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“The Elan M100 has made its mark in history as arguably the finest handling front wheel drive car ever.” PistonHeads Road Test.
An historically important Lotus, this was the actual vehicle that was unveiled to an expectant public by Lotus CEO Mike Kimberley at the 1989 Earls Court British Motorfair, heralding the arrival of the iconic, ground breaking Lotus Elan that was to rewrite the rulebook for front wheel drive cars’ ride and handling for the next two decades. It is also the oldest known surviving pre-production prototype and hence Elan.
The Motorfair stand in 1989 featured an all silver display of the Lotus Esprit, Lotus Excel and two examples of the brand new Lotus Elan SE. This one, internally known as “PP14” (pre-production 14), took centre stage on a revolving turntable whilst its sister, PP15, formed a static floor display (where it was no doubt recipient of many sticky finger prints and dreamers’ seat fittings). The car’s extensive document file includes records of significant internal communications including those between Peter Riddle, Lotus Cars’ Product Planning Manager, and other senior team members including the aforementioned CEO, Mike Kimberley in the run up to the launch.
Being a pre-production model, PP14 includes many features that didn’t make it through to the production cars and offers a fascinating insight into the early development of the car. One feature that did make it into production, but only for a short period, are the double flip “opera glass” headlamps which are still present today and working perfectly!
Accompanying the vehicle is a substantial portfolio of paperwork via which a very accurate picture of the vehicles’ history can be drawn. After its Motorfair role and subsequent appearance at the Scottish Motor Show in Glasgow, the vehicle remained with Lotus for nearly two years for “static display and demonstration to VIPs and customers” until being sold, effectively un-driven, to employee Peter Minchin who kept it for five years. The last owner acquired the vehicle in October 2011 but during his ownership it remained virtually unused. Since entering the current (Lotus aficionado and collector) owner’s care, PP14 has therefore been subject to a programme of improvement and light recommissioning enabling the vehicle to be MOT’d for the first time in five years.
Work undertaken includes the improvement of some of the electrical functions, adjusting various pre-production panel fits, replacement of brake and suspension components as necessary, a new alternator and a general health check to a good MOT standard. All fluids have also been changed including engine oil, brake fluid and coolant. The resulting vehicle is very much a usable classic that will be a worthy addition to any classic car event. Current recorded mileage is 54300 and the MOT certificate, valid until October of this year, displays no advisory items. The wheels and tyres are in very good condition with the wheels having recently been properly refinished. A new battery has also been fitted.
Mechanically very well sorted indeed, the bodywork is also in good order, testament to both the care with which the current and previous owners have treated the car and also the efforts the Factory went to to ensure the car looked its best for the model’s launch. Pre-production prototype it might be but this is not betrayed by the fit or finish of the body. No doubt attended to in the past, the paintwork is for the most part very good with only some virtually unnoticeable evidence of localised refinishing to the near-side quarter of the rear bumper, as shown in the photo gallery.
The underside of the car appears honest as can be seen in the photo gallery and no attempt has been made to present it as anything other than ‘road used’. Also evident from the photographs, the engine bay is exceptionally clean, tidy and well presented. No doubt this Elan originally left the factory having had particular attention paid to this area but some twenty-seven years later it is still in fine order.
PP14 has a replacement mohair roof and the seats have been re-trimmed to factory standard and specification, in the same colours as when it was displayed at Earls Court in 1989 of course. Early-car features such as the Perspex rear number plate cover and the aforementioned headlamps are still present along with some significant differences to the eventual production specification items such as the bonnet prop and hood catches.
The car’s History File contains a number of fascinating documents detailing communications between senior Lotus employees relating to its display duties, examples of which can be seen in the photo gallery along with a number of images of the vehicle on display at Earls Court. An internal memo dated 26th July 1989 sent from Mr Riddle to Mr Kimberley and other senior managers, details proposals for the M100 show cars and confirms that “PP14” was destined for both the London and Glasgow motor shows. It emphasises that particular attention should be paid to the cars’ bodies fit and finish though a request to ensure the rear wheel arches were of a specific profile has been hand annotated “WHY?”!
A handwritten note dated 6th October 1989 details the colours of the four display cars that appeared in London and Tokyo. This confirms that “PP14” was finished with silver bodywork and full leather with a red stripe teamed with grey carpets and that it was sited on the Lotus stand’s turntable at Earl’s Court. The icing on the cake for us is Mike Kimberley’s typed original speech notes complete with his own hand written annotations and amendments (“Ladies & Gentlemen – The New Elan”) stapled to the back of the original Elan brochure he wielded at the launch – truly a significant moment in not only the Elan’s history but that of Lotus as well.
Also included within the history file is every MOT certificate, a CD with various videos featuring the Elan including BBC Top Gear with Chris Goffey and William Woollard. The original service book has a large number of stamps in it from Lotus themselves, dealers JCT 600 and independent specialists.
The vehicle is well known within Lotus circles and its’ provenance is beyond doubt and undisputed.
PP14 is such an early car that it is, in common with a number of the initial build vehicles, registered under the codename Zante that was used prior to the announcement regarding the reintroduction of the Elan name.
In conclusion, PP14 is a worthy addition to any collection and is assured of a secure place in Lotus history. Whatever its value today, we at Berlinetta feel that it will be likely to increase significantly over the next few years as the market for ‘Modern Classics’ becomes ever more vibrant and active.
Registration number: F644 DNG
Chassis Number: SCCM100CHPP014
Engine Number: 706WT015