With the Esprit, Elise, and Elan, plus ALL the others, it's obvious Lotus is stuck on the letter E for its car names. Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Elite is no exception, but you need to determine if this one is saddled with another e-name; expensive.
Alfa is not a letter, that would be alpha, but according to 73% of you at least, it could potentially represent a car that’s worth its asking price. Yesterday’s 1995 Alfa Romeo 164 came away with just such a Nice Price win,
Let’s say you've got a total jones on for the specs of the Lotus Esprit- pointy fiberglass body, backbone frame, and rev-happy 2-litre twin-cam four. But let’s also hypothesize that instead of the Esprit’s tight cabin confines and two-place capacity you are desperately in need of a pair of ice cream scoop back seats as well. And let’s additionally say you’re just not all that excited about having the all-alloy engine lurking behind you - judging you - you know, because you’re the paranoid type.
If those square pegs slot into all your round holes then I have just the answer for you today, and that’s this 1977 Lotus Elite 503. The Elite shares a buttload of parts with the Esprit while offering greater capacity and without the onerous burden of a famous designer body. Aside from that, they're very, very similar.
This of course wasn’t the first time Lotus appended the Elite name to one of their products, the first being the beautiful and innovative Type 14. That tiny two-seater featured a fiberglass monocoque, and an engine from a fire pump. This one also features a fiberglass body, although it does have a steel frame underneath, that being a steel backbone in the shape of a capital Y, and which was derived from the earlier Elan.
This particular Elite is said to have originally been red, and the interior remains that shade, obviating the need for rose-colored glasses. The seller notes in the ad’s Q&A that it was a previous owner who sprayed the car its present black. It looks like they got a little carried away with the ebony as it extends to both the hatch and windscreen surrounds, and those should be brightwork.
The ad also notes the similarity of the Giugiaro-designed Esprit and the in-house penned Elite, as both feature pointy noses and pop-up headlamps. He does go on to compare the car’s styling to that of the Lancia Stratos, and that’s pretty much a bigger stretch than Kim Kardashian’s spandex pregnancy pants. The rear styling of the 4-seater Elite is best left to personal interpretation, although I will say that for what it is, this one doesn’t look bad at all.
Mechanically the Elite and Esprit were also very similar, both featuring a front suspension derived from the Elan which itself used a lot of Triumph Spitfire bits. The engines were also the same, a 1,969-cc canted four with a twin-cam 16-valve head and capable of about 140-bhp in U.S. emissions trim.
Gearboxes were not shared however, owing to the Esprit’s mid-motor placement. That car originally used a Citroën transaxle (later cars got a stronger Renault UN-1), while the 5-speed box in the Elite is a Getrag unit.
The seller says in his ad that the car has been sitting dormant for years after its original owner died and failed to bequeath the car to someone diagnosed with irresistible wanderlust. During that time it was supposedly kept clean and dry in a climate controlled garage space. The body doesn’t show any significant indication of these days of dormancy, and neither does the dog peen-colored interior. That should be a pretty cool place to be owing to the all the leather and wood, although while touted as Lotus’ first four seater, the two scoops in back don’t really offer enough legroom for a trip of any length. Still, it all looks to be in perfectly usable and oh-so red shape.
Time and lack of use has not been quite so kind to the drivetrain however, and the seller notes that while the car cranks, it will not start. That’s inspite of his claims of a functioning fuel pump. Being an owner of a Lotus 907 myself - albeit in a Jensen Healey - I can attest to what is the problem very likely might be.
You see those two things sticking up next to the engine and looking like a very chilly girl’s chest? Those are Stomberg 175CD side-draft carbs. These have an integral float chamber and with lack of use the needle valves in these can corrode and stick preventing fuel from entering the chamber. Also, don’t ever spray carb cleaner into these bad boys as it can ruin the rubber diaphragm, and then you’ve got babies.
As long as the engine has compression getting it running shouldn’t be that tough, and once you do you can learn for yourself how kind of pitiful these are off the line. Get the revs up however, and they’re a joy. The rest of the car should be as well, and while the Elite’s weird styling hasn’t aged well, it’s still not wackadoodle enough not to be seen in. Plus, it’s a Lotus, and that’s pretty cool.
Now, should you check out the eBay ad right now you’ll see that it’s an auction without a Buy-It-Now. However, if you look at a screen shot from a day ago you’ll see that the seller had that option, and set his take it or leave it at $4,000. He may want to start a bidding war between the Elite-wanting elite, but that’s not how we roll, and we’re sticking it to him by sticking with four large.
You now need to say whether or not that’s a good price for this Rip Van Winkle Elite. What do you think, is that an E-asy decision to make? Or, is this a Lotus position that you just can’t obtain?
H/T to Kallikak for the hookup!
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