Decades after the first generation of the Lotus Elite sports car known as the “1950’s Type” were produced and delivered between the years 1959 to 1963 Lotus introduced another winner in the form of the 4-seat “Lotus Elite” between the years of 1974 to 1984. These larger 4-seat Lotus Elites were designated Type 75, with later models being labeled “Lotus Type 83 Elite”.
As Lotus entered the 1970s their founder Colin Chapman decided to move the product up the social and price scales as well as to gradually phase out the “kit-built cars”. When the Elan Plus Two became obsolete, Mr. Chapman decided to replace it with something altogether much more grand and bearing. Yet the new Elite , given the exact same name and name-plate badge as the Coupe of the late 1950’s early 1960’s leading to new end of confusion among sports car enthusiasts and even Lotus aficionados. Coded the M50 at Lotus, it was the start and birth of a whole new family grouping of Lotus cars. Alongside it was the Eclat (mechanically like the new Elite, but with fastback instead of square-back styling) and the mid-engined Espirit, which effectively replaced the Europa at greatly increased cost and pricing.
All shared the completely Lotus-manufactured Type 907 2 liter 16-valve twin-cam engine (which was also sold to Jensen for their Jensen-Healeys until Jenson itself closed shop in 1976). The Elite was designed to meet all existing and even projected future safety regulations, and in spite of being made with a glass-fibre body was both very strong and rigid.
Lotus in their Norfolk factory made the greatest majority of the automobile, instead of merely assembling proprietary parts. The Elite’s “backbone steel chassis frame” carried on with the Lotus tradition established with the 1962 Elan sports car and the all-independent suspension followed racing car lines of wheel location and control.
The five-speed gearbox actually used British Leyland internals. Performance, as expected, was high – maximum speeds being over 120 mph (200 km/h) – as a direct result of the light weight and highly efficient aerodynamic shape. Yet again fuel consumption could be counted to be low, and even economical, as a direct result of the car’s light weight. It is well-known that a larger V8 engine could easily be fitted and accommodated into the Elite’s power plant bay; performance was nothing less than phenomenal.
Lastly at the end of the day it can be stated that styling was mainly the work of Lotus staff, with suggestions from the Ital Design offices. The cheaper and inherently simpler Eclat used an Elite chassis together with nose and centre sections from that car. The clear distinction between the two models being that with the Eclat the tail styling was no doubt distinct.
Maxwell B. Labby