interior dash trim pieces in place
• Free from significant fiberglass stress cracks (very good as a Lotus Elan Coupe)
• Aircraft style seat belts w. Lotus logo
• Rear tower brace
• Fire extinguisher on board
• Correct wiper arms and blades
• Factory original badging
• Trunk lined with carpet and sound insulation board
• Original tool kit and jack / spanner
• Sound deadening coating applied on underside of body
• Car detailed and always maintained in current condition including regular clay bar and 3 step wax process
• Front end components replaced. All new bushings, upper ball joints, tie rods, steering bellows, trunnions, and both control arms replaced
• New front wheel bearings and seals
• Adjustable SPAX shocks
• New Lowered front springs to reduce USA spec ride height (2 in?)
• New hardware used on front suspension (Grade 5)
• All rear control arm bushings replaced
• Armstrong rear shocks
• All new Grade 5 hardware
• Original springs
• Engine rebuilt by Terry Tinney – Performance Motors approximately 15~ miles ago (All receipts / documentation in file)
• New water pump kit installed
• New thrust bearing
• Elgin cam grind. See separate spec sheet
• Engine rolling road Dynoed in 2005. Dyno sheet included with adjusted flywheel HP of 127~ HP / 116 Ft. Lb. Torque
• Mild engine porting
• K&N air filter in protective housing
• Engine breather modified to vent to external filer and not into rear carbs
• Engine performed well at higher altitudes due to Stromberg carbs
• New engine mounts
• Converted to spin on filter
• Cam cover powder coated red crinkle finish
• Custom screw type oil cap
• Engine fan removed
• Gearbox rebuilt in 2007 by Groom Motorsports – Berkeley CA
• Several synchros replaced
• New needle bearings installed
• Speedo drive seals replaced – small leak from gear drive.
• Dave Bean heavy duty 8.5” clutch installed
• New throw-out bearing
• New clutch lever boot
• New clutch center bearing
• New clutch master
• New clutch slave. Clutch line is heat insulated wrapped
• Heat shield mounted over clutch slave
• New clutch line. Top Side bleed line (no need to bleed slave from below)
• F&R rear calipers rebuilt, new seals and pistons, lines, and pads
• Rear handbrake system rebuilt
• New master cylinder
• Speed bleeders installed
• New front rotors
• Handbrake properly adjusted
• Radiator cleaned and re-cored (3 row) see invoice from Radiator Land
• Adjustable electric pusher fan installed
• Running Water Wetter
• Water pump rebuild kit installed
• Original S4 fender cooling outlets
• Upper & Lower hoses replaced
• Period correct hose clamps
• Tank cleaned and coated – Invoice from Radiator Land included
• Mechanical pump blanked off
• Electric fuel pump with relay, filter, and collision cutoff switch installed
• Fuel line replace with proper hose
• Brass T-fitting for carb inlets
• Stromberg carbs rebuild with new diaphragms, gaskets
• New pistons with adjustable needles
• New Grose jet valves
• Smog control devices removed
• Original air-box restored
• Aircraft quality inlet hose
• New Teflon line throttle cable and stainless mounting hardware
• Carburetors synched
• Period correct Marchal headlights w halogen bulbs
• Lighter / smaller alternator conversion
• High torque starter
• New Odyssey PC 680 battery as of 9/16 – Mounted in enclosed truck case with battery tender included / attached
• Master cutoff switch in cockpit
• Front Rear ground strap strengthened
• Functional tachometer with occasional bouncing at certain RPM’s
• Mallory Optical distributor with modified rotor cap and Mallory voltage spike control
• Mallory coil
• MSD Ignition box with rev limiter set @ 6500 RPM
• New washer pump
• All interior lights operate
• Lighter can be used power phone, etc.
• Magnecor 7 mm spark plug wires
• Separate fuel pump switch on dash
• Interior light cut off switch
• Voltmeter added
HEATING & VENTILATION
• All original ventilation fittings in place
• Heater hoses replaced
• Heater fan works
• Original rear diff
• Sprint style rear diff brace
• Diff access hatch mounted in trunk
• Rear diff rod bushes replaced
• CV axles
• Stainless jet coated headers and collector
• Flowmaster exhaust installed in exhaust pocket. Heat insulation applied
• Custom polished single exhaust tip
• Additional ground clearance with this set up
• Heat insulation on engine side of driver footbox
• O2 sensor bung mounted on exhaust
Shortly after acquiring the Elan, the owner began the mechanical restoration and became extremely committed to making the car a usable, reliable and fun to drive example. He became involved with the Lotus club to benefit from their expertise along with completing considerable research to investigate the best approach to improvements and upgrades to the Elan. As they the old adage goes “The devil is in the details” and a review of the build of this car clearly demonstrates a high level of attention to detail.
The major mechanical components and virtually all of the other systems have been rebuilt including a comprehensive, professional engine rebuild by Terry Tinney Performance Motors approximately 17,000 miles ago and a fresh transmission by Jim Groom 9,000 miles ago. Improvements to the external components (starter, alternator, carburetion, etc.) along with the conversion of the rubber “donuts” to CV joints and a number of other upgrades have resulted in significantly enhanced reliability and performance.
The interior is in very original configuration and presents extremely well. It remains virtually 100% stock with a high quality replacement, solid wood dash, factory correct steering wheel, proper seats, gauges, and trim. The power windows are function with motors having been reworked but remaining characteristically slow. There is no radio although speakers are mounted discreetly behind the front seats. Also behind the seats is a cut-off switch and fire extinguisher.
The upholstery is in excellent condition with no major defects and only slight “rubs” on the drivers bolster. Seat belts are period style with Lotus logos. Door panels are excellent, as is the carpet that is covered by period style cocoa mats. Considerable sound proofing paint and mats have been applied to roof, foot wells, center console, rear bulkhead, and above the muffler to minimize noise and prevent heat in the cockpit.
Unlike so many Elans, this car has no history of being tracked or auto-crossed, and has been used primarily for the occasional drive or tour with fellow California Lotus Club members.
This Elan represents a fully sorted example that was restored at considerable expense to be one of the best driving Elans available today. The car is ready to use and is certain to continue to appreciate considering the limited production and increasing difficult in locating high end examples.
The Fixed Head Coupe (FHC) version of the Elan is considered by many as having superior lines to the fixed window frame Series 3 roadsters, and the classic white with British Racing Green stripe and added knock off wheels give this car a wonderful vintage appearance.
A DRIVE IN THE LOTUS
We have had the pleasure of owning and driving a number of vintage Elans, including our owner’s S2 Elan and have been Lotus fans for more years than we care to admit. We can say without hesitation that this is simply the best example of a 60’s Elan FHC that we have had the pleasure of driving. The car is tight, solid, and the additional horsepower for the relatively fresh engine gives the car performance that exceeds the car’s stock specifications. Of course, the Elan is known for having one of the best transmissions of all time, and this FHC is no exception.
When it comes to serious driving on the “twisties”, very few cars can compete with the Lotus. This car, fitted with properly sized, high quality Vredestein Sprint tires, stock wheels, and suspension upgrades, the car offers the handling that puts the car in a league of its own. We can find no fault with the car’s mechanical components, and it does exactly what we expect from a high quality Lotus Elan. The car starts immediately with the use of the fully functional choke, even after sitting for prolonged periods of time, warms up quickly and is properly tuned. It does not hesitate and, unlike some Weber carbureted examples does not have an erratic idle or flat spots. It stops straight and sure, runs cool in warm California temperatures, and has functional gages and lighting systems.
LOTUS ELAN HISTORY
The Lotus Elan is a true sports car. A sports car is about being light, having finesse, and a focus on handling rather than speed. A true sports car is about the driver feeling like he is in control of what is going on. This is the definition of the Lotus Elan.
The Lotus Elan was introduced in 1962. The Lotus Elan was the first Lotus road car to use a steel backbone chassis with a fiberglass body. At 1,500 lb (680 kg), the Elan embodied the Colin Chapman minimum weight design philosophy. As Colin Chapman said in one of his many quotes: “Simplify, then add lightness.”
Initial versions of the Elan were also available as a kit to be assembled by the customer. The Elan was technologically advanced with a twin-cam 1558 cc engine, 4-wheel disc brakes, and 4-wheel independent suspension. The Lotus-Ford Twin Cam engine was based on Ford’s Pre-Cross-flow 4-cylinder 1500 cc engine, with a Lotus-inspired Cosworth alloy twin-cam head.
The Lotus Elan’s rarity, beautiful lines, impressive performance and practicality are the main factors for the rising interest on these cars among collectors.
The Lotus Elan ceased production in 1973.
In 2004, Sports Car International named the Elan one of the Top Sports Cars of the 1960s.
The Lotus Elan is commonly credited as being the design inspiration for the highly successful Mazda MX-5. Two Lotus Elans were thoroughly evaluated by Mazda in the process of designing the MX-5.