At $6,000, Could This Shabby Chic 1991 Lotus Elan Get Some of Your British Racing Green?

Photo: Craigslist
Nice Price Or Crack PipeIs this used car a good deal? You decide!

While it may share its name with a venerated and desirable ancestor, today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Lotus Elan shares little else. Let’s see if this bedraggled edition is priced commensurate with its station and condition.

While it didn’t fair as badly as did Monday’s Taurus SHO, yesterday’s 1976 Chevy Silverado still couldn’t get a pass at its similarly set $16,995 asking. In fact, it fell in a substantial 78 percent Crack Pipe loss. You could even say that it sank… like a rock.


Speaking of stones, it’s generally considered that you’d need to have a pretty big pair of them to drive a Lotus—any Lotus—on the daily. That goes doubly for one that’s also a ‘project’ and isn’t supported by your own personal pit crew. Still, that’s exactly how the seller of this 1991 Lotus Elan has positioned his car.

This Lotus was once part of the massive and rambling Terry Bennett collection. Dr. Bennett’s eclectic assemblage went up for auction back in 2012, and the Lotus can even be seen in articles from the era covering the spectacle.

It was neither the most nor least interesting member of the cars offered, but outside of some OCD car collector’s New Hampshire back yard, the Elan really does stand out. I mean. how many cars share their tail lamp clusters with the Renault Alpine GTA? That’s fancy!


Now, one thing you should know about the Elan in general; it’s FWD. In fact, it’s the only FWD car that Lotus has ever produced. That being said, the Elan in generally considered to be one of the finest handling FWD cars on the planet. And, if we use cars like the VW GTI or Honda Civic Si as talisman, I think we can all agree that FWD needn’t mean a less than engaging driving experience.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s have a look at the car. Whoa, doggies, maybe we should go back to debating the particulars of FWD instead. Yes, this 46,000 mile Lotus is rough. I mean like third world youth hostel toilet paper rough. The seller notes that it sat for fifteen or more years as part of Bennett’s menagerie, probably most of those exposed to the harsh New Hampshire weather.


There’s a lot going on with the paint as a result. It’s alternatively popping and chipping and just generally giving up the ghost pretty much all over the car. And you know what? I like it. The seller notes that paint jobs are expensive. I say drive it like it is and take pride in the patina. What the hell, you’re not going to be taking the Queen out to tea in it, are you?


The same can be said about the top. We don’t see it, but the seller says it’s intact and even includes a new rear window sewn in by hand. The big question lies underneath. These cars sit on a steel (galvanized) backbone frame and if that’s been compromised by road rot then the party’s probably over. Get it to a lift posthaste to check that out before dropping a wallet on it.

On a happier note, Recaro buckets from what look to be out of a BMW are holding court in the cabin. It should be noted that the Elan was probably the most fully thought out Lotus in years and the interior shows that with a plethora of parts sourced from the Japanese car maker, Isuzu.


Here those parts look a bit worse for wear and honestly using the steering wheel with its delaminating leather must feel like juggling a skin-shedding snake. Proprietary parts like the door cards and ALL of the weatherstripping will be next to impossible to find so consider channelling your inner Macgyver should this car end up in your lap.


In contrast to the bodywork and interior, the mechanicals seem reasonably sound. The turbocharged 1588-cc Isuzu-sourced 4XE1-T four is said to run great and has benefitted from a regimen of refurbishment that included a new timing belt and related work. The seller says he drives it daily but that it still does need some, well let’s say fine tuning.


The major issues—aside from it looking like it was swallowed and then rejected by a whale—include a driver’s side window that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, an exhaust rattle on startup, A/C that’s more A than C, and a horn that’s not sufficiently horny. That’s not too bad though, right? Plus there’s a litany of replacement parts and upgrades that the current owner lists as enticement and proof that he hasn’t just been sitting on an ever eroding pile of Lotus poop waiting for some pigeon to come along.

The title is clean and the sale is being offered, as claimed by the seller, reluctantly. With an asking price of $6,000 what we need to decide is whether its purchase should be approached with equal reluctance.


That $6K price makes this probably one of the cheapest running and registered Lotus in the land, but does that still make it a deal? And remember, there were only about 3,000 of these ever produced. It’s hard to say just how many might still be left.


What do you think, is this long suffering Lotus worth its asking? Does the work done to date overcome its tetanus threat presentation? Or, is this Elan just too far gone?

You decide!


Seattle, WA Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to Reuben McKnight for the hookup!

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About the author

Rob Emslie

Rob Emslie is a contributing writer for Jalopnik. He has too many cars, and not enough time to work on them all.